See below in answer to a common question: "What are the fire hazard safety clearance requirements for wood burning fireplace surrounds?" Warning: Risk of fire and/or smoke damage may occur from mantels installed with inadequate fire-hazard clearances which may lead to asphyxiation, injury and/or death!
Fireplace mantels by Design The Space constructed from wood , sometimes referred to as wooden fireplace mantel surrounds, are considered combustible and, therefore, fire hazard clearances need to be maintained since safety needs to be a primary concern. It is your reponsibility to check with local building code officials (e.g., city hall and/or the local Building Permit department) to insure your wood mantel installation meets any local building codes or ordinances. Codes vary all across the country, and local codes take precedence over any national code. In the absence of local codes, we suggest your installation clearances meet or exceed the National/Standard Building Codes or the National Fire Code.
Zero-clearance manufactured fireplace information:
You should always refer to and observe any and all warnings in the owner’s manual/installation guide for your fireplace. Contact the manufacturer of the fireplace if you don't have an owner's manual. Generally speaking, the term zero-clearance means that ‘inside’ the wall into which the fireplace is recessed, you can bring wood or framing right up to the insulated fire-box, or up to stand-offs that are built-in. Some zero-clearance fireplace products have labels and/or instructions listing 1/2" or more clearance to certain parts. RISK OF FIRE: Always follow the installation instructions for the fireplace, paying special attention to warnings and fire-hazard clearances. If there is any doubt, you should contact the manufacturer of the fireplace itself, as an improper installation of the unit or the mantel, surround and hearth can lead to a fire-hazard and with a risk of fire that can cause personal or property damage and/or loss of life.
On most fireplaces (either electric, wood or gas-fired), heat comes out of the front of the fireplace (along its sides and top) and many also radiate heat to the sides, up above the fireplace, and down toward the floor. For these reasons, among others, most fireplaces will need to have some non-combustible materials surrounding the front of a fireplace (between the fireplace and any combustible mantel) and in the case of all wood burning fireplaces, also on the floor in front of the fireplace extending to each side, as well. Again, this should all be covered in the fireplace owner’s manual and installation instructions.