What Is A Fireplace Lintel? 3 Common Materials

Brick fireplace with curved fireplace lintel above

When building a fireplace there are a number of options to consider.  Will you be building a wood burning fireplace, natural gas, or propane?  Will you be using a precast kit to build the firebox or will you be building it custom?  How tall do you want your fireplace to be?  Do you want the hearth to be flush with the floor of the patio / floor, or do you want it set up above the floor? All of these questions help inform what material you should use for your fireplace lintel.

What Is A Fireplace Lintel?

Whatever fireplace you choose to build eventually you’ll find yourself in need of support above the fire box opening. This support above the fire box opening is called a fireplace lintel.  In this article we will discuss some different methods of installing a lintel. Similar to a rustic fire pit, there are a few, fire-detering materials you can choose.

Granite Lintel Above Fireplace

The first and obvious fireplace lintel material is a piece of granite or other solid stone.  Doubtless you’ve seen a fireplace built this way at some point in the past.

gray granite fireplace lintel in unfinished home

A granite fireplace lintel will support the stone above the firebox and provide a distinct design feature at the fireplace itself.  It’s a great way to structurally solve the need for a lintel as well as maintain a nice aesthetic in fireplace.

Steel Lintel Above Fireplace

Next there’s the steel lintel.  This will typically be a steel ‘L’ or angle iron.  Possibly two or three angle irons stacked next to each other depending on your engineer’s recommendation.  These are usually hidden from view, and are there to provide structural support for the stone installed above.  

steel fireplace lintel outside next to tan bricks

The size and shape of a steel lintel will depend on the structural demands of your fireplace, and the structural engineer who specifies the lintel.  We would always recommend using hot dipped galvanized for your fireplace lintel, and if you can afford it, use 304 or 316 stainless steel.  

Using corrosion protected steel is best because you are mixing steel and masonry.  Masonry is porous and has the tendency to be damp when it’s humid in the summer.  This is when your fireplace will not be running, and the fireplace lintel can become damp.  This moisture can cause corrosion.  Granted it will be a slow process, but by using one of the corrosion protected steel options, you’ll buy yourself years of rust free enjoyment.

Arched Brick Lintel Above Fireplace

A fireplace lintel option you’ve likely seen numerous times is arched brick.  These roman inspired arches are structurally one of the strongest methods of building a lintel you can choose.  However, you have to really like the idea of an arch above your fireplace.

arched brick fireplace lintel next to white cabinets

Fireplace Lintel Summary

Whatever fireplace lintel you choose, it’s always a good idea to have an experienced mason building your fireplace, and a structural engineer to specify your precise lintel, regardless of the lintel design and type you choose.