Fireplace Terms 101: Ultimate Guide to Commonly Used Fireplace Terms

Fireplace Terms 101: Ultimate Guide to Commonly Used Fireplace Terms

Fireplace Parts & Terms

Fire has been an integral part of humanity since prehistoric times and, by extension, fireplace. There may even be evidence of fireplaces as long as 300,000 years ago. The modern fireplace emerged about a thousand years ago as the fire pit began integrating into the living dwelling. With such a long existence in the human language, terminology has been borrowed from many sources and developed over time - often leading to confusion.

When it comes to the anatomy of a fireplace, you can imagine several fireplace terms are used to describe all of the different components. While shopping for a fireplace, mantel shelf, or hearth, you may need to know what many of these terms are referring to. It can all seem overwhelming when picking out the fireplace of your dreams. Luckily, we have the ultimate guide to help you learn the most commonly used fireplace terms.


The firebox is the part of your fireplace that is typically inside the wall. You usually can't see much of it - maybe the back wall. It is part of the home's architecture and comes in direct contact with the fire.


The mantel is the top horizontal protruding shelf/ledge over a firebox. A fireplace mantel spans the top of a firebox and is often supported by legs, generally the deepest and heaviest section of the fireplace. It can also be floating, supported by corbels, and appear well above the firebox opening or right in line with the opening.

Mantel Shelf

The mantel may or may not have the depth or design to function as a shelf. It is a must-have for many homeowners and a popular place to decorate. A mantel shelf may be floating or incorporated into a complete fireplace surround.


Commonly confused with one another, the fireplace surround is an informal name given to the entire assembly of elements: mantel, legs, returns, etc. Ultimately, the surround is what makes up all parts of a fireplace in its entirety. The only exception to this would be the firebox itself.


The hearth refers to the horizontal floor area directly in front of the firebox opening. A fireplace hearth is usually as wide as the firebox and the legs combined. Its depth is strictly circumscribed anywhere from 18 inches to 24 inches. Local building codes may govern the depth and acceptable materials for the hearth.


The bracket or block that projects from the face of a wall is called the corbel. While physically and visually supporting the elements are placed above it, the corbel is a popular fireplace design element.


The lowest part of the leg on a fireplace, often referred to as the "foot," is called the plinth. This decorative transition piece between the leg and the hearth is referred to as the base of the fireplace.

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