What are the components of a fireplace?

Fire is one of the most important forces on Earth and has been an integral part of humanity since it was accidently discovered by humans nearly 4000 years ago.  Through the ages it has given light during the night, heated houses during winter, cooked food day and night and protected against wild animals.   The concept of a fireplace is not a new one.  Fire has been used for getting warmth since the medieval period.  The modern fireplace, however, came into fashion about a thousand years ago as the fire pit began to be integrated into living quarters.

Over the years, there has been many names given to all the different components of a fireplace, so in this blog we are going to concentrate on the most commonly used fireplace terms to describe its anatomy so that when you are shopping for a fireplace, or hearth – you will know what they are all actually referring to.


The firebox is where all the action happens!  It is the part of the fireplace where fuel is combusted and is typically housed inside of the wall.  You probably will not be able to see much of the firebox – except maybe the back wall.  The firebox comes in direct contact with the fire and takes the brunt of the fire’s heat so give it the attention that it needs.

The Mantel and Mantel Shelf

Nowadays we tend to refer to the mantel and mantel shelf as simply, the mantelpiece.  It originated in medieval times when firepits started to be built into a homes living areas to help keep everyone warm (the mantel served as a hood that would prevent smoke from entering the room, diverting it back into the chimney).  In modern usage, the mantel frames the opening of a fireplace and often covers part of the chimney breast.  It spans the top of a firebox and is often supported by legs which are generally the deepest and prominent section of the fireplace.

The mantel shelf sits on top of the mantel and is normally required for decorative purposes and to house ornaments, such as pictures, clocks, and candles!


The surround is the name given to all the parts that make up the fireplace in its entirety (except for the firebox).  The surround consists of the mantelpiece and side supports, usually in wood, marble or granite.  At Fiveways, we also offer surrounds in limestone and cast iron.  Historically, surround inserts were placed where the fire burned, and was often constructed of cast iron and backed with decorative tiles.  Presently, many customers choose to create a more modern-looking insert that incorporates a period style but harmonised with their modern living space better.


The hearth refers to the floor area of stone directly in front of the firebox opening.  Originally the hearth was used for cooking food and storing cooking utensils and was an integral part of a home – usually its central and most prominent feature.  Today, it has become more of a decorative feature and is used for storing fire accessories.


This is the block that projects from the face of the wall.  While its job is to physically and visually support the elements placed above it, the corbel has also become a popular design element within fireplaces.


The plinth is the name given to the square base on the lower legs of a fireplace.

Want to picture how a new fireplace might look in your home?  Stoke your imagination with a quick look at our portfolio which are examples of the work carried out by Fiveways Fires.