Want to add a mantel to your fireplace but not sure where to start? You’ve come to the right place. Our fireplace mantel buying guide will walk you through step by step so you can find the perfect match.
Let’s start at the very beginning.
What Makes a Great Mantel
If your initial search for a fireplace mantel is about how it looks, you’re off to a good start. But there’s plenty more you should be on the lookout for.
Proportion & Design
A great mantel has a well-thought-out design that harmonizes with the surrounding space. It should be proportionate to the fireplace and the room, neither overpowering nor too small. The design elements, such as carvings, moldings, and architectural details, should be visually appealing and complement the overall style of your home.
Craftsmanship & Materials
High-quality materials and skilled craftsmanship are crucial for a great mantel. Whether it's wood, stone, marble, or another material, the construction should be solid and durable. The finish should be smooth, and any decorative elements should be meticulously crafted. Attention to detail and precision in the construction contribute to a mantel's overall quality.
A great mantel should be versatile enough to suit various interior design styles and adapt to changing decor preferences over time. It should be a timeless piece that remains visually appealing and doesn't look outdated as trends evolve. This ensures its longevity and allows for flexibility in updating the room's look without needing to replace the mantel.
The mantel should integrate seamlessly with the fireplace itself, creating a cohesive and unified look. It should enhance the beauty of the fireplace and not detract from its design or functionality. The mantel should be compatible with the type of fireplace you have, whether it's a wood-burning, gas, or electric fireplace.
Things to Know before You Buy
No matter how much time you put into finding the perfect mantel, you’ll want to avoid any potential pitfalls. Consider the following.
Fireplaces generate heat and need plenty of space to ensure proper functionality and safety. Each fireplace has different clearance requirements. Clearance is the amount of space needed around the fireplace for it to safely operate. This directly impacts the size, type, and material of the mantels you can use.
Check the manufacturer requirements for the distance between the fireplace and the mantel before getting too attached to any fireplace model. Find out local and state fire codes for clearance and instructions as well.
Room to Mantel Proportions
As mentioned earlier, considering the proportions of the room is important to finding the right mantel. A very large mantel in a small room or a small mantel in a large room won’t have the impact you’re hoping for.
Consider not only the room size, but the ceiling height, the layout of the space and other room features before making your final decision.
Fireplace Surrounds vs Mantel Shelves
In the world of mantels, there are two distinctions you need to understand: surrounds and shelves. Both have mantels but are quite different.
The mantel surround is composed of a mantel (the horizontal pieces that top the fireplace), and two legs (vertical pieces that flank the fireplace and appear to hold up the mantel piece). A surround essentially frames the fireplace on three sides. Mantel surrounds have a more traditional look but range in style from modern sleek to Victorian ornate.
On the other hand, a mantel shelf is composed of only the horizontal top piece that goes over the fireplace. What you choose is a matter of taste and design. Mantel shelves are great for minimalist and modern settings. They often have a floating look and offer great flexibility in style.
Mantels, both surrounds and shelves, come in several materials: natural stone, cast stone, wood, concrete, and more. Each material has its unique characteristics and appearance. Wood is versatile and suits various styles, while stone and marble provide an elegant and timeless look.
Marble is more than just a pretty face. It’s low maintenance and durable. Every marble mantel is made by skilled craftspeople from solid natural stone. Natural stone also means each mantel is unique and has inherent variations.
Cast stone is a composite of natural stones cast into the mantel shape. It is highly customizable and can be created to perfectly fit your unique fireplace. It is lighter weight than solid stone and more affordable. Likewise, installation is much less expensive and easier with cast stone. It still has the natural variations and colors that stone offers but makes it much more accessible.
The classic material for a mantel is wood. Whether you go for a carved and painted look or a rustic, reclaimed slab, the wood mantel snuggles up to your fireplace effortlessly. The sky is the limit for color, style, and size when it comes to wood.
Far from industrial, a concrete mantel is sleek and clean. It can be installed indoors or out as a floating shelf. Its hollow construction means that it is lightweight, but .75 inch thick walls mean it’s durable.
For a truly modern look, go with a metal mantel shelf. They are slim lined, sturdy, and make a definite style statement. They are installed as a floating shelf over the fireplace. Available in a variety of finishes.
Non-combustible mantels are fire resistant. They are made to look like wood or stone but are most popular for their wood-looks. Concrete, cast stone, stone, and metal are all non-combustible materials.
