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Fireplace Mantel FAQs

Posted by Jeffrey Swerdan on Aug 24th 2023

Fireplace Mantel FAQs

This Article has been approved by our on staff NFI Certified Specialists & Master Hearth Professionals

fireplace mantel faqs

Frequently Asked Questions about Fireplace Mantels

This Article has been approved by our on staff NFI Certified Specialists & Master Hearth Professionals

What is the shelf above a fireplace called?

In most cases the shelf that is mounted above a fireplace opening is called a fireplace mantel, although sometimes they can also be referred to as a mantel or a mantel shelf. A fireplace mantel is a decorative and functional structure that that surrounds the opening of a fireplace.

All in all, the main purpose of a fireplace mantel is to enhance the appearance of the fireplace while also serving as a shelf for displaying decorative items such as plants, mirrors, paintings and more.

What are the differences between fireplace surrounds, fireplace shelves, fireplace mantels and fireplace frames?

In most cases fireplace mantels and shelves are the same thing. Most fireplace mantels are designed to be used as a shelf for decorations to be placed above the fireplace.

A fireplace surround or fireplace frame is simply a fireplace mantel that covers at least 3 sides of a fireplace, and in some cases all four sides of a firebox. The material "surrounds" the fireplace and makes the firebox look like it has a frame around it.

What are fireplace mantels made of?

Fireplace mantels can be made of wood, stone, marble, or a variety of other materials. Some fireplace mantels are designed to be simply decorative, where others are meant to help prevent soot and smoke from accumulating on the walls above the fireplace. Some can be of a single solid piece and others can be made of several components.

Where are Fireplace mantels usually installed?

A fireplace mantel is usually mounted above the fireplace's firebox. The styles of fireplace mantels can range from elaborate and ornate design, to looking more simple and modern in appearance. They can be installed in living rooms or whichever other room that houses your fireplace.

Should I choose a fireplace mantel that is wood, stone, metal, white, black or brick?

There are a multitude of design, material and color options to choose from. The first step when deciding what kind of mantel to choose, should be to look in the fireplace installation manual. The manual will list specifications on how close the different materials can be to your firebox. There will be clearance requirements listed that will help you narrow down your options.

After reviewing the manual the next step is to decide which look will fit best with the decorations in the room where your fireplace is located. Fireplace mantels can be focal points of the room, or can be designed in a way to compliment other items in the room. Your home décor should help you narrow down the options for how you want the fireplace mantel or surround to look.

What size should my mantle be or how far should it stick out from the wall? How high above the firebox should I install the mantel shelf?

In most cases this is really up to the homeowner and installer. The appliance manufacturer will specify specific clearance requirements in the manual, dictating what the actual overhang and size of the mantel should be. Beyond those requirements it is more an option of design and aesthetics then it is function. Some people like their mantels to be completely centered over the fireplace opening with 3 to 4 inches of over hang on each side. Others want the mantel to be shorter than the fireplace opening. Some like to have a deep mantle, some what a shallow. The deeper mantles may require more support in order to be safe to install or to place items on top of. Also the stronger solid piece mantels may also require more supports.

Can I install a TV or Stereo System on my mantle or above my fireplace?

While many people love the aesthetics of placing a TV above a fireplace, it is not recommended to do so. In most cases even with a mantle the fireplace manufacturer will warn against placing any type of television or electronic devices on the wall directly above the fireplace. The reason for this is that electronics and heat do not work well together. Most televisions have vents on the unit that allow for the television to cool down after prolonged use and in most cases these vents are near the bottom of the television unit and when you install the television above the fireplace, heat will travel up the wall and into these vents. Thus pushing a lot of residual heat into the television. Over time this heat will shorten the life span of the electronics.

Television manufactures usually state in their manual that they will void all warranties if the television is mounted above a fireplace. It is true that a noncombustible fireplace mantel may block a good amount of heat from traveling up the wall, it is recommended to reach out to your television manufacturer to inquire about their warranty and policies before moving forward with your installation.

How to decorate or style the top of a mantle?

The items that you place on a mantle will be dependent upon the clearance specifications laid out in the fireplace installation manual. It will also depend upon the material of the mantel itself. In most cases combustible items will not be allowed to be placed on the mantel unless it is a predetermined distance from the fireplace opening.

How are fireplace mantels attached?

Each brand and model of fireplace mantel and surround will attach differently. With that being said most manufacturers will utilize one of the following options for installation:

  • A large number of mantels include brackets or corbels, which are decorative supports that extend from the mantel's underside to the wall. These brackets can be made of wood, metal, or other materials. They are typically secured to the wall using screws or anchors, and the mantel is then placed on top of the brackets, creating a stable and decorative support structure. When using this method it is recommended to make sure that the mantel is secured to the brackets and corbels and not just resting on top
  • Wall cleats are a simple wooden strip that is attached horizontally to the wall. A matching cleat is secured to the back of the mantel. The mantel is then lowered onto the wall cleat, creating a secure and hidden mounting method.
  • French cleats are a variation of the wall cleats, where one piece of the cleat is attached to the wall and the other to the mantel, creating a interlocking system for stability.
  • Some mantels require that they be screwed directly into the wall studs or require the use of wall anchors. The mantel is then secured to the screws using appropriate hardware.
  • Some of the more modern mantels, especially those made of lightweight materials or faux stone, can be attached using construction adhesive. The adhesive is applied to the back of the mantel, and it is then pressed firmly against the wall. This method provides a clean and hidden mounting approach.
  • Then there are some pre-manufactured fireplace mantels that come with a built in mounting systems, including metal brackets or hanging systems. These systems are designed to be secure and easy to install.

Whichever mantel you are looking at will have an installation guide available for you to reference so you can determine if the installation method will work with your specific project.

How high above the firebox should I install the mantel?

The fireplace manual will dictate how close to the firebox that a mantel can be installed. This will also depend on whether your mantel is made of combustible materials or noncombustible materials. Noncombustible materials can be installed closer to a heating appliance than a combustible mantel can be. After determining the minimum space needed, it will be up to you and your interior designer to determine the best look and function for your room.

Some people like to place the mantel as close to the firebox as possible, where others like to install it higher to help break up the space above the fireplace opening. The choice is yours.

Where can I learn more about Fireplace Mantels and Surrounds?

Check out our Resource Center for helpful articles about Mantels, Surrounds and other Fireplace topics.

Where can I purchase a Fireplace Mantel or Surround?

Northline Express offers a variety of Fireplace Mantel & Surround options to choose from.

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