Built In Cabinets near fireplace and heat concerns

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Forum topic by MrStyle posted 06-19-2017 03:40 PM 1120 views 0 times favorited 11 replies Add to Favorites Watch
View MrStyle's profile


88 posts in 2502 days

06-19-2017 03:40 PM

Topic tags/keywords: question

In the process of making built in cabinets for placement near our fireplace.
The fireplace is a full wood burning type that is inset into the wall with a pretty standard 8 in granite surround which is shown in the picture.

  • The cabinets will project out 26 inches essentially causing the fireplace to be recessed.
  • I plan on having the cabinets butt right up against the granite surround.
  • Built-ins will be floor to ceiling on