Getting the right size mantel is key to finding the perfect fit. The mantel should be in proportion to the size and features of the room and the size of your fireplace. Measure the height and width of the opening of your fireplace (not including the hearth or surround). Measure the depth by going from the wall the fireplace is in, to the point where the fireplace sticks out the furthest.
Mantel sizing varies based on the type of fireplace so consult the manufacturer directions. Generally speaking, a mantel should be 3-6 inches wider than the fireplace on each side. That means the mantel will be 6-12 inches longer total than the fireplace opening.
Types & Styles
The type and style of mantel you get is a matter of personal taste, but you should consider the overall style and décor of your home. Choose a mantel that complements the existing aesthetic. There are various styles available, including traditional, rustic, modern, and contemporary.
For natural materials, colors will be neutral beiges and grays. Wood can be stained to add the color that suits your home’s design. White is a popular choice as well. Get it in real wood or cast stone in a wood-look. If you want something modern, consider metal for a sleek finish.
The shape of your mantel relies on the layout of your fireplace. Most mantels are straight shelves. However, if you have a different shaped fireplace, you might need L-shape, U-shape, or a wrap around.
Brick Pockets & Shelf Caps
If you already have a mantel and you’re looking to change it, a pocket or cap mantel may be your best bet. These are designed to be installed over your current mantel for a quick update that can change the entire feel of your space.
Choosing the style of your mantel, as we mentioned, is all about matching or complementing your existing style. Whether you want contemporary, farmhouse, vintage, rustic, industrial, modern, or traditional, there’s a wide selection and it’s easy to find the right style for your home.
Features & Accessories
While you’re updating your fireplace with a mantel, consider adding some accessories to complete the look. Fireplace tools sets, screens, andirons, fireplace grates, and more are excellent additions to your fireplace that are both functional and visually appealing.
Installation of your mantel will vary based on the type and material. Many are floating shelves and come with the proper brackets and screws to attach your mantel appropriately. Each mantel comes with instructions on how to properly install it.
In every case, it is always a good idea to mark wall studs so you can be sure to attach your mantel securely. Go to our installation library for more information.
The Vail wood fireplace mantel shelf is a cleanly finished wood piece. It is natural rough-sawn pine with slight distressing. It is available in 49”, 60”, and 72” lengths or custom lengths. It can be either 4” or 6” in height. Choose from four color finishes. Its stunning natural beauty makes it one of our most popular mantel shelves.
The Bedford wood mantel shelf comes in poplar or maple sourced from the U.S.A. It is clean cut with crisp edges and rich graining. It is a floating design that can be added on top of the fireplace or to the wall. Available in 48”, 60”, 72”, or custom lengths. Choose from 11 colors.
Rustic pine mantel with dramatic grain, splits, and knot details, the Breckenridge mantel shelf is an excellent choice for a vintage fireplace look. The corbels (a support structure under the shelf) give your fireplace a classic look associated with traditional fireplaces.
The clean and contemporary Everett mantel shelf is the perfect choice for modern designs. Hollow construction makes it lightweight yet still durable. It can be used indoors or outdoors. It is non-combustible. Choose from 9 color options and two lengths.
Modern Ember Stowe mantel shelf features clean edges with charcoal color. The black color is interrupted by hints of lighter wood due to a sand through finish that shows off the natural pine grain. Choose from three sizes, 48”, 60”, or 72”.
The Dakota wood fireplace mantel shelf is a classic pine mantel in unique but natural colors that will complement your space. It’s style at an affordable price point and easy installation. It is one of the smallest shelves available, 36”. It also comes in 48”, 60”, and 72”.
The Salem mantel shelf is our top selling traditional mantel. The multi-tiered construction, trims, and corbels offer an elegance to your fireplace unlike any other. The rich wood finished in your choice of 8 colors allows you to customize the look for your space. Distressing available on some colors.
The Muirwood mantel takes classic styling to the next level. It features a U.S. manufactured maple wood mantel with top and bottom trim. It is available in 5 color finishes. Choose from three lengths: 48”, 60”, or 72”. It is extra deep at 6” so there’s plenty of room for mantel décor.
A Word about Custom Mantels
Many of our mantel shelves can be customized. You can specify the length, depth, height. You can modify the shape to fit your fireplace like a glove, whether it’s a wraparound, L-shape, or any other shape. Just about anything you want, we can help you with. Learn more about customizing your mantel.
Get started finding the right mantel to perfect your fireplace. Armed with the right information, you’ll be able to pinpoint the right combination quickly. Shop now!