Stratford 168

Fireplace Mantel FAQ's

Buying a fireplace mantel online is a great way to save money. We want to make sure you choose the correct mantel, so it fits perfectly and installation is a breeze. Here are some of the most commonly asked questions we get about mantels.

  • Measuring, Installation, Tools and Assembly
  • Finishes and Varieties of Wood
  • Shipping - How long does it take to recieve?
  • Do I need a custom mantel or shelf?
  • How do I mount my fireplace mantel or shelf?
  • Can I Install my mantel on a brick fireplace?
  • Difference Between Traditional Wood Mantel and Mantel's Made from MDF?


If you have any questions please call us at 800.897.7175 and one of our certified fireplace specialists will be more than glad to assist you.

How Do I Correctly Measure My Fireplace for a Fireplace Mantel?


In most instances, its very easy to determine the correct size mantel for your fireplace as fireplaces generally come in two sizes.

  • If you have a 36" fireplace - the inside width of your mantel should be 48".
  • If you have a 42" fireplace - the inside width of your mantel should be 54".

This diagram below shows a few other things to consider when measuring your fireplace for a mantel.

Outside Width (Leg to Leg) - This measurement is generally the same as shelf length, but can be different. You want to make sure, if it measures differently that the mantel will still work for your application.

Inside Width - This is an important measurement, as you need this to be accurate to work in conjunction with your fireplace facing - more on this in the diagram below.

Height of Mantel - The height needs to clear your firebox opening, this will also determine if you will need to use corbels. Think of corbels as little blocks that go on the bottom of the legs if the mantel needs to be higher.

Inside Height - This needs to clear the header. The header is the facing (marble, tile, slate) that is above the firebox - it is generally 8" high, but can vary.

Distance to Nearest Impediment - You want to make sure your mantel will not interfere with an adjacent window or light switch.

Other Things to Consider when Measuring- Shelf Depth, Returns and Return Depth

mantel depth

Shelf Depth - The depth of the shelf is generally eight inches, but this can vary - make sure you choose the width you need.

Return and Return Depth - The return depth is simply a term for how far the foot of the mantel projects. More importantly is what is called the return. When a mantel is made, there is a recessed area in the back called the return - it allows for the thickness of materials to go behind it. The standard size of a return is 1 1/2" - this almost always works with slate, tile, and granite. If you have brick, you will need to get a mantel with a larger return - the mantels below are all available with an option for a custom return:

Working with Your Fireplace Facing

Mantel Facing

When Ordering a mantel you will want to make sure it works correctly with your facing. 'Facing' is another name for the material surrounding your fireplace opening.

This is usually tile, slate or marble. Facing is generally six inches (left to right) on each side and eight inches on the top. This area is also called the header.

If you have measurements other then these, a custom mantel may be the answer for you - but don't worry! We offer custom mantels at lower prices than other companies charge for their stock mantels:

Do I need a Custom Mantel?

Most fireplaces do not require a custom mantel. If you have an unusually large or wide fireplace, you may need a custom mantel to fit these applications. If you have a brick fireplace, you will require a mantel with a larger return in the back. Some of our most affordable mantels are our custom mantels.

Do I need a Full Mantel or a Shelf?

Most of the time the choice between a mantel and a mantel shelf is one of aesthetics and price. Naturally, since a shelf is less material, they cost less. But there are cases where a shelf is an excellent choice over a full surround. If you have a stone surround, or any other material that prevents the installation of a full surround, a Fireplace Shelf may be the right thing for you. Please call us at 800.897.7175 if you are not sure and one of our certified fireplace specialists can help you decide.

What Tools Will I Need?

You won't need much and you most likely already have all you need:
Hammer, finishing nails, wood screws, and a screwdriver or drill gun (drill gun is recommended).

What Kind of Assembly is Required?

Our fireplace mantels require very little assembly. With our full mantel surrounds you just attach the legs to the shelf with brackets and its ready to install. Fireplace shelves are even easier, and attach with mounting brackets.

How Do I Mount My Fireplace Mantel or Shelf?

Mounting a fireplace shelf is done with the use of mounting brackets and the included screws. Full surround mantels also mount with mounting brackets and come with detailed instructions.

Can I Install My Mantel on a Brick Fireplace?

Yes, you can. Brick will require a larger return - the return is the space in the back of your mantel that allows for facing, or material behind it. Our lowest priced mantels are also our custom mantels, which allow you to specify a larger return to accommodate brick facing. In some instances, you may want to go with a mantel shelf.