Fireplace mantels come in a variety of materials, and wood is a common choice. To choose the best wood mantel you need to consider the size of your fireplace as well as what kind of wood you want. Wood is a flammable material, so consider a darker, heavier wood. Getting the wood treated to make it less flammable is also an option. Most wood fireplaces are relatively cheap compared to other materials, but a custom made wood mantel will cost more.
The first consideration in purchasing a mantel is space. In order to reduce the risk of fire, a wood mantel needs to have at least six inches (15.24 cm) of clearance between the edges of the mantel and the actual fireplace. Most manufacturers are aware of this, so a pre-made wood mantel will probably come with this consideration already built-in. Local building codes may vary, so it’s best to check with the proper authorities to determine what the specifics are for your area.
There are several manufacturers of wood mantels that have pre-made mantels for sale or offer the option of purchasing a custom-made mantel. Most use woods such as oak, cherry, birch, maple, or pine, and offer the choice of a stained or painted wood mantel. Some stores offer kits that you can build yourself, and they are usually cheaper than a completed wood mantel. Custom made mantels are the most expensive option, but you have control over the wood, design and finish.
For those who are more industrious, finding an antique wood mantel is a good choice. Many mantels in Victorian, Gothic, or Colonial styles that have been pulled from older buildings can be found in specialty or antique stores. They may come already cleaned and restored, but many times you can find one that needs refinishing and restoring. It can make a great project and allows you to style or paint it as you see fit.
One good way to help choose the best wood mantel is to write down what you want before you go shopping, including the style, size, and finish. Doing this will help you visualize what you want in your fireplace and help make the decision easier once you decide to actually purchase the mantel. You can check magazines and books for different styles to choose from, or browse the Internet. Many manufacturers offer catalogs that they can send you as well.