No matter what room you consider as your main living space, it’s probably the one with the fireplace at its center – and for good reason! Fireplaces not only act as a perfect focal point, but they draw people together to socialize, laugh, play games, and celebrate holidays.  

Of course, no fireplace is complete without a beautiful mantel shelf. But if you don’t give special care to picking the mantel with the right size and style for your particular fireplace, you can end up with a mantel that looks unfinished or wildly off-balance. 

As you begin shopping for a new mantel shelf to match your personal taste and the structure of your fireplace, you will first need to do a little bit of work in terms of measuring. Since there are several different types of mantels to choose from, you’ll need to be aware of the dimensions that will work best with your fireplace, so everything matches up seamlessly. 

Here are a few of the best practices we’ve learned about measuring for a new mantel (including some less common types). 

 Brick fireplace with mantel shelf in a cozy living room.

Standard Mantel Shelf

The standard mantel has only one measurement: width. You’ll generally want to match the width or your fireplace, or go just a bit wider. The height and depth of the mantel depends mostly on your preferences and the size of the space.

Installing it is nearly as easy. Dry fit your mantel (making sure it’s level) then draw a pencil line at the top of the mantel. Most mantels are installed about 50-55 inches off the floor. Draw a parallel line to the first one about 2.75 inches below. You will use this line to attach your wall brackets, on which the mantel will hang. Follow manufacturer directions for bracket installation. Install the mantel on the bracket and you’re all set. 

Need more details? Try this guide.

Go to Standard Mantel Shelf Guide


Mantel shelf cap over a fireplace in a white room with blue painting over the fireplace.

Shelf Cap Mantel 

A third mantel style that is especially common in homes with smaller fireplaces or ones that are not floor-to-ceiling is the shelf cap mantel. Rather than a traditional mantel shelf which extends for the width of a fireplace, a shelf cap simply sits on top of the overall structure like a lid. Shelf cap mantels are ideal for fireplaces that are short in height, creating a top or shelf that you can use as storage or for decorations. 

To measure for a shelf cap mantel, all you need to do is measure the inside length in inches and the inside depth in inches. Our team at Mantels Direct can assist you in choosing the perfect shelf cap mantel based on style, wood type, and finish – which can align with virtually any look you have in mind.


Brick/Stone Overlap Mantel Shelf 

Lastly, the fourth style of mantel shelf that is commonly seen in homes with brick or stone fireplace models is the overlap mantel shelf. Also called a brick pocket mantel, this style is best for fireplaces where the brick or stone finish sticks out from the wall and extends into the room.  

To achieve a seamless look, it’s important that you measure correctly for your overlap mantel shelf so that it sits flush with the brick or stone. In this case, knowing the brick/stone facing material length, depth, and length restriction is useful. Again, here’s a helpful order form from Mantels Direct to get the project started! 


Unique Mantels

L-Shaped Mantel Shelf 

One of the most common types of mantels, the L-shaped mantel shelf is – as the name implies – shaped like the letter “L,” meaning it connects two horizontal pieces at a 90-degree angle. You’ll need to opt for an L-shaped mantel if your fireplace is in the corner of a room.  

To measure for an L-shaped mantel shelf, you’ll need to know the dimensions of the inside length in inches, as well as the inside depth in inches. It’s also important to note the direction of the “L” shape – whether it wraps around the right side of your fireplace or the left. Here’s a helpful order form to get started! 

U-Shaped Mantel Shelf 

Another popular type of mantel is the U-shaped mantel shelf, which essentially wraps around the entire fireplace in the shape of the letter “U.” Generally speaking, fireplaces that are designed as a three-sided peninsula require U-shaped mantels, but so do fireplaces that jut or stick out from a central wall. 

To measure for a U-shaped mantel shelf, you’ll again need to know the dimensions of the inside length in inches. This shape, however, requires you to also get the dimensions in inches of both the right inside depth and the left inside depth separately.  


Once you’ve determined the right dimensions needed to complement your fireplace, you’re ready to choose the design you love most! Shop all of our beautiful fireplace mantel shelves now.

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