How to choose the perfect fireplace surround

With so many designs and material choices on offer, choosing the perfect fireplace surround for your existing fireplace is no easy task.

Let’s break down some of the most important factors to consider, so you can be sure to choose the perfect fireplace surround for your home.

Different types of fireplace surrounds

The parts nearest to a burning fire such as the back panel and hearth will need to be non-combustible, and popular options include marble, granite, slate and limestone. Electric fireplaces, however, can be made in almost any material, as the heat generated from an electric fan heater does not require the same level of protection compared to that of a gas or wood burning fire.

A fireplace surround is then usually fitted over the non-combustible back panel and hearth combination. The aperture of the opening (sizes between the legs of a fireplace) is usually far enough from the burning fire to make it safe to use almost any material. Popular options include:

Wood fireplace surrounds

For a traditional look you could opt for a timber/wood fireplace surround, available in cost-effective options such as pine, as well as harder timbers such as oak and mahogany for a more sophisticated finish.

Stone fireplace surrounds

Opting for a stone fireplace surround – such as marble, granite or limestone (polished or matt) – can add a touch of luxury to any living space. Stone fireplace surrounds are available in a variety of styles, from traditional to contemporary, with bespoke sizes often available.

Cast iron fireplace surrounds

Cast iron fireplaces can add character and charm to any home. Cast iron fireplaces are reproductions in Victorian and Georgian styles, and are often available as smaller “combination cast” – ideal for bedrooms and studies.

Larger cast iron fireplace surrounds can be fitted with a contrasting back panel and hearth combination for a more dramatic look.

Fireplace beams

Fireplace beams are becoming a popular option and offer a characterful finish to your fireplace.

The rise in the popularity of wood-burning stoves means that fireplace beams are fast becoming a must-have addition to any new stove installation. Choose from streamlined modern fireplace beams, to larger options available in distressed oak and other traditional features such as corbels.

How do you measure for a fireplace?

If you have a chimney breast, begin with taking a measurement of the wall against which the fireplace surround will fit. You will ideally want the fireplace surround to fit at least 1”- 2” from either side of the chimney breast. Similarly, take measurements of the width of your fireplace hearth, again you will ideally want the legs of your fireplace to fit 1”- 2” inside of the hearth.

Fireplace surrounds are usually available in the following sizes as standard:

54” wide

48” wide

36” wide

Please note that the sizes listed are usually the maximum size of the mantle/shelf width. The style and design of your fireplace may affect the sizes of the legs and mantel; however, most fireplace surrounds are available made-to-measure. Taking your measurements in to a local fireplace retail store will help them to provide you with a correctly fitting fireplace.

How much does a fireplace surround cost?

This will depend on the material, design and final sizes of your product. As a general rule of thumb, timber surrounds are usually cheaper when compared to stone or cast iron fireplaces. However some solid timber surrounds can cost as much, if not more, than some stone fireplaces.

Besides the material, factors which may affect the price can include the exclusivity of the product design, the country of manufacture, as well as opting for bespoke sizes.

How do I know if my existing fireplace is original?

If you are renovating and deciding on whether to keep or dump your existing fireplace, you may first want to check if it is, in fact, an original. Although there are many reproductions of traditional fireplace designs available, there are still many original fireplaces installed in homes across the UK.

Take some detailed images of your existing fireplace, and contact your local stone mason or fireplace retailer who will be able to confirm. You don’t want to be dumping something which is in fact worth a lot of money, so it’s always best to check! If it is an original, it may have some resale value (if you decide not to keep it), and this could go some way towards offsetting some of those inevitable unexpected costs of your home improvement.