In most rooms with a fireplace, the place that seems most suitable for television is right above the fire. It’s already a focal point in the room, and most of your furniture typically orients around the fireplace. However, a television mounted above a fireplace is often not a good choice. If you genuinely have no other options, understanding the risks associated with television installations above a fireplace and how to mitigate them will help you make the best use of your space.
In addition to the challenge of radiant heat damaging sensitive electronics like your television over time, there are many other issues associated with over-fireplace TV mounts. Depending on the surround for your fireplace, you may puncture, crack, or weaken the flue for your chimney, which can lead to costly repairs or increase your risk of a house fire. If the damage breaks into the chimney or flue, you run the risk of diverting CO2 into your home, which could cause serious health issues or even death.
Angle also poses a challenge, albeit a somewhat less dire one. The fireplace mantle is set well above the firebox for fire code reasons. The position of your mantle puts your television at a height that makes it hard to view properly. Some TVs, particularly LED/LCD and older plasma TVs, may darken at improper angles, making it impossible to enjoy your favorite shows. With the steep angle, you can develop muscle aches and cramps from craning to watch the television.
The best solution is to mount your television somewhere other than above your fireplace. Unfortunately, not everyone has the space to pick an alternative location. So, is it possible to still mount a television above a fireplace? If so, how do you do so safely without damage to the television or your fireplace? Is there a way to comfortably adjust the television to view it above a fireplace?
The first step in mitigating risk is understanding the factors that ensure a safe, useable television installation. You will want to determine first if it’s possible to create a comfortable viewing angle above your fireplace. Then decide if your type of fireplace produces enough radiant heat to require mitigation. If you have the space to watch a television mounted above your fireplace comfortably, then you must decide if it’s safe to install it there. If your fireplace produces heat, you need space to deflect heat and understand the structure that vents excess heat and fumes behind the wall. If the fireplace doesn’t produce heat, great! You’ll still need to know how any brick or stone enclosures are secured to your wall to make sure the added weight of your television is adequately secured.
Given the height of your average fireplace, it’s necessary to sit some distance back from a television mounted there to watch shows on the screen comfortably. A good rule of thumb is that a TV mounted at roughly 7′ from the center of the television to the floor will need a viewing spot – where your sofa or armchairs will be – about 15′ back. Sitting 15′ away from your television may pose a challenge for those with poor vision or a smaller television. Sitting closer will produce neck or eye strain. You may also not have that much space in your room.
An excellent way to test this before you hang the television is to hang a picture in roughly the same place you want to hang your television. See if you can comfortably gaze up at it from a distance you plan to arrange your seating. Adjust the seating if you find the angle awkward for comfortable viewing your picture. If you can’t find a comfortable place to view the picture, you won’t be able to comfortably view your television either.
Wood-burning and gas fireplaces produce significant heat by design to serve as a heating source for a home. Because of this, they are the least suitable option for installing a TV above the firebox. In addition to producing heat, they need to vent heat and fumes away from the room they operate in. They’ll need a ventilation and heat deflection system. You need to understand that system, where it’s located, and how deeply its components are buried within your wall.
Brick and mortar or stone enclosures are fixtures of your home’s wall, not part of your fireplace. Because of this, it’s essential to understand how they are secured before you set about attaching an additional weight to them. Wall-mounted televisions, particularly those on telescoping arms, can add significant weight to these structures and cause them to collapse if they are improperly secured. While it may seem like the sensible solution is to drill a deeper hole and attach the weight of the television to the underlying structure of the house, you need to know where the chimney enclosure is before you do so. If you drill not into the framing studs but through the chimney enclosure, you could cause damage that is costly to repair and easy to miss. That damage could cause CO2 leaks into your home or even allow heat and sparks to fly into the vulnerable structure of your home. Without proper shielding, a fire could start within your home’s walls and go unnoticed.
Sometimes, we make do with what we have. To ensure your safety, consider taking mitigating steps to protect your electronics, home, and safety before installing your TV above your fireplace mantel.
A thick wooden or stone mantle can serve as a heat shield by absorbing radiant heat from your wood-burning or gas fireplace. It’s important to check local and national fire codes to understand the height, depth, and thickness required to install a fireplace mantle safely.
For example, the national fire code requires that all combustible mantels, like a wood mantel, must be installed at least 6 inches away from the firebox opening. If the mantel is above the fireplace and projects more than 1-1/2″ out, it must be 12″ away from the top of the opening or more. Closer, and you run the risk of the wooden mantel catching fire, despite its heat absorption qualities. Less than 1-1/2″ depth, and you may not create a significant enough barrier to block heat from damaging your electronics above.
It’s always possible to convert a natural gas or wood-burning fireplace into an electric fireplace with an insert. You can also choose to clean the firebox and use candles to create a fire element if your interest is decorative and you aren’t concerned with heat production.
If the space above your fireplace is not large enough to create a heat dampening mantle, you can purchase a heat-resistant enclosure for your television. These boxes are designed to encase your flatscreen television on all sides and can protect against the damage from heat radiating from your firebox. Designed to work with any standard wall mount, heatproof enclosures are a simple option if you have no other suitable space for your television than above a heat-producing fireplace. Most of these are also ideal for use outside, should you wish to enjoy your television on a patio without worrying about dust or water damage from wind-blown rain.
If you cannot make a television above your fireplace work and have no other suitable space to hang your tv, consider installing a projector instead. With a projector, you can either use a retractable mounted screen or paint reflective paint in the area you wish to project your shows to. Modern day projectors are vastly improved over earlier iterations and can operate with greater clarity in a wider array of situations. If you want a tv fireplace without worries about damaging the electronic components or fussing over the install, a projector is a solid alternative choice.
When installing a television over a fireplace, the safest bet is to hire a pro. You’ll want someone familiar with installations over a fireplace. A professional can inspect your wall and ensure chosen installation method won’t damage your fireplace. You’ll gain confidence that your electronics are safe and secure and adjusted to offer optimal viewing.