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Fireplace Mantel FAQs

fireplace mantel faqs

Wood fireplace mantels lend personality and charm to home and hearth areas and provide balance and stability to the entire room. Furnishing your fireplace with a fireplace surround will instantly make your hearth area the focal of your home.

To ensure that your wood fireplace mantel gets all of the adoring looks that it deserves, we've compiled this list of fireplace mantel FAQs to help you with installing, decorating, painting or staining, and measuring for your fireplace surround among other things. This article also offers a quick overview of price details, finishes, and other areas of advice concerning our collection of Pearl wood fireplace mantels.



Wood fireplace mantel and fireplace surround frequently asked questions and answers

1. Question: What's the point of a fireplace surround?

  • Answer: Fireplace surrounds are used to add decorative flair to fireplace and hearth areas. Wood fireplace mantels add balance and stability to the room and exude a natural beauty that makes the fireplace the focal point of the home.

2. Question: How do I install a fireplace surround?

  • Answer: We suggest that you install your fireplace surround with a hanger board. Use these detailed installation instructions to install your wood fireplace mantel.

3. Question: Do I have to have a professional install my fireplace surround?

  • Answer: Our wood fireplace mantels and fireplace mantel shelves are fairly easy to install. All mantels (with the exception of the Williamsburg and the Alamo) come with hanger boards and detailed instructions on how to install the fireplace surround with the hanger board. You may need to consult an expert on the hardware that you will need to install the mantel depending on the surface that you are going to be hanging the fireplace surround on. For example you will need different hardware to install the wood fireplace mantel on a brick surface than you would to install it on a drywall surface. Although our mantels can be installed without the help of a professional, if you choose to have a professional install it, they may have a different method of installation in mind that doesn't require the use of the hanger board.

4. Question: Do all of your mantels come with hanger boards to install them?

  • Answer: No. The Williamsburg and the Alamo Pearl mantels offered in our collection of mantel do not come with hanger boards.

5. Question: How do I choose between a full fireplace surround and a mantel shelf?

  • Answer: In most cases, the choice between a full fireplace surround and mantel shelf is one of aesthetics, price and space. Naturally since shelves require less material to make, they cost less than full fireplace surrounds do. Other cases that may require a shelf instead of a full fireplace mantel is if you have a stone surround or any other material that might prevent you from installing a full wood fireplace mantel. In this case, a mantel shelf may be the best thing for you.

6. Question: What are the clearances for wood fireplace mantels?

  • Answer: National Fire Code states that all combustible material must be 1 inch away from the firebox opening for every 1/8 inch it provides from the surface, with a minimum 6 inch clearance all around. If stricter local codes exist, they will take the place of the national codes. For this reason be sure to check local fire codes.

7. Question: What measurements do I need to measure for a new fireplace surround?

  • Answer: The measurement guidelines below are listed assuming you have a fireplace facing and a hearth. If you do not have a fireplace facing (decorative material like brick or stone that surrounds the fireplace opening), skip those measurements while measuring for your wood fireplace mantel. If you do not have a hearth (raised decorative surface on the floor beneath the fireplace opening), you may also skip those measurements while measuring for your fireplace surround.

    Total Facing Width: Measure the total width of the fireplace facing from end to end.

    Facing Width: Measure the width of the facing on one side of the fireplace opening.

    Facing Depth: If the facing projects out from the wall, measure the distance from the outer edge to the wall.

    Opening Width: Measure the width of the fireplace opening.

    Opening Height: Measure the height of the opening from the floor of the fireplace, which is at the same level as the hearth, or the floor of the room if you have no hearth.

    Hearth Height: Measure the height of the hearth from the floor to the top of the surface.

    Hearth Depth: Measure the depth of the hearth from the front edge to the wall.

    Hearth Width: Measure the width of the hearth from end to end.

    Side Distances: Measure from the edge of the facing to the nearest light fixture, door, corner, or window on each side.

8. Question: What measurements do I need to measure for an existing wood fireplace mantel?

  • Answer: Follow the steps below to measure for a replacement fireplace surround.

    Shelf Width: Measure the total width of the top of the wood fireplace mantel at the widest part.

    Shelf Depth: Measure the depth of the wood fireplace mantel from the front edge to the wall.

    Total Height: Measure the height of the wood fireplace mantel from the top of the hearth or the floor to the bottom of the mantel shelf.

    Total Width: Measure the entire width of the fireplace surround from end to end. If you do not have a fireplace surround, measure the total width of the facing.

    Projection Depth: Measure the depth of the side of the fireplace surround from the outer edge to the wall.

    Opening Width: Measure the width of the fireplace opening.

    Opening Height: Measure the height of the fireplace opening from the floor or the top of the hearth to the top of the opening.

