How to choose the right fireplace surround for your home

Take a look at the pros and cons of each material.

Whether you have a wood burning stove or an ultra-modern bio-ethanal flame, the right surround or mantelpiece will enhance your fire and give your home warmth and character.

A fireplace can become a statement piece, so making sure you choose the right one is essential in creating a warm and stylish atmosphere,' says Chris Baines, managing director of Eurostove Ltd.

There are a number of things to consider; the type of heating appliance you have, the style of your décor – whether classic, rustic or contemporary, the preferred height and width of the surround and what it’s made from.

Do shop around. Home and DIY stores including Argos, B&Q and Wickes often have good-value surrounds similar to much more expensive designer models.

There are lots of complete surrounds which just slot into place in one piece. Or, if you buy from a fireplace specialist, you can choose surround, back panel and hearth separately to create a customised look.

And remember, a stunning surround can bring character to a feature-free room, but don’t pick a fireplace that’s too large. It will dominate the room for all the wrong reasons.

Wood

If you’re looking for maximum input for minimum spend, choose wood. From MDF to mahogany, there’s a surround to suit every pocket, with prices from under $200 to $800.

Wood is also versatile; streamlined pale tones such as birch, rich, opulent mahogany or a simple elegant shelf, or rustic beam across the top of a real fire.

'We sell far more wooden surrounds than ones made of stone or marble,' says fireplace expert Rupert Woods at English Salvage. 'They have the advantage of being easy to fit. You wouldn’t necessarily need a specialist to do this, they usually simply screw to the wall.

Pros

Inexpensive
Can be painted to match décor

Cons 

Cheaper styles can look rather basic
Needs care if used with a wood-burning or multi-fuel stove. A decent gap must be left between stove and surround to avoid scorching and burning.

Stone and marble

Stone and marble surrounds are relatively expensive, costing from around $2000 , but they are the real deal. As a classic complement to a sitting room, or a luxurious carved and embellished addition to a bedroom or bathroom, marble is an opulent choice. Choose plain white or cream carrara or opt for an intricate brown, green or blue grain; each piece of marble is unique.

Limestone is sleek and understated and can look very contemporary, whilst slate is enjoying a revival. 'In Victorian times, slate was called the "poor man’s marble,"' says Rupert Woods. 'They went to great lengths to paint fake marble effects on it. Slate often looks best stripped back to the original black or purplish colour, and it is usually very inexpensive to purchase.'

Pros

The 'wow' factor is guaranteed
Marble or stone mantel shelves are usually substantial, so good for displaying treasure.

Cons  

Many varieties of stone, including marble, may crack under the intense heat of a solid fuel fire. Take expert advice from a reputable dealer
Porous stone such as limestone, stains easily, so care must be taken with tea, coffee and wine glasses

Cast iron

Usually associated with period properties, cast-iron surrounds cost up to USD
2,000, but if you’re lucky, your Victorian cottage might come with an original intact. You can also find reclaimed models at salvage companies or look online at auction sites such as eBay.

Cast iron is very hard-wearing and in the right setting, creates an amazing impact.

Pros

A heavy black surround can be updated with white, soft pastel or metallic metal paint
Tiles can be replaced to match your décor

Cons

Can look slightly out of place in a modern setting
Cast iron is very susceptible to moisture and even the smallest spot of water can cause rust.

1. Many homes have a chimney breast which protrudes forward of the wall each side; ideally the surround needs to fit within this space.

2. The key measurements are the width of the chimney breast – or in a modern home without one, the dimensions of the wall area you’re planning to cover – and the size of the fireplace hole/opening.

3. If the internal width of the surround – the gap between the inside of the fireplace legs – is smaller than the fireplace opening, you will usually need to make the fireplace opening larger.

4. With a stone or marble surround, it may be possible to alter the width slightly, but wooden surrounds can be difficult to change.

5. In addition, if the opening of the surround is much wider than the fireplace itself, the gap can be filled with marble or brick slips, tiles, or simply left as bare brick or painted.

6. The height of the surround can also sometimes be altered, by reducing the height of the legs or adding blocks at the base.

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