A marble fireplace surround is the façade of a fireplace positioned under the mantle and including the hearth that is constructed of either marble or synthetic marble. Marble is a highly desirable material for a fireplace surround due to its attractive, sleek, luxurious appearance and practical durability. A marble fireplace surround may be constructed from one sculpted slab of marble or separate marble tiles. Despite its popularity as a fireplace surround, marble may be expensive. This is especially true if the marble slab is imported, is made of one sculpted piece, or is of a higher grade or more highly sought after type.
Marble may be described using four classes or grades: A, B, C, and D. Group A marble is consistent without cracks, veins, or fissures. The grades gradually decline in consistency until group D, which has the most veining and may need to be filled during manufacturing because of cavities in the surface. Since the number of cavities and fissures increases with grade, group D marble is the least durable and most prone to breakage.
From an aesthetic standpoint, marble fireplace surrounds should be chosen regardless of grade, based on perceived beauty. Yet when considering practicality and durability, lower grade marbles will be more prone to chipping and scratching and may be more difficult to keep clean and dust-free. If lower grade marble is properly sealed, a group D marble can be as attractive and easier to clean than a group A marble fireplace surround. Price is not necessarily determined by the grade of marble. Rather, price can be dependent upon aesthetic value and factors of supply and demand.
A marble fireplace surround may be installed by a professional, or marble tiles can be installed as a do-it-yourself project. In fact, installing marble tiles can be a less expensive way to add a classy, formal look to a home that was previously available only to those with greater financial means. People who attempt to install marble tiles themselves should do their research before attempting the project. Marble tiles are extremely heavy and should not be installed on a standard drywall base.
For those on a tight budget, an artificial cultured marble can give the look of a marble fireplace surround without the expense. Unfortunately, cultured marble usually has less detail and is not as durable as natural marble. There are also faux finish artists who specialize in creating paint finishes that mimic the look of marble. When finished with a high-gloss sealer, these finishes may be difficult to distinguish from the real thing.