    Side Distances: Measure from the edge of the hearth or surround to the nearest light fixture, window, corner, or door on each side.

9. Question: How should I decorate my wood fireplace mantel?

  • Answer: There are many ways to decorate wood fireplace mantels and while there isn't one set way that you should do it, there are a few things that you should keep in mind to make sure that your fireplace surround gets the attention it deserves. Wood fireplace mantels represent roots, tradition and heritage so often people choose to display family heirlooms and portraits on the mantel shelf. If the room is small, centering a large mirror over the fireplace surround will reflect light into the room and make it appear larger.

    Other popular items used to decorate wood fireplace mantels include vases, urns, and candelabra. When decorating your wood fireplace mantel keep in mind that odd numbers look better than even numbers. For example a scenic picture in the center of the mantel shelf and two vases placed on each end of the mantel shelf will look more pleasing to the eye than an even number of vases or candles strewn across the mantel shelf as it could make the fireplace surround look cluttered and too busy.

    You should also change your wood fireplace mantel decorations with season changes and holidays. Garland and some simple red candles for Christmas and pumpkins and gourds for Thanksgiving will add a world of atmosphere to holiday seasons.

10. Question: I've ordered an unfinished wood fireplace mantel. What do I have to do before I paint or stain it?

  • Answer: Staining: Before you stain your wood fireplace mantel, you should lightly sand it with a fine 200 grit and wipe it down with a damp cloth. If the wood absorbs the water then you are ready to begin staining your fireplace surround. Using a foam paintbrush test your stain color on an inside area of the mantel before you install it to ensure that the color is what you want. If you plan on using a polyurethane finish over the stain, you should test the polyurethane over the stain so you can see the full affect of how the stain is going to appear on the fireplace surround. If you're applying more than one coat of stain, be sure to let it dry before adding the next coat. Once your stain is dry, apply one or two coats of polyurethane (satin or semi-gloss is recommended) or Tung oil to protect your finish.

    Painting: A high quality semi-gloss paint in the color of your choice is recommended but any paint that is used for inside house trim is suitable to paint your wood fireplace mantel. You should have different size paint brushes available to paint your wood fireplace mantel. Smaller paint brushes should be used if your fireplace surround has dentil molding so you can get the paint into the small crevices. Larger paint brushes will help you paint faster and avoid stroke marks in the paint. Priming your wood fireplace mantel is recommended before painting it.

11. Question: What should I use to clean my wood fireplace mantel?

  • Answer: Wood fireplace mantels can be cleaned with Murphy's Oil Soap. You can polish wood mantel with spray furniture polish or use Old English Furniture Polish to repair minor scratches on the fireplace surround.

12. Question: What are plinths and why would I want to use them with my fireplace surround?

  • Answer: Plinths are used to elevate fireplace mantels when the inside height of the mantel needs to be increased. One plinth is used under each leg to lend extra support to the mantel. Plinths also create an effective focal point at the base of the fireplace mantel.

13. Question: Do the mantels come fully assembled?

  • Answer: No. Our wood fireplace mantels do not come fully assembled however they are very quickly and easily assembled in 3 steps. The hardware needed to assemble your fireplace surround is included but the hardware needed to secure the fireplace surround to the wall is not.

14. Question: What finishes are your wood fireplace mantels offered in?

  • Answer: We offer wood fireplace mantels in a variety of beautiful finishes including cherry, fruitwood, mission oak, medium distressed oak, natural, cherry distressed, and French country. We also offer unfinished wood fireplace mantels and primed mantels that are ready for you to paint or stain them upon arrival.

15. Question: Can I buy an unfinished wood fireplace mantel so I can paint or stain it myself?

  • Answer:  Yes. We offer a large selection of wood fireplace mantels including unfinished mantel surrounds in many different styles. If you plan on painting or staining your unfinished wood fireplace mantel, you will need to use a primer first.

16. Question: What's the price range for your wood fireplace mantels?

  • Answer: Our selection of Pearl wood fireplace mantels range in price from around $350-$1,050.

17. Question: What kind of wood are your wood fireplace mantels made of?

  • Answer: The majority of our wood fireplace mantels are hand crafted and carved from a beautiful Asian hardwood called Choi. Choi is a light colored, tight grained wood which is similar in grain character to American White Oak, allowing for ease of painting or staining any color. The contractors fireplace surrounds listed on our site are made from medium density fiber board. The contractors fireplace surrounds are primed so you can paint or stain them as soon as they arrive.

18. Question: Should I paint or stain my wood fireplace mantel before or after I install it?

  • Answer: Choosing to paint or stain your wood fireplace mantel before or after you install it is really a personal preference. While it's not really necessary to paint or stain your fireplace surround after you install it, it does make the job easier. If you paint or stain mantels before you installing it you might have to repair or touch up some parts that may have gotten nicked in the installation process.