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Fireplace Surrounds (A Complete Guide)

By UJJBARAN October 21, 2021

Fireplace surrounds can be an essential part of any fireplace, whether it’s traditional open fireplaces, gas fireplaces or wood burning stoves.

Fireplace surrounds help to make a fireplace into more a feature and a focal point for a home, as well as providing a shelf space above the fireplace to allow you to decorate it with personal items.

There are surrounds for our own open fireplaces and wood stoves, and through renovating our home we’ve also removed a surround when taking out an old gas fireplace.

We’ve therefore put together this complete guide to fireplace surrounds to explain and show:

  • What a fireplace surround is, what it does and whether one is needed.
  • Whether fireplace surrounds are hollow and how they are attached.
  • What materials fireplace surrounds are typically made from.

What Are Fireplace Surrounds?

A fireplace surround is the object that sticks out from the outer wall of a fireplace into the room and surrounds the fireplace opening. A fireplace surround is usually made up of the sides and mantel but may or may not include the base of the fireplace, known as the hearth.

A fireplace surround is usually thought of as the components that protrude from the wall of your home away from the fireplace firebox opening.

In many cases a fireplace surround can come as one unit and can be made up of the following components:

  • Mantel
  • Legs
  • And sometimes the hearth.

The mantel consists of the top part of the fireplace surround that is commonly found to be flat on top so that ornaments and other decorations can be placed. A mantel can also be commonly bought as a standalone component to create a ‘floating mantelpiece’ look.

The sides of a surround, also referred to as the legs, provide support for the mantel above and also helps create a barrier between the fireplace and the room.

The hearth is flat area at the base of a fireplace on which the fire is built and other objects can be placed such as a fireplace screen. A hearth sticks out into the room to provide protection for the floor against hot embers. Some fireplace surrounds will have a hearth as part of the unit.

The image below show the surrounds for open fireplace and old gas fireplace.Fireplace Surround Labelled

Fireplace Insert Labelled Diagram

As the size of fireplace openings are never quite the same between homes, fireplace surrounds come in a range of shapes and sizes to suit.

Surrounds also come in a range of designs, materials and patterns so that you can find one that fits in with the décor of your home. Designs range from antique to contemporary, while materials can include wood, stone and concrete.

What Does A Fireplace Surround Do?

The purpose of a fireplace surround is to:

  • Be a stylish and attractive component of a fireplace that helps to make a fireplace a focal point for a room.
  • Provide a barrier between an open fireplace and the room so that fires can be more safely contained within the firebox and help keep hot embers away from any combustible materials within the room.
  • Allow you to place household decorations above the fireplace on the mantel.
  • Can help to keep smoke from coming into the room.

Does A Fireplace Need A Surround?

A fireplace does not always necessarily need a surround, but the requirements for a fireplace surround must be in line with local and national codes and building regulations.

A fireplace can also look very bare if there’s no surround.

Are Fireplace Surrounds/Mantels Hollow?

Certain models of fireplace surrounds will be hollow, while some won’t be. It’s typical for lower cost fireplace surrounds constructed of wood to be hollow while more upmarket and higher priced surrounds can be solid throughout.

Not all fireplace surround and mantels will be hollow.

Whether a surround is hollow can be down to the materials used and whether the surround is part of the original construction of the fireplace or not.

Wooden surrounds that are used with fireplaces that don’t already have a surround are more likely to be hollow than other brick, stone or concrete surrounds that were constructed alongside the fireplace.

Whether a fireplace surround is hollow or not can also be reflected in the price. You can expect lower cost wooden surrounds to have a hollow center, while more expensive surrounds or standalone mantels that use higher quality materials to not be hollow. Whether a fireplace surround is hollow or not doesn’t detract from its functionality or looks, but using a hollow fireplace surround can be a cheaper option when the insides of the surround wouldn’t be seen anyway.

On the other hand, the concrete surround (painted black) for our living room fireplace is completely solid, and you can only tell by the sound it makes when knocking on it. The stone surround for another fireplace we have (with a multi fuel stove installed) also isn’t hollow.

How Are Fireplace Surrounds Attached?

Many fireplace surrounds can be part of the construction of the whole fireplace and will be built in, but surrounds that have been added onto a fireplace will usually be attached to the wall with brackets and screws.

Surrounds that aren’t part of the construction of a fireplace, in particular wooden surrounds, are typically attached to a wall with a number of brackets/lugs and screws located around the surround.

These brackets can either be found on the inner or outer side of the surround and may be located under plaster so that they can’t be seen.

Some surrounds, particularly those that are made from masonry, may be more built in and won’t necessary only be connected to the fireplace with brackets.

What Are Fireplace Surround Made Of?

To help suit different home decors and personal preferences, fireplace surrounds can be found made from a range of different materials.

Common materials that can be used for a fireplace surround include:

  • Wood
  • Concrete
  • Brick
  • Cast iron
  • Stone
  • Granite & Marble
  • Tiles

Other materials that can be used for fireplace surrounds include quartz and slate.

Wooden Fireplace Surrounds

One of the most common materials used for fireplace surrounds can be wood.

Wooden fireplace surrounds are common because of their ease of installation and affordability.

Wooden surrounds can be lighter, and cheaper to construct and transport and so they can be less expensive compared to masonry surrounds.

Many wooden surrounds are also hollow, which also helps to reduce purchase costs even further. Their relative lightness in terms of weight also helps to make the installation and removal of wood fireplace surrounds a lot simpler.

If you’re looking for a traditional wooden surround then you’ll typically find them constructed of a hardwood

Many wood surrounds also come painted, with white being a popular color, and while these painted surrounds are made from wood beneath, they will most likely be constructed from manufactured wood as it can’t be seen.


What Is The Best Material For A Fireplace Surround?

Wood is the best material for fireplace surrounds for affordability and ease of installation.

Stone is the best fireplace surround material when looking to provide a more authentic and classier looking surround compared to wooden ones.

Marble is the best material for fireplace surrounds when high end looks and sophistication outweigh the cost.

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