Fireplace Mantle Overview

Here's an overview of what you can expect when you go shopping for a fireplace mantle that suits your needs and budget.

Types

For a prefab fireplace, you can find a prefab mantle. For a masonry fireplace, you'll probably have to have something custom made.

Custom made mantles will take into account the size of the room and the distance to the ceiling. The optional upper panel can be made to fit flush against a flat or vaulted ceiling.

Prefab mantles are designed to fit snugly around most prefab fireplaces. They'll measure at least 40 inches wide, 40 inches high, and 13 inches deep. Prefab mantles can come in corner units as well. These often require minimal installation.

Price

Custom made fireplace mantles can cost quite a bit. A simple lower portion only mantle in oak can cost $850. Add in an upper portion for another $350. From there, the prices can go up quite a bit. If you want a more expensive wood such as maple or cherry, be prepared to pay at least $900 to $1,000 dollars for the mantle and $400 to $500 for the upper portion. For fancier designs with more carving, or simply for designs with more material, the cost can run to $1,700 and more for the mantle, and $800 for the upper portion. Throw in another $200 or $300 for each piece if you want it finished or painted.

Prefab fireplace mantles are smaller and cheaper. On sale, you can find a simple one for under $400. And even the fanciest one at full price should still cost you less than $1,000. For another $200 or so, many of them will come with matching bookcases to flank the mantle.

Styles

You can have any style from Baroque to classical to Victorian to contemporary. Decide whether you want something dark and ornate, light and airy, clean and simple, or whatever else you can think of. Some mantles come with simple lines that intersect each other at right angles. For a more classical effect, you can have the columns rounded, like a Greek temple. Or the columns can remain square, but they can have ridges carved in, or overlays going up and down the sides and across the top.

An arch instead of a straight line over the fireplace can be a pleasing look. Or the wood doesn't have to arch, you can simply have an arch carved or painted in or added on as an overlay. Other designs abound. Grape leaves, roses, birds, cherubs are among the more ornate possibilities. Squares, diamonds, braided patterns, and the like are among the simpler.

Materials

Mantles are usually made of wood of any sort you can imagine. Cherry or mahogany will give you a nice, dark effect. Oak will give you a more standard or rugged look. Birch and ash can look airy and beautiful. Any of these woods can be painted. For a much bolder effect, you might consider a mantle custom made from stone.