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How Do I Choose the Best Wood Mantel?

By Solomon Branch
Updated May 16, 2024
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Fireplace mantels come in a variety of materials, and wood is a common choice. To choose the best wood mantel you need to consider the size of your fireplace as well as what kind of wood you want. Wood is a flammable material, so consider a darker, heavier wood. Getting the wood treated to make it less flammable is also an option. Most wood fireplaces are relatively cheap compared to other materials, but a custom made wood mantel will cost more.

The first consideration in purchasing a mantel is space. In order to reduce the risk of fire, a wood mantel needs to have at least six inches (15.24 cm) of clearance between the edges of the mantel and the actual fireplace. Most manufacturers are aware of this, so a pre-made wood mantel will probably come with this consideration already built-in. Local building codes may vary, so it’s best to check with the proper authorities to determine what the specifics are for your area.

There are several manufacturers of wood mantels that have pre-made mantels for sale or offer the option of purchasing a custom-made mantel. Most use woods such as oak, cherry, birch, maple, or pine, and offer the choice of a stained or painted wood mantel. Some stores offer kits that you can build yourself, and they are usually cheaper than a completed wood mantel. Custom made mantels are the most expensive option, but you have control over the wood, design and finish.

For those who are more industrious, finding an antique wood mantel is a good choice. Many mantels in Victorian, Gothic, or Colonial styles that have been pulled from older buildings can be found in specialty or antique stores. They may come already cleaned and restored, but many times you can find one that needs refinishing and restoring. It can make a great project and allows you to style or paint it as you see fit.

One good way to help choose the best wood mantel is to write down what you want before you go shopping, including the style, size, and finish. Doing this will help you visualize what you want in your fireplace and help make the decision easier once you decide to actually purchase the mantel. You can check magazines and books for different styles to choose from, or browse the Internet. Many manufacturers offer catalogs that they can send you as well.

HomeQuestionsAnswered is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Discussion Comments
By Spotiche5 — On Jul 08, 2014

@ocelot60- Though wood mantels are very beautiful, and work well when not used too often or are basically ornamental, they are not appropriate for people who use their fireplaces often. Not only is it a concern that wood mantels are flammable, but constant heat from frequent usage has the tendency to dry them out. The wood may warp or crack as a result.

If you need to purchase a new mantel and you use your fireplace frequently, I think that you should consider one that is made of brick or stone. There are many beautiful models available, and many of them are quite affordable. With this type of mantel, you can use your fireplace all you want without worrying about the effects or problems it may cause so it will be worth the extra cost in the long run.

By Ocelot60 — On Jul 07, 2014

I need a new mantel, and was considering buying a wood one. I use my fireplace a lot though, so I was wondering if burning wood in a wood fireplace is really safe when the unit is in use frequently. Does anyone have some suggestions for me?

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