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Wood Fireplace Mantels

Wood fireplaces at one time in history provided all the heat for the home. In some cases it also served as the main cooking area as well. Today we use the fireplace as a room accent or even a gathering place for special occasions and holidays. Choosing a mantel for the wood fireplace should be a reflection of not only the room, but perhaps a sign of personal taste. There are many options in mantels from formal to rustic along with a few materials such as wood, rock, and marble or metal.

Before venturing out into the wilds of mantel purchase carefully measure the size of the fireplace. This needs to include the actual opening of the fireplace. The distance from the floor to the top of the opening. The measurement should also include the available wall space on either side of the fireplace opening. Distance in front of the fireplace should also be considered as some mantels may have deep side supports on either side of the structure. Access to the flue and the dampers closing mechanism may need to be examined. The last consideration will be how often do you burn wood in the fireplace. Certain mantels may contain materials that are not intended for constant wood fire use.

Style of the Room
Is the room used for family gatherings or a formal area or study? Materials such as wood and brick may bring a touch of home into the room. Marble or some faux marble products may give a real formal affair to the mantel. Will the décor change with the seasons and what you display on the top shelf? Christmas may bring out decorations and stockings hung with care from the top mantel. A brick, stone and marble mantel may create difficulties for certain decorations. The warm feel of a wood mantel will also have its own challenges. Perhaps a formal look with proper trim or leaning to the other direction of something very rustic and bold. Large timbers for a mantel can make an impressive statement when a fireplace is situated at the end of a long room.

Material Care
Most stones, brick and marble mantels will require very little care over the years. Perhaps a quick cleaning to remove dust and such. Wood mantels may require an application of oils or a complete refinishing every so often depending on the usage of the wood fireplace. Metal mantels are available that can resemble a wood finish. In some cases these highly finished metal panels may also resemble some forms of rock and brick. The finishes on a metal mantel are not only easy to clean, but may never need to be retouched from years of use. If wood fires will be burned in the fireplace, over time a carbon mark may form on the front of the mantel. This comes from the burning of the wood. Minute amounts of carbon will escape from the fireplace regardless of the draw and the chimney. This type of black soot carbon staining may need to be considered when choosing the final look of a well used wood burning fireplace.

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