Hello, readers! Welcome back to the Stonehouse Countertops blog! We’re pleased you’ve chosen Stonehouse Countertops for everything you need to know about custom countertop materials. We provide comprehensive deep dives into various aspects of the design and installation process, as well as helpful tips for choosing the best material for your home. Our goal is to equip you with the information you need to commission the perfect countertops! Stonehouse Countertops carries an array of granite, marble, quartz, quartzite, soapstone, silestone, limestone, travertine, onyx, glass, sodalite, slate, and porcelain materials in its inventory. In addition to countertops, we offer fireplace surrounds, patios, floors, and walls. Whatever your design goals, we’re happy to help you achieve your unique vision!

Our last article was a continuation of our All About series—a set of articles which shine a spotlight on the unique attributes of various stone materials. Our first post, ‘All About Marble,’ explored marble’s association with luxury, how its composition contributes to its luminosity, and how designers are pushing the limits on how marble can be used in residential and commercial spaces. Our second post, ‘All About Granite,’ recounted the interesting history of granite, how the stone’s versatility has been put to good use by designers across the globe, as well as how granite is graded. Our third post, ‘All About Quartz,’ served to complete the trifecta of the most popular stone countertop materials on the market. We explained the oft-misunderstood difference between quartz and quartzite, detailed the pros and cons of quartz, and quoted a few stone experts on what makes quartz a worthy investment. Of course, we had to dedicate an article to the luxuriant, talc-based soapstone. We examined a few reasons soapstone is such a popular material among designers, as well as how to care for your own soapstone countertops. Our most recent article was ‘All About Limestone.’ We explored the interesting history of this elegant stone and provided a basis on how designers use limestone to achieve a classic, timeless look. The All About series is everything you need to know to plan the next custom stone addition to your household or commercial space and we hope you’ll give these articles a read!

The fireplace, also known as the hearth, is commonly considered the heart of the home. Historically, fireplaces have served numerous purposes, from heating the home to facilitating cooking meals. Fireplaces are often the centerpoint of our home’s activities, with residents congrating around its warmth during the cold winter months. As we leave fall behind, we thought it’d be a nice idea to discuss fireplace surrounds. As the name suggests, fireplace surrounds surround the interior edges of the fireplace, acting to create a design focal point. Fireplace surrounds can be understated, thin, bold, expansive, or anything in between. Today, we’ll consult a few expert opinions to determine what designers recommend for fireplace surrounds before diving into how to choose the correct material. Fireplace surrounds can add significant value to your home and transform your home’s common areas. We hope, by the end of this article, you’ll feel confident about extenuating your fireplace with an updated surround! 

Before we jump into the bulk of today’s topic let’s clarify a few commonly used words concerning fireplaces. The firebox is the recessed portion of your fireplace which holds the actual fire. A mantle, or mantle shelf, is the horizontal ledge above the firebox. A surround refers to the elements bordering a firebox on its sides and top edge. The surround can include the mantle. In actuality, a hearth is the area of floor directly in front of the firebox opening. A corbel and a plinth are also terms commonly used when speaking about fireplaces and they refer to the side brackets which extend from the wall on either side of a fireplace and the decorative pieces featured at the base of the surrounds “legs,” respectively. 

Designers consider surrounds to be an essential element of any fireplace. Not unlike a painting which is elevated by its frame, fireplaces (or rather fireboxes) can become truly magnificent with the addition of a surround. When you consider most fireboxes look exactly the same (unlike paintings), the need for a surround is even more pronounced. Fireplace surrounds, perhaps even more than other design elements, showcase the unique style of an individual. While some effort should be made to ensure a fireplace surround pairs well with the overall aesthetic of a home’s interior, many homeowners use fireplace surrounds as an opportunity to amp up their style. For example, an understated living room with simplistic furniture could benefit from an ornate, carved fireplace surround. Likewise, if you dabble with accents of gold around the rest of your house, a fireplace crafted from marble featuring gold veining could be quite the accompaniment. Keep in mind a fireplace surround is your opportunity to step outside the box and make a statement—should you wish. 

Traditional fireplace surrounds lend a nostalgic feel. They are characterized by deep mantles, capable of holding numerous family photos or a television. These types of fireplaces are generally more imposing than the other types we’ll discuss and will often feature a chimney-like structure (or the allusion of a chimney) above the mantelpiece. Now, the next type of fireplace surround is minimalist. Minimalist fireplace surrounds are subtle additions to the home. “Less is more,” so to speak. Rather than acting as a focal point for people to gather around, these types of fireplaces blend into their surroundings and serve to give a space added dimension. These fireplace surrounds might even blend seamlessly with the wall. It’s common to stick to a minimalist theme when outfitting gas burner fireplaces. Then there are contemporary fireplace surrounds, which strive to make a statement in the most intentional manner. Through the use of various texture and complimentary materials, contemporary fireplace surrounds achieve a studied equilibrium between the past and the future. 

Now, when it comes to choosing the perfect stone for your fireplace surround, which factors do you need to take under consideration? Well, if you were outfitting a wood-burning stove, you might judge stones by their ability to perform well under intense heat. In which case, you’d more than likely narrow down your search to soapstone, which distributes heat incredibly well. In this case, however, your main concerns are more likely based on aesthetics rather than functionality. Once you’ve narrowed down your design style (e.x. traditional, rustic, minimalist, contemporary/modern, elegant), you’ll be better equipped to begin narrowing down your stone options. 

Next, you’ll choose between natural or manufactured stone. Manufactured stones, like quartz, are easier to install due to their lighter weight. Quartz can also be made to look like almost any other stone, allowing you to achieve almost any design dream you can think of. However, quartz is likely to discolor after continued exposure to heat, due to a binder present in its composition. Natural stone is unlikely to discolor and, if tarnished, can be easily cleaned. Granite is the most durable natural stone. It tolerates high heat well and is resistant to scratching and chipping. Even on a fireplace surround, granite will require sealing., but it’s well worth the effort. Marble, somewhat surprisingly, performs incredibly well with heat. Though less durable than granite, marble is unlikely to crack or chip either. If you opt for a lighter-toned marble, keep in mind you may end up cleaning dark marks more often than you would like. 

Limestone is conducive to both the rustic and elegant design styles. In addition to being relatively inexpensive when compared with granite and marble, limestone has a good heat tolerance. Limestone is porous and, as such, cleaning soot stains can require a bit of persistence. In addition to sealing the stone regularly, you might have to mix up a poultice and scrub stains from the surface of the stone. For this reason, limestone is better suited to gas and electric fireplaces. Slate is the darker cousin of limestone, known for its rustic qualities. While heat-resistant, slate doesn’t pair too well with wood fires, either. Polished slate lends itself to a more refined look, but there are many different textures of slate, each of which can be used in service of a different design ideal.

There’s plenty more we could say about fireplace surrounds, but we prefer to do so in person! Schedule a free consultation and we’ll discuss your ideas for your new kitchen, bathroom, patio, or other custom stone addition. The holiday season will see many gathered around the fireplace, singing carols, opening presents, and toasting marshmallows. Make sure it’s the fireplace you want! At Stonehouse Countertops, we are willing and able to work with you to your specifications. We offer a wide range of different materials and always have someone on hand to answer your questions! Don’t hesitate to reach out for a consultation or for help forming a plan. We want to ensure your vision becomes a reality! Until next time—thanks for reading!