Precast fireplace mantels serve as an alternative to traditional stone or brick fireplace surrounds. Made from precast concrete, these mantels frame a fireplace and serve as a type of decorative trim. Depending on the type of design chosen, these mantels may act as a focal point within the room or provide an effective transition between the fireplace and surrounding décor.
Unlike stone or brick units, precast fireplace mantels are not constructed in the field. Instead, they are built and finished in a factory and shipped to the job site for installation only. Manufacturers blend cement, gravel, and water to form a thick paste, then pour this mixture into a pre-made mold. The shape and contours of the mold determine the final design of the mantel. Dyes or stains may be added before or after the concrete has hardened to give the mantel the desired appearance.
Buyers can choose from a wide variety of standard designs, or even request that manufacturers make custom molds to create a unique fireplace mantel. These different molds allow manufacturers to produce precast fireplace mantels in many different styles, including traditional or historic profiles or sleek, modern designs. Some molds are even created to give precast fireplace mantels the look of stone or wood. These mantels can range in size from simple fireplace surrounds to units that extend up to the ceiling and across the hearth. Some may include stains or exposed colored aggregate to create a distinct appearance.
In addition to the large degree of design versatility, precast fireplace mantels offer a number of other advantages to buyers and homeowners. By making these mantels from concrete rather than stone or wood, manufacturers reduce demand for limited resources. Concrete itself is considered a fairly green material because it is easily recyclable, and can be made from recycled components. Precast also serves as an economical alternative to stone or wood, making these fireplace mantels more affordable. The fact that these mantels are pre-assembled also makes them faster and easier to install than traditional fireplace mantels.
One potential drawback to choosing a precast fireplace mantel lies in the lack of design authenticity. Even the best precast products do not provide quite the same look as the materials they are trying to imitate. Low-quality precast may not successfully match the look of brick, stone or other materials. Some buyers may enjoy these style differences, while others would prefer the real thing. Quality among precast fireplace mantels can also vary widely across manufacturers and designs.