Mantle and Fireplace Surround Minimum Clearances

      Advice on how to check whether woodwork around a fireplace meets fire codes. October 4, 2005

A customer contacted me about building a fireplace surround and mantle. They want it to come flush to the edge of the hearth which I told them was most likely against code. Does anyone have ideas where I can find this in writing? I would like to show them because they were insistent that it would be ok. Should I contact the local fire department to ask their opinion or is there a standard distance that wood should be kept from the hearth? Any help is appreciated.

Forum Responses
(Architectural Woodworking Forum)
From contributor C:
There is a Uniform Fire Code that serves as a template for a lot of smaller states and municipalities and it is worth consulting it. Your local Code Enforcement office should be able to help you find the relevant section - that's what they're there for. Also, make sure that the code where the job will be installed is not more restrictive than the Uniform code.

From contributor T:
Ref; "Architectural Graphic Standards".

Minimum firebox clearances for noncombustibles. 16" from firebox opening all around. Hearth (floor) minimum 20" forward of firebox and 8" minimum out from sides of firebox.

From contributor J:
The simple answer is that clearances are set by local building code, which is enforced by your local building department. Call them and ask to speak with a building inspector; he/she can tell you minimum clearances over the phone.

From contributor L:
Most of your local fireplace shops have that info in their showrooms. I keep a majestic book around for situations just like yours. Keep a close eye on that mantle clearance as well. It might be a larger space than most people think for non-combustible, and really does take some steady heat up there.

From contributor J:
Is this surround for a gas or wood fireplace? I would check with the dealers - due to the warranties of fireplace and insurances. Each company has different offsets. Normally I build surrounds for heat n glow which has a 1/2" around the face sides of the fireplace. There is also a set distance you need to be up from the fireplace dependent on the distance the mantel shelf sticks out. Below is a copy I scanned for a heat n glow unit.

Click here for full size image

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