Fireplaces are the focal point of nearly every room, partly because of their beauty. Therefore, selecting a mantel, the decorative frame around the stone or brick fireplace that complements the fireplace and the rest of the room's d��cor, is extremely important. In fact when designing a room, many architects and interior designers choose the mantel first and build the rest of the design around it. Fortunately, fireplace mantels come in a wide variety of types, materials, and styles to fit every need.
Custom mantels are a great way to ensure the best fit and most consistent interior design for your fireplace mantel, especially if you are remodeling an older home with an established design theme or style. Your carpenter may be able to create a custom mantel for you, or you can order one from a specialty store. Custom mantels are more expensive than similar pre-fabricated mantels, but the extra care taken to fit the mantel to the room's specific needs can pay off in a truly beautiful focal point for your room.
If you are seeking a traditional look for your interior design, one of the best ways to find the perfect mantel is through an architectural salvage yard or antiques dealer. Antique and salvaged mantels are often very reasonably priced, especially considering that many of them are hand-carved. However, they may require restoration work and are often more expensive to install than custom or pre-fabricated mantels. Additionally, antique mantels may be narrower than required by modern fire codes. If this is the case and the mantel is a close fit, it may be possible to rework the mantel enough to fit modern codes and fire boxes. Too much reworking, however, can ruin the proportions of the mantel. When shopping for antique mantels, be sure to know the measurements of your firebox and find the closest fit you can.
Depending on the materials used, prefabricated mantels are generally the cheapest to buy and the easiest and cheapest to install. Pre-fabricated stone, limestone, and marble mantels are more expensive. Another option is cast-stone mantels, which are molded from Portland cement and crushed stone and have the look of stone without the price tag. Careful installation of pre-fabricated mantels is important to prevent unattractive caulking of perimeter gaps.
Full mantels aren't always necessary. With some fireplace designs, a simple mantel shelf might be adequate for your design needs. Mantel shelves come in a variety of woods and finishes and may be plain or carved.