Mantels can help to enhance a fireplace and allow it to become a focal point for a room. The area above a fireplace can look bare without a mantel and so a mantelpiece has become a staple for many homes on which decorations and other personal belonging can be placed. We have a number of mantlepieces in the family and so we’ve together this complete guide to mantels that includes: The word mantel may also refer to the whole fireplace surround but for this particular article we’re just focusing on the flat area located at the top, either as a mantel shelf or part of a larger surround. This flat area of a mantel provides an opportunity to place household items on top of the fireplace to help it become more of a feature point for a home. We don’t personally have a standalone mantel in our home, but the image below shows what one would look like.
This mantel was part of a complete surround in our kitchen gas fireplace The purpose of a fireplace mantel was traditionally to catch smoke before it entered the room from the firebox of an open fireplace, but mantels in more modern times are used primarily for decorative and aesthetic purposes.
Help make a fireplace stand out and become a focal point for a room, especially when part of a surround.
Help a fireplace fit in with the décor of a home thanks to a choice of materials and styles available for mantels and surrounds. Cover the lintel and any joints around the top of a fireplace opening between the firebox and the wall of the chimney breast. The image below shows the stone surround and mantel for our existing open fireplace (in which we installed a multi fuel stove) and the concrete surround and mantel for our other open fireplace.
The concrete mantel for our open fireplace hides the lintel and any untidy brickwork and joints behind it. There’s no mantel or surround for this particular fireplace and there wasn’t one installed when we bought the house.
The fireplace is finished nicely, and we don’t need a mantel to cover it up. Standalone floating fireplace mantels can either be attached to a wall using lag screws or installed onto a back board, while mantels as part of a complete fireplace surround may be screwed into the wall using brackets. The brackets will typically be located at a number of positions around the outer perimeter of the mantel with surround, but may also be on the inner side. The image below shows where the brackets were on our old gas fireplace surround with mantel.
Unlike floating mantels, surrounds with mantels are commonly sat with their load on the hearth and so don’t typically require the same sort of load bearing joints. Wooden surrounds (like ours) will be screwed into the wall to help prevent it from falling over, rather than being used to hold it up. Fireplace mantels can come in range of prices depending on the quality of the materials used and the craftmanship. You can typically expect that cheaper mantels made from manufactured wood to have a higher chance of being hollow compare to more expensive mantels that are made from, for example, one piece of timber. For mantels that are included as part of a fireplace surround, it can yet again depend on the type and quality of materials used. The labelled picture below explains the parts of our old gas fireplace surround that included the mantel.
Standalone floating mantels are commonly made from wood, while mantels found as part of a complete fireplace surround can commonly be found made from wood, stone, concrete and marble. Fireplace surrounds (with integrated mantels) can typically be found made from a wider range of materials including wood, concrete, brick, stone and marble.
The widths of a fireplace mantel will vary to suit the variety of fireplace opening and chimney breast sizes, but typical depths for floating mantels can be between 10 and 12” while typical heights can be found between 4 and 6”.
It can be common practice to have a floating mantel that is wider than the fireplace firebox opening.
This mantel was wider than the fireplace opening but also shorter than the width of the chimney breast, which allowed to fit in with the surroundings. We took this picture before renovating our kitchen, and shows how the mantel and surround was the right size of the hearth and wasn’t too wide for the chimney breast behind it
To protect a fireplace mantel from the heat of a fireplace, clearance distances to combustible materials in line with local and national codes and building regulations will need to be considered. The depth of a mantel can also affect the total clearance required from the fireplace opening. When it comes to protecting a fireplace mantel from heat, you’ll need to consider: Mantels made from combustible materials such as wood will need to be located a certain distance away from the opening of a fireplace for safety purposes. This distance will need to be in line with your local or national building codes or regulations. The clearance distance for combustible mantels away from a fireplace opening will need to be in line with the respective code or regulations for the location.
The National Fire Protection Agency states within Code 211 (2019 Edition) paragraph 188.8.131.52 that: A fireplace mantel can only be lowered if the clearance distances to combustible objects in line with codes and regulations are still met. The price of a mantel can be influenced by its size, brand, craftsmanship and quality of materials used.
There are a range of mantels shelves available to suit a variety of fireplace sizes, home decors and budgets. Items that may be required to paint a fireplace mantel (depending on its current condition, the type of wood and the quality of finish you want) can include: We’ll be painting the wooden surround we took out of our kitchen when we renovated a white color to suit the updated modern décor of this room.
Stone fireplace mantels (typically included as part of a complete surround) can be painted. The concrete surround and mantel for our living room fireplace when we bought the house had already been painted black. We simply masked around the mantel and used a heat-resistant black spray paint. Our other stone surround and mantel fireplace with multi fuel stove installed is decorated with a range of items including plants, candles, pictures and ornaments, and we also have a mirror leaning against the wall above.
The wooden beam also helps create the look of a mantel but doesn’t actually stick out. Although our wood burning stove doesn’t have a mantel, here’s how we’ve decorated around it anyway
A TV can be put over a fireplace mantel as long as the mantel is installed in accordance with local and national codes and regulations, and that the TV is sufficiently protected from the heat of a fireplace. This can be because certain mantels, particularly floating mantles shelves, may not be able to cope with the additional loading as well as dealing with its own weight.
We’ve actually installed a TV above the open fireplace on the chimney breast in our kitchen. Speak to a local professional to ascertain whether installing a TV above a fireplace mantel is achievable.