How to Buy a Mantelpiece

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How to Buy a Mantelpiece

A fireplace of any kind often takes pride of place in a room, but a fireplace without a mantelpiece is missing an important element. A mantelpiece helps to establish the fireplace’s role as a focal point as it is often used to display family photographs and other treasured items. Mantelpieces are available pre-fabricated in a variety of materials, including wood, stone, concrete, and plaster, but they are also sold as kits that are partially assembled on site during the installation process.

Deciding on a Mantelpiece

Mantelpieces can be found in styles that will match virtually any type of decor, from colonial American and Victorian to Danish modern and minimalist. Because the multiplicity of styles is so extensive, many people find that a good way to begin looking for a mantelpiece is to run web searches. This allows them to get a feel for the materials, colours, and styles that resonate most strongly with their sense of home design. When it comes to picking out a mantelpiece, a picture is truly worth a thousand words. To help focus the search, eBay provides an environment where sellers are highly competitive on both price and terms, and powerful search tools are available to help shoppers locate the type of item they are looking for. Contrary to common perception, not all sales on eBay proceed as traditional auctions where buyers bid against one another for a time period of seven or ten days. Instead, the "Buy it Now" function on eBay allows consumers to instantly finalise a transaction once they have made up their minds about exactly which mantelpiece would best suit their needs.

Two Basic Types of Mantelpieces

Some consumers prefer to narrow down their choice of material first and then move on to other considerations. Sooner or later, however, a basic design choice must be made: shelf mantel or full surround.

Shelf Mantels

Shelf mantelpieces are also sometimes sold as "caps" or "mantel caps." They are designed to hang on the wall as a simple shelf above a fireplace. Sometimes, shelf mantels, though permanently affixed to a wall, rest directly on the brick or masonry structure that makes up the fireplace proper; in other situations, there is a gap between fireplace and shelf mantel. Shelf mantels offer several advantages over full surrounds. They can be installed fairly easily, which means that a room featuring the fireplace will be in disarray for a shorter period of time. They can also be quite inexpensive, though ornateness and material choice will have an impact on final cost.Finally, their simplicity appeals to many consumers at an aesthetic level.

Full Surrounds

Other mantelpiece shoppers prefer a mantelpiece that makes a much greater statement about the decor of their living room or family room. Full surround mantels - rather than literally fully surrounding a mantelpiece - feature legs or sides. These may actually sit outside the fireplace's hearth or sit directly upon it. Full surround mantels can be highly ornate and extensive, expanding the visual appearance of a fireplace by more than a foot on either side. Other full surround mantelpieces, however, may have a minimalist design.

Speciality Features

One of the first decisions a mantelpiece shopper must make relates to style. Some mantelpieces consist of nothing more than a simple shelf mounted to hang over a fireplace, while others surround the fireplace on all sides. Even these mantelpieces are not the ultimate word in elaborate fireplace decoration. Higher-end mantelpieces may include specialty features that extend the traditional mantelpiece arrangement in a variety of ways.


Mantelpiece skirts consist of decorative boards that are installed below a mantelpiece shelf. Skirts may appear from their location to be supporting structures but in reality they are purely aesthetic. They serve to add more detail and depth to a mantelpiece shelf, giving it a more luxurious appearance.


Corbels are similar to skirts in that they are installed beneath a mantelpiece shelf, but instead of being whole boards, they instead consist of decorated braces. Both skirts and corbels are common extended features for high-end mantelpieces in which the top shelf is not contiguous with any full-surround that also forms a part of the mantelpiece. This arrangement allows there to be a stylish gap between the full surround encompassing the fireplace and the shelf mounted above. A shelf decorated with skirts and corbels can be particularly effective when the wall where the fireplace is located is itself made of a decorative element, such as river rock, since the gap built into the mantel will allow the wall behind to show through.


An overmantel is an additional ornamental section that is mounted above the mantelpiece proper. This allows the mantel to extend further in the vertical direction, calling additional attention to the fireplace. Overmantels are typically quite elaborate and may even incorporate mirrors that help to make a room appear more expansive.

Other Special Considerations

Mantelpieces that surround a gas fireplace must often be designed to accommodate vertical exhaust pipes (usually a chimney) that are used to carry away the combustion gases. Not all fireplaces, however, are vented in this manner. Electric fireplaces require no vents at all and some gas fireplaces direct their exhaust gases through pipes that run in a horizontal direction. In these situations, it is possible to use a mantelpiece and matching full surround that encases the firebox completely. This can present a more unified appearance that many consumers greatly prefer.

Mantelpiece Materials

The most common materials used for mantelpieces are wood, stone, and man-made composite materials that can be fashioned to resemble either of these basic options.

Wooden Mantelpieces

Wood is an extremely popular choice of material. Compared to stone, it is relatively lightweight and can also be far more affordable. Wood also offers a large range of options. Almost any common type of wood desired will be available in a mantelpiece, including cherry, walnut, poplar, oak, mahogany, maple, and pine. Large mantelpieces may also make use of composite wooden materials such as fibreboard in order to create a structure that will be strong and safe.

Paint or Stain Grade Wooden Mantelpieces

Mantels that are designed to be painted may feature wood types that provide a smooth surface with relatively little grain. These include mouldings made of poplar, and sometimes flat panels made of a composite material. Mantelpieces designed to be stained, on the other hand, are made of materials that will show a grain as this gives stained wood complexity and depth. Solid oak mouldings are a common component in stain grade mantelpieces.

Stone Mantelpieces

Stone mantelpieces have the advantage of being extremely fire resistant, a benefit they share with mantelpieces fashioned from brick and concrete. Natural stone has more character than other materials and is considered a higher-end option. Stone mantelpieces are often carved into ornate designs, but sometimes they are left largely unworked, which can create a rustic ambience that may suit a home situated in a rural area. Common stones used in fireplace mantelpiece construction include marble, slate, limestone, and granite.

Composite Mantelpieces

Mantelpieces are also available in faux stone, also called cast stone. These can provide the durability and luxury feel of stone at a much lower cost. Since cast stone weighs less, they can also be more feasible to ship and install without the assistance of a professional.

Other Mantelpiece Materials

Mantelpieces are also available in other materials such as plaster and metal.

Mantelpiece Facings

Regardless of the material chosen for the mantelpiece itself, shoppers should remember that they would need to choose materials that are fireproof for all facings. These include brick, stone, and tile. Those choosing a wooden mantelpiece will need to keep possible facings in mind when shopping as the mantelpiece and its facings should coordinate well to have a harmonised appearance.

Find Mantelpieces On eBay

eBay is an excellent place to explore and shop for mantelpieces. The presence of many thousands of individual sellers means that at any one time the site may be hosting more mantelpieces than are on display at a typical high street store. Mantelpieces can quickly be located by clicking the drop down menu next to the search box, selecting Home, Furniture & DIY and refining the search by clicking through to the Fireplaces & Accessories pages from the category list on the left hand side. From here, select Mantelpieces & Surrounds to browse the available listings. Shoppers with something distinct in mind should use the eBay search box to find particular results that will suit their needs. Searching for "shelf mantels" or "stone mantelpieces" may provide more relevant results than a search using the word mantelpiece alone.


Mantelpieces are used to enhance a fireplace so that it will fit with existing decor more effectively and draw more visual attention. With easy searching and effortless bidding, buying a mantelpiece is made easy at a competitive auction site such as eBay.

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