Stone Fireplace Mantel & Surround in room

How to Choose the Right Mantel Size for Your Fireplace

There are many details to consider when it comes to choosing a fireplace, from the material to the style to the functionality. The size of your mantel may be low on your priority list, but in fact, this component comes with a number of important considerations. Some are related to your personal aesthetics, and others depend on the constraints of your space, such as the room size and layout. There are also certain codes and standards that your mantel must adhere to for safety reasons. In this post we’ll discuss all of these factors so you can make the best choice for your home.

Mantel Size and Style

Your decision to go with a custom fireplace likely began with an image in your mind. Perhaps you pictured a large, attention-grabbing focal point for your room, or maybe you imagined a smaller, more modest design. The overall look of your fireplace will dictate the appropriate size of your mantel to some degree—a thick, imposing mantel would overwhelm a smaller, slimmer fireplace and vice versa—but you do have some leeway to be creative and use the mantel to round out your vision.

For example, the mantel can blend in to the general shape of the fireplace, or it can stand out as a statement piece all its own. The decision comes down to your personal aesthetics and your plans for how to use the mantel. The size and layout of your room may also be a factor, as a big, deep mantel could make a small room feel even smaller, and the placement of the fireplace in the room might come into play as well. The room’s furnishings and décor are another aspect to keep in mind, as your goal is to achieve a harmonious, well-planned look.

Some designers may also have gentle interplay between the different aspects of the room and mantel and other decor. Though one cautionary consideration is to keep in mind is to focus your attention to the elements of the room that are permanent.

The Question of Functionality

Design and aesthetics are the fun part of this process, but there are also some more practical aspects to consider. For instance, if you have a chimney breast—a section of your interior wall that juts out to cover your chimney—you’ll want to make sure the mantel is no wider than that, as an overhang can both look strange and create a hazard. What you want instead is for the chimney breast to “frame” the fireplace.

If you’re working with a flat wall, however, you don’t have to worry about this. In that case, the question of mantel size will mainly have to do with how you will use it. Will you hang garlands and stockings at Christmas Time? Do you hope to display lots of family photos or other keepsakes? Make sure the depth of your mantel provides you with enough space to use it as you envision year-round.

A Note on Fire Codes and Standards

Most of the safety considerations for your custom fireplace will be handled by the professionals who build and install it, but it’s helpful to know a few basic guidelines before you embark on the process. Specifics depend on your local building code, but most codes state that there should be 12″ between the bottom of the mantel and the top of the fireplace opening, and that you should add another inch to that distance for every inch that the mantel protrudes from the wall. So a mantel that is 6″ deep would be attached 18″ above the fireplace opening.

Now this will obviously be influenced by the material you choose. Natural stone (see our article on the difference between natural stone and cast stone) fireplaces may be exempt from these requirements due to their high fire rating. Many wood fireplace mantels will even have specific warnings as to their minimum placement distance.

Why is this important when deciding on mantel size? Basically, the “face height” (or the thickness) of the mantel will change the dimensions of the fireplace overall, which can significantly affect its appearance and usability. Our fireplace designs take were expertly crafted to take all of this into account.

If you want a lower mantel that you can easily reach, or if you plan to keep items on the mantel that should be viewed at a certain height or kept at a certain distance from fire, such as artwork or photographs, then take that into account when sizing your mantel. If this seems a bit overwhelming, work with one of our designers to craft a completely custom fireplace mantel design. The design service is included in the price and it’s pretty painless.