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Nov 28, 2017

Factors to Consider When Deciding on Fireplace Materials

With the advent of alternate heating sources, such as ducted and central heating, the traditional fireplace has moved away from simply performing the mundane function of providing heat.  It has now become a pivotal part of a house - the central feature which sets the mood and tone of the whole home.

Whilst no longer performing a basic function, working fireplaces by their very nature are still required to be constructed in a way that minimises risk, streamlines maintenance and enhances beauty and functionality.

To truly appreciate the importance in selecting adequate fireplace materials, it is useful to understand the components which make up the structure of a fireplace:


The firebox is the enclosure or cavity which houses the fire grate and logs or the heating unit.


The fireplace surround serves two functions - decorative and practical.  It should be

manufactured from a non-combustible material for obvious safety reasons.  Inadequate materials, such as wood or plaster, are not only a fire hazard, can degrade over time due to the constant exposure to high temperatures.


An extension of the fireplace surround, the mantle is a decorative external feature which extends around the perimeter of the fireplace surround.  It serves a number of functions, adding:

  • Structure
  • Overmantle shelf
  • Aesthetic appeal


A hearth is the floor of the fireplace which extends out from the firebox to protect the surrounding floor area.  In combination with the mantle and surround it can add decorative and ornamental impact to the fireplace.



As can be seen above, the single most important factor when installing a fireplace is its ability to withstand high temperatures for long periods of time.  All components of the fireplace and hearth need to be constructed from materials which are made from fireproof or fire-resistant materials.

With this in mind Richard Ellis Design manufacture fireplaces using natural stone surrounds of marble and sandstone.  We recommend hearths made of basalt, both for its fireproof qualities and its aesthetic suitability.


Durability and Maintenance

A fireplace, unlike other areas of the home, needs to have the durability to last the life of the home.  Unlike natural stone, other materials commonly used in fireplace surrounds such as plaster and wood, will eventually degrade.

Anyone with a wood burning stove can attest to the fact that a light covering of ash is one of the trade-offs made to enjoy the smell and irresistible charm of an open fire.  The fireplace surround can very quickly become stained and marked with soot and ash making permanent unsightly marks around the opening.

To prevent this, fireplace surrounds must be made from cleanable material such as stone which can be easily wiped over with natural soap and warm water to remove debris, build-up and smoke staining.

For hearths we recommend basalt - a stone which protects flooring from falling coals and its naturally dark colour blends and complements a wide range of flooring options.


Timeless Appeal

Whilst quirky or one-off fireplaces may be in vogue at the time of installation, as can be seen in houses hailing from the 70’s and 80’s, they can quickly date a home.

To prevent this, we recommend either classic styling such as those from the Georgian or Victorian era or conversely, minimalistic lines which will blend and complement all architectural eras.


Natural Stone

At Richard Ellis Design we believe the beauty, versatility and durability of natural stones such as limestone and marble are the ideal materials for fireplace surrounds.

Natural stone exudes luxury--it is fire proof, easy to clean and maintain and will look as beautiful in a decade as the day it was installed. Very few other materials can lay such a claim…

If you are considering introducing the timeless elegance of a Richard Ellis Design fireplace into your home, visit our website to view our magnificent and comprehensive range of fireplace surrounds.  

For those looking for a little extra information, our blogs can provide a wealth of ideas and information regarding all facets of the installation process, along with tips and hints to make the most of your magnificent new fireplace.