Surrounded in Style

Surrounded in Style

As the focal point of any room, the fireplace is an important design   element, and with the right surround, a fireplace can become a breathtaking centerpiece. Whether you want to add a new fireplace or remodel your existing one, there are countless stylish surround options.

natural stone

manmade stone




Starting Sparks
The first, and often most difficult, decision is choosing a design. To start, consider the overall style of your home (traditional, rustic, contemporary, etc.) and, if it’s a new installation, the type of fireplace you’d like (wood-burning, gas or electric). Before contacting a contractor, you’ll also want to have a budget in mind that includes both materials and installation costs.

Fiery Facelift
If your existing fireplace needs an update, resurfacing the surround with a new material can create wonderful results. If you’re installing a new fireplace, consider all the visible elements in your design—the surround includes everything “surrounding” the firebox opening and typically encompasses the jambs, hearth and mantelpiece. Here’s an overview of some of the basic materials that can be used:

Natural stone offers numerous choices. From rustic fieldstone to polished marble, there’s a type of natural stone to complement any decor. For something different, carved limestone can add lasting elegance while slate creates a striking, almost modern effect. The downside to natural stone is its expense; however, innovations in the stone cutting and fireplace manufacturing industry have helped make natural stone surrounds more affordable.

Manufactured stone veneers give the look of natural stone for a fraction of the price and weight. Manmade stone products are cast out of a mix of lightweight concrete and cement, which allows for an array of colors, textures and applications. “The greatest advantage to manufactured stone is its design flexibility,” says Bob Heath, new business development leader with Owens Corning Masonry Products. “It’s very installer-friendly because, in most cases, structural concerns are not an issue; it can be applied over most surfaces—including brick or sheetrock—and can be shaped into many configurations.” Heath says the product comes with a 50-year warranty, a benefit not available with natural stone. Another advantage? Manufactured stone costs about half the amount of natural stone.

Tile offers a staggering number of options because of the wide array of shapes, sizes, textures and colors. Tile is a good option for the budget-conscious homeowner—you can choose a high-end design with unique, handcrafted options or mix a few pricier accent tiles with lower-cost field tiles to create the desired look. “Costs for tile vary widely, so there are products available to fit every budget,” says Tristan McManaman, marketing director with Walker Zanger. “And, when installed on vertical surfaces in dry areas, ceramic tiles, and many porcelain tiles, are virtually maintenance-free.”

Concrete is becoming an increasingly popular material because of its one-of-a-kind design options. “The design versatility of concrete is limited only by the imagination,” says Steve Silberman, president of Absolute Concrete Works. He adds that concrete can be molded into any shape, stained to match nearly any color, made to mimic other materials and finished with any texture from roughly pitted to a highly-polished sheen. Depending on the design, concrete surrounds can be pre-cast or cast in place. Costs for concrete vary depending on the style and detail involved.

Brick is the traditional choice for fireplace surrounds—it complements any decor and creates a feeling of timeless elegance. Brick comes in a wide range of colors, tones and textures, from the historic look of a classic handmade brick to the precise lines of a wire-cut option. When you consider all the different brick and mortar colors available, the design possibilities are more expansive than you might think. Shelley Ross, director of marketing for Boral Brick, says new choices in brick include thin brick, which weighs less and is easier to install, and shaped brick for customized design. “Brick is a great choice for fireplaces because it’s extremely durable and requires zero maintenance,” she adds. Budget-wise, it tends to be a more expensive option, comparable to natural stone.

Safety matters
Regardless of the material you choose for your fireplace surround, make sure you check that your choices—and the design—are within local building codes. Also, be sure to choose an experienced, reputable contractor or installer who is well-versed in fire safety codes to ensure your surround is as safe as it is stunning.

Did You Know?

Value Added
According to the National Association of Realtors, 80 percent of homebuyers look for a home with a fireplace. In addition, a hearth has a strong positive effect on value, adding up to $12,000 to a home’s worth per fireplace.


Hearth Happenings

the latest trends in fireplace design

1. Lightening the Load New technologies are helping to overcome many of concrete’s structural limitations due to weight. Glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) allows his artisans to pour thinner casts, weighing 2 to 3 times less than traditional wet casts.

2. Wall-to-Wall Style Tristan McManaman, marketing director with Walker Zanger, says large-format ceramic tiles are being used in areas once reserved for other materials, like wallpaper, with seamless installations from floor-to-ceiling and wall-to-wall.

3. Mad for Mosaic Mosaic patterns are widely popular for fireplace design, with homeowners choosing to customize their own surrounds, says Feras Irikit, new product designer with Oceanside Glasstile. “Mosaic glass tile, in particular, catches fire light, creating a beautiful, luminous effect,” she adds.

4. Change-Up Your Chimney Remodeling isn’t just limited to your interior surround—you also can reface your exterior chimney for a more updated look. Manufactured stone veneers, stucco and siding are a few of the options to consider, depending on your home’s architectural design.

5. Internal Affairs A growing design trend is using “stones” or glass in a gas firebox instead of “wood” logs. Glass in particular offers many design options since it’s available in various size chips and numerous colors.

6. Friendly Fire Green is the way to go, and Tulikivi’s fireplaces, crafted from naturally heat-retentive soapstone, now offer a patented combustion system that raises the burning efficiency to 88 percent. The system keeps gases in the fire chamber longer and utilizes the fuel more completely, which results in cleaner burning.
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