What To Hang Over Your Fireplace (Instead of a TV)

October 20, 2022

So: You’ve made a big purchase: the big-screen TV you’ve always dreamed of. Out of all the places you want to mount it, the blank wall above the fireplace seems like the best option. Yet given the TV’s price tag, the last thing you want to do is expose it to too much heat and damage it.

Thus, you may be wondering: Is it even safe to hang a TV over your fireplace? If so, how will you deal with the wires and protect it from excess heat? Will the flames’ brightness distract from your viewing experience? And—worst case scenario—if mounting the TV over the fireplace is a no-go, what can you hang above the fireplace? 

You’ve got questions, and we have answers. Let’s tackle them one at a time!

Can I Hang a TV Above My Fireplace?

To start with the basics: yes, the wall over a fireplace can be a great spot for a TV, but there are multiple caveats. While you can hang a TV above your fireplace, it’s possible that excess heat could damage it. Either way, there are a few things you’ll want to consider:

Is your fireplace in use? If you have a wood-burning fireplace that is purely decorative and something you never actually use, go ahead and hang your TV over it. All you’ll have to worry about is making sure you have a good viewing angle for everyone in the room (more on that below!).

Consider the competing brightness. When switched on, TVs are meant to be watched. Having another source of light—in this case, flames—near the TV could be distracting, so consider this carefully before mounting it over your fireplace.

Not all fireplaces and walls are created equal. If you’re burning wood regularly, hanging a TV above the fireplace can be risky. These types of fireplaces generate both smoke and extreme heat, and if your television wall is directly exposed to this from below, it could damage your electronics and eventually cover your screen in a thin film of smoke particulates. It may help to close the doors to your fireplace when it’s in use, but this might prevent that cozy heat from entering the room.

Make sure you have a mantel. If you do want to risk hanging your TV above the fireplace, you can 1) recess it into the wall so that it’s not directly in the path of rising heat, or 2) build a solid mantel above the fireplace so that rising heat is diverted or absorbed. If you do this, be sure to check your owner’s manual to learn how far over the fireplace your TV should be to stay safe. Most experts recommend hanging a TV at least 20-24 inches above a fireplace at minimum. If you choose to use a TV stand instead, the screen should be at least 36 inches from either side of the fireplace.

Expert Tip: If you can’t live without mounting your new TV over the fireplace, consider taping a thermometer to the lowest point on the wall your TV could touch and measuring how hot it can get. Most TVs can withstand heat up to 125° Fahrenheit, so if you have a mantel and hang your TV far enough above it, you may be in the clear.

Are Gas, Gel-fuel, or Electric Fireplaces Safer to Hang a TV Over?

Gas fireplaces. With gas fireplaces, you have less to worry about than with wood-burning fireplaces. While they still produce a lot of heat, installing a mantel to divert any rising heat away from the TV is always a good plan. Experts recommend hanging a TV at least 20 inches over a gas fireplace and again (prior to the actual mounting) taping a thermometer to the wall to measure how hot the area can get. One big plus about gas fireplaces? There’s no smoke or soot, so your TV will stay clean.

Gel-fuel fireplaces. These are next down on the list of heat-producing fireplaces. As they release less heat than wood or gas fireplaces, they’re typically fine to hang a TV over. Just to be safe, you’ll still want to make sure your TV is at least 20 inches above the fireplace to avoid heat damage. Once again, the thermometer trick can give you exact numbers so you know how much heat you’re dealing with.

Electric fireplaces. When it comes to hanging a TV over a fireplace, electric fireplaces are the best possible option. Not only do they generate artificial (but often real-looking) flames, but their heat output is also controllable. Even better, they don’t always need to simulate the sound of flames crackling, which means whatever you’re watching won’t be interrupted.

Wiring a TV Above My Fireplace: Hard or Easy?

Unless your television wall has a dedicated space to hide or plug in power cords, hiding the wires that come with installation can be tricky.

Most brick, natural stone, manufactured veneer stone, and solid masonry fireplaces don’t have space to run wires below their surfaces. This can mean you’ll have to include a facade of some type to mount your TV on, which could be a detractor from the clean, homey look you want for this space. You likely won’t want to destroy your wall to make space for wires, so make sure you know ahead of time how and where you’ll plug the TV in.

Another space-related consideration is how you consume your TV content. Are you using a Smart TV that doesn’t require external power, or are you using a detached device like an Apple TV, Roku box, or (if you’re retro) a DVD/Blu-ray player? If it’s with any of the latter three, you’ll have to account for HDMI cords, which could be inconvenient if you don’t have dedicated space for all the wiring. Furthermore, corded external devices might look clunky sitting on your mantel.

Does Hanging a TV Above the Fireplace Affect the Viewing Angle?

Not all TVs are created equal when it comes to viewing angles. Different TVs use different display technology (for example, LCD vs. OLED), and depending on what type you have, the picture can lose contrast or even become unviewable if you’re looking at it from too severe an angle. (Only OLED TVs, in which every single pixel is its own LED light, have perfect brightness, contrast, and color no matter where you’re viewing them from.) 

When you’re mounting any type of LCD TV over a fireplace (whether it has CCFL backlighting, full-array LED backlighting, or LED edge lighting), you’ll want to make sure it’s on a bracket that can tilt the TV downward, so the viewing angle directly meets your eye line. Since the TV’s hanging height can also affect how drastically you have to tilt your neck when viewing at an upward angle, it’s worth figuring out ahead of time if these limitations will work for you long-term.

What Else Can I Hang Above My Fireplace Besides a TV?

If you don’t want to deal with any of the considerations mentioned above—which is totally okay!—there are a lot of other cool things you can hang over a fireplace besides your TV. Here’s a list of seven possibilities that can contribute to your home’s decor without putting your new screen at risk:

  1. Mirrors. Mirrors are a classic item to hang over your fireplace. Not only do they add perceived space to a room, but they can also reflect the flame’s cozy glow.
  2. Art / wall sculptures. Express your personal flare by hanging art that speaks to your innermost sensibilities!
  3. Clocks. Who doesn’t need to know the time? Clocks of all sorts can become both functional and decorative pieces above any fireplace.
  4. Family pictures and memories. Bring those beautiful moments from the past front and center by hanging them above the fireplace.
  5. Sconces. Add more bursts of ambient light to your living-room walls with fixtures that exude a mood or style of your choice. 
  6. Bold shelving. Instead of an old-fashioned mantel, what if you were to build a fireproof shelf with a modern flare? The possibilities are endless!
  7. Vases or candle sticks. If you have a shelf or a mantel over your fireplace, you can mix and match these items in a beautiful way.

If you’re not sold on any of the above options, you can paint the wall above your fireplace a striking color and let it make its own statement!

It’s no question that fireplaces and TVs can compete for being the centerpiece of your living room. If you’ve shelled out $1,000+ for that perfect picture, you can either make it work with your fireplace or arrange it so that both items accent each other as opposing focal points. No matter what you choose, one thing is for sure: your living room’s aura will now have double the glow.

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