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Custom Fireplace Mantels and Shelves

In many cases, premade fireplace mantels and shelves work just fine, adding the perfect touch of functionality and beauty to existing fireboxes. Another option to consider is custom mantels and shelves, which can be made to fit the specific dimensions of your fireplace.

Reasons to Go Custom

Custom mantels and shelves are a good idea when:

  • Your fireplace and its surroundings have unusual dimensions. Although some fireplace sizes are a little more common than others, there’s a lot of variation in the measurements you’ll see. The differences exist largely because of safety regulations and the desire of architects, masons and other professionals to scale the fireplace to fit the size of the containing room well. For some homeowners, a custom solution offers a much better fit for the existing firebox or one they plan to build.
  • You want a look that is truly unique. Most fireplace retailers provide options in many different materials and styles. Even so, you might want something they don’t provide off the shelf, such as a mantel with your family name or crest in it.
  • You’re looking for a specific functionality. Just about all fireplace mantels can support items like pictures or small plants. If you want the mantel to serve in another way, however, such as having secret compartments for valuables, remotes or other items, a custom product can ensure you get the ideal level of practicality you’re after.

What to Expect During the Customization Process

The very nature of customized fireplace mantels and shelves means that no two customers will have an identical experience. Even so, you can expect to start the process by sharing information with your craftsman, such as the overall style you want and the layout around the firebox. Your craftsman should be able to tell you some basic facts, such as what specific materials cost by weight or dimension. It’s a good idea to get reviews or see examples of the craftsman’s work before you go further.

Depending on the craftsman you’re working with, your next step might be simply mixing and matching elements from mantels already in the craftsman’s catalog. Switching out materials or scaling existing models is also common. If you’re going for something entirely new, however, the craftsman might do some drawings by hand or with a computer. You then can modify or approve the design he comes up with.

At this point, the craftsman typically orders the materials he needs from trusted suppliers. Once he has everything he needs, he uses specialized equipment or tools to create all the pieces of the mantel based on your design. Hand-carved mantels usually take longer to complete, but your waiting time will depend on different factors, such as the number of people working on the mantel, the skill of each worker and the number of other orders the workers need to fill. All good craftsmen will communicate openly with you about when they expect to finish, as well as all the fees they plan to charge.

Tips for Getting A Mantel You’ll Cherish Forever

Take the time to make sure the measurements you take for your craftsman or manufacturer are accurate. The entire design of the mantel will be based on these measurements, so if you’re not sure how to take them, don’t be embarrassed to get a professional to help you out. Be sure to check your local building codes to ensure proper placement of your mantel.

Find images of mantels you like online or snap a few photos (with permission) at local retailers. Use these pictures to get your imagination into high gear, or share them with your mantel craftsman as a visual representation of what you’re after.

Think about how the mantel will work over time. For instance, what will happen if you want to replace your furniture or paint the room? Will the materials you’re picking out still be in great shape in 10, 20 or even 50 years?

Expect to pay a little more. Custom pieces sometimes require the use of specialized equipment or more manual labor. That typically drives the price up. The customization usually ends up being well worth the added cost, since you’ll have a unique mantel that will last for years.