A fireplace mantel is originally a covering that shields the top of a fireplace and frames it. In medieval times, it was meant to act as a shield that prevented smoke from escaping into the house by redirecting it back to the chimney.
Today, with numerous designs taking different forms, a mantel has taken on an evolved role, acting as a shield and a focal point. It is one of the first things people see when they step into your home.
With modern designs and styles, mantel construction and installation have also become quite expensive.
Mantels can range from simple plane coverings today to elaborate frames that sometimes go up to the ceiling. But why exactly are fireplace mantels so expensive? Are they worth the cost?
What Is the Purpose of A Fireplace Mantel?
As earlier stated, a mantel has evolved beyond just a protective shield and smoke blocker to something entirely more prominent today. In fact, some freestanding fireplaces are sold with mantels.
There are three major purposes and benefits of constructing a fireplace mantel.
1. Protects the wall area close to the fireplace
Whether as a standalone frame or part of the fireplace’s surround, a mantel can be a useful shield against the effect of heat on your wall.
Dirt and stains arising from the fireplace are also prevented from denting your room’s wall due to this protective layer called a mantel. It is also important to note that mantels are built and/or coated with fire-retardant materials.
Therefore, it is able to withstand fire and heat for many years, unlike your home’s interior walls which may not have that quality.
2. Improves the feel and look of your room
Asides from its protective function, a mantel is a decorative element. A mantel gives your room a beautiful look and enhances the interior decor. Modern mantels are designed with different styles and finishes.
You may go with simplicity to create a blend between your fireplace and your room or pick something more unique and complex to make that part of the room pop and be the centerpiece of attraction in your home.
3. Provides the perfect spot for displaying prized possessions
Have you ever visited someone and found artifacts and artworks; vases, small sculptures and other prized ornamental objects carefully arranged on a fireplace top frame? That is what we mean here.
Because of its central position in your home and its attractiveness, a fireplace mantel is a perfect spot to display some of your prized possessions and thrill your guests.
Beyond prized possessions, some homeowners keep framed photographs, plaques and awards on their mantel as well.
Other purposes of a fireplace mantel may also include shielding the fireplace from elements like water and other liquids that may slip in through the chimney, snow, dew, etc, and direct smoke upwards through the chimney rather than into your home.
How Much Does It Cost to Build a Mantel?
A mantel is one thing that does not have a specific cost. While someone may build it for about $300, it may cost as much as $3,000 for another person.
It wholly depends on the material, design, size and installation technicalities. Let’s examine some types of mantels and the estimated cost of construction.
1. Custom-designed Mantels
These are mantels built to your specifications. Wood mantels often offer the best design flexibility and elegance. You can get a good carpenter to do the job if you’re carrying out a large renovation.
Otherwise, you can patronize a specialty shop using drawings by an architect or a design that fits the existing woodwork. A custom-designed mantel should cost anywhere between $2,000 and $5,000.
2. Prefabricated Mantels
If you’re working on a budget or you just do not have the time to draw up something and have a carpenter build from scratch, a prefab mantel is a good option.
It can be masonry or wood and often come in traditional or contemporary designs and styles.
If you visit a nearby lumberyard or home center, you should be able to pick a simply-designed mantel for as little as $300. That cost can rise as high as $5,000 if you go for more intricate and customized woodwork using oak or mahogany.
Prefab stone mantels are way more expensive. The cheapest ones have a cost range of $500 to $5,000 while the more sophisticated high-end and imported ones made from limestone and hand-carved marble will cost as much as $10,000 to $20,000.
This Pearl Mike Fireplace Mantel Surround made of MDF is one of the most popular in the market. And if Oak is your thing, you may fancy the Frederick Full Surround Leg and Skirt option.
3. Salvaged Antique Mantels
If you’re a lover of the classics and medieval architectural designs, you may fancy a salvaged antique around your fireplace. A visit to a salvage yard would reveal several stone and wood mantels removed from century-old buildings.
Even if you fancy hand-carved detailing, you should find something worth your time. On average, you should get one for $700 to $3,500, depending on the condition, material and design. Installation may cost an extra $500 or more.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace Mantel?
Replacing a fireplace mantel will cost slightly more than you spent during the original installation. This is because labor cost will rise as the professional would charge you for removal and reinstallation.
If you’d like to replace with any of the mantel types discussed above, be ready to part with the accompanying cost plus an extra $500 to $1,000 for labor costs. You may decide to do it yourself if you have the skill.
The national average cost for installing a mantel is $400 to $700, including the cost of materials and labor.
This is for regular wood and metal mantels. It is slightly more technical to install a marble mantel and often costs more.
Replacing a stone mantel should cost you between $700 and $1,500, depending on the conditions, location, job size and finish.
Are Fireplace Mantels Worth It?
When you consider the amount of protection and aesthetic value a mantel adds to your fireplace, it may certainly be worth your investment.
A typical oakwood fireplace mantel should last for about 20 years, while inferior wood should still give you at least 10 years.
On the other hand, if you purchase a marble or limestone model, it should last for a lifetime as long as you maintain and polish it as often as you should. This long-term value certainly makes mantels worth it.
Fireplace mantels are expensive primarily because they are expensive to make. It is your preference that determines how much you’ll spend on a mantel. A mantel can be anything you want it to be if you carefully choose the material and design you prefer.
Whatever your choice, you should never lose sight of the primary purpose of a fireplace mantel. With the various options available on the market, you should be able to find one that fits your budget and serves the purpose for which mantels are built.