Fireplace Mantel Remodeling Project

Published: 16th February 2009
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For 30 to 40 years, home fireplaces were typically built with simple brick facings and there may not have been a mantel installed, or, there might be a simple or outdated mantel or shelf that needs a makeover. Fireplaces like this let you start with a clean slate to design a look you like and one that fits with the decor of your home!

Ideally, your fireplace and mantel system should complement the design of your home since the fireplace is frequently one of the key focal points of a space. You might think of a mantel surround as a three-sided "picture frame" and you can think of the brick, stone or tile fireplace facing that surrounds the fireplace opening as a "mat" inside the "frame." Here are some ideas to help give your fireplace a face lift!

When considering replacing or upgrading your mantel we suggest you also look at renewing the fireplace facing, too. Wood mantels that surround wood-burning fireplaces must have a non-combustible facing (e.g., tile, brick, stone, marble or granite,) which completes the design from an aesthetic as well as a safety point of view. Most damaged, chipped, stained, outdated or uninspired fireplace facings can easily be removed or covered with something more appealing ... and when coordinated with a new mantel you can truly design your space!

How much facing is needed? Well, fire-codes vary across the country but most require six or more inches of non-combustible Facing between a wood-burning firebox and the leg of a wood mantel and usually call for ten to twelve inches of non-combustible facing between the top of the opening of a wood-burning fireplace and the bottom of a wood mantel header.

In addition to facing on the wall around a fireplace opening, wood-burning fireplaces require a non-combustible hearth that extends outward 18 to 20 inches in depth from the fireplace and 8 or more inches to either side of the fireplace opening. Always check local building codes regarding minimum clearances!

You don't have a wood-burning fireplace? Gas or Electric Fireplaces typically require less Facing than wood fireplaces and the fireplace owner's manual or its manufacturer can provide minimum clearance information. Clearance information is sometimes detailed on a tag or sticker attached to the fireplace itself. For optimum aesthetic appeal, however, we recommend that gas or electric fireplaces also have several inches of facing between the fireplace opening and the mantel and a stone hearth on the floor under the mantel! This will make it look more like a natural, wood-burning fireplace and will usually help with the overall aesthetics of the hearth.

What type of facing can you use? Well, granite facing is popular because of the variety of colors available and because granite is much more durable than most marbles or ceramic tiles. Additionally, granite is much more stain resistant that other stones and it can bring a luxurious, color-coordinated design to your home!

Absolute Black, Tan Brown, Sparkling Pebble and Golden Sand are popular earth tone colors that will be popular for years! What about square tiles verses full granite slabs??? Full granite slabs are preferred by most designers since this provides a customized fireplace facing system without the need for individual tile fitting and grouting seams. Standard facing sets include four pieces, a "Header," two "Legs" and a large "Hearth." Optional Risers are also available, too, for use in situations where the bottom of your fireplace opening is raised above the floor/hearth.

How do you install granite fireplace facing? For an entire fireplace facelift many homeowners will simply use construction adhesive (one specifically labeled for masonry applications) to apply new marble, granite or stone facing right on top of the existing brick. Others will remove some of or the entire existing facing surface before installing new facing stone. After the new fireplace facing is in place you can install a new wood mantel on the wall.

Be sure to look for a mantel designed to fit with an overlap of the outside edges of the facing. This will give a clean/professional installation for an updated and truly designed look, and you won't have to line up facing with the inside edges of the mantel!

When looking for a mantel, make your selection from various mantel designs and choose one that will coordinate with the period or style of your home. Wood mantels range in price from $400 to $2000 or more, in a variety of Traditional and Contemporary designs. Also, insure you order your mantel in your choice of woods to be stained or painted. While many mantels are painted white, if you like to see the natural beauty of wood grain, you might go with Maple, Cherry, Mahogany, Walnut, or Oak woods. You normally have a choice, too, of ordering your mantel either unfinished (for finishing on site during or after installation) or for a modest increase, you an get a mantel with a factory finish in any number of stain colors.

Mantels purchased through are each custom designed with a specific "return depth" to accommodate the thickness of your stone facing. The outside edges of the facing are overlapped/covered by the inside edges of the wood mantel and any remaining "gap" between the facing and the back of the leg is neatly and professionally concealed after installing the scribe molding that is included with the mantel.

Nearly twenty years of experience have helped the folks at DesignTheSpace develop a nearly infallible system of designing and building properly sized mantels for their clients. If you provide DesignTheSpace with all the requested fireplace dimensions they will guarantee that the mantel will fit your space!

DesignTheSpace has worked with consumers over the years and is familiar with just about every situation that might exist, so if you have a unique installaion, give them a call to discuss mantel options since they have built mantels for nearly every situation and would be happy to work with you on your project. It is highly likely that a variety of mantel design solutions are available for your "unique" fireplace. Call at (866)983-3267 with any questions.

DesignTheSpace Mantels are shipped in one carton and are easily installed! They arrive in one carton, in three main pieces (two legs and a shelf/header assembly.) They also include three lengths of "scribe molding" to finish the interior perimeter of the wood mantel with a very clean and professional look, to neatly conceal any gap that there might be between the back of the mantel leg and the front of the facing. Mantel installation is simple, requiring no special tools and requires only the skills of a handy person.

Are there any options for the wall above the mantel and are there ideas for coordinating the mantel design with a Flat Panel Television? Absolutely!

In many homes, a mantel design might include additional woodwork on the wall above the main mantel, usually called an Overmantel. An overmantel is actually just a second mantel installed above the main fireplace mantel, built to either identical dimensions or sometimes narrower and either shorter or taller than the main mantel below. Some people finish the inside of an Overmantel with a mirror while others simply let their wall show through the opening.

More and more customers are now using an Overmantel to frame a flat panel television. This is a great way to help you design the space to include this relatively new style appliance! likes to get before and after photos of their clients' work, to show others what you've done to help you love the way you live!

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