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Add a touch of elegance to your fireplace
The addition of a beautiful mantel can turn any fireplace into the focal point
of a room. Whether your décor is classic or modern, Colonial or Victorian, you
can easily find a model that not only blends well with your existing design
scheme but complements and enhances it as well. Choose from a wide range of
different types of wood, or select stone, concrete or other materials. In
addition to providing decorative accents, mantels also provide utility, as you
can use the shelf to display pictures, decorative items or books. Some mantels
are available as kits that come partially assembled, making them easy to
install yourself. More elaborate units may require professional installation
and, whether you do it yourself or hire a professional, you'll need to keep
fire safety in mind. Consider these questions as you shop for your new mantel:
Style, Material and Installation Considerations
Choosing a style and material that make your mantel a good fit is of the utmost importance. If you're building a house, keep in mind the effect a mantel can have on a room and plan accordingly. Choose a material that will hold up well and don't forget to consider the hearth size and material when planning your overall design. When you've decided on a style and material, you'll want to carefully measure your fireplace to ensure that the mantel fits in properly and adheres to any building code regulations that may apply.
Full-Surround and Shelf Mantels: There are two primary mantel designs from which to choose. Full-surround mantels have sides, or legs, that surround all sides of the fireplace. The legs may sit either on the hearth or the floor outside the hearth, depending on how the mantel is designed. Full-surround mantels provide a wealth of opportunities for customization and add a substantial presence to a room. Shelf mantels, also called caps, are installed across the top of a fireplace. Though they lack sides, shelf mantels make an attractive and useful addition and are often fairly easy to install.
Materials: With a vast array of materials to choose from, you'll want
to focus on determining what kind of look you're aiming for in the room as a
whole. If you elect to purchase a wood mantel, you'll be able to choose from
virtually any type of wood, including cherry, mahogany, pine, walnut, oak,
maple and poplar. Wood can be either paint- or stain-grade. Paint-grade
materials often feature solid poplar moldings and composite flat panels for
extra smoothness and stability. Stone, concrete and brick are other common
choices, with one advantage being that each is noncombustible. Unworked stone
provides a more rustic look while polished marble or slate lends your
fireplace a classy appearance.
Fire Safety: Whether you decide to build and install a mantel yourself
or hire a professional, you'll need to ensure that it conforms to fire safety
regulations if you choose to use a combustible material, such as wood. Check
local building codes to obtain the required clearing distances between the
fireplace opening and any combustible materials you use. Usually, the distance
is approximately 12", but some codes may allow smaller measurements depending
on how thick the mantel is.
Measurements: It is important to take proper measurements when installing a mantel to ensure that you have enough room to meet proper safety regulations and to avoid nearby obstructions, such as windows. You'll also want to choose a size that fits in well proportionally with the rest of the room rather than overwhelming it or getting lost in it. To obtain accurate measurements, find the seven measurements listed in the chart below and illustrated in the following diagram:
|A||Width of stone facing|
|B||Depth of stone facing|
|C||Height of stone facing above hearth|
|D||Hearth width beyond stone facing|
|E||Hearth height above floor|
|F||Distance(s) to nearby obstructions|
Width of firebox opening
Overmantel: If you’re looking to add something extra to your fireplace, consider installing an overmantel. Overmantels are ornamental pieces that go above the mantel and extend it further up the wall. Some contain mirrors to further enhance a room’s appearance.
Skirts and Corbels: Skirts (decorative boards) and corbels (decorative braces) can both be installed beneath a shelf mantel to augment it and add dimension.
Non-Wood-Burning Fireplaces: Fireplaces that don’t require venting, such as electric units and gas models that expel gases through horizontal exhaust pipes, allow you to install a mantel that fully encases the firebox, giving it greater depth.
You'll need a tape measure to obtain accurate measurements before installing your mantel.
If you plan to install the mantel yourself, make sure you have the right tools for the job.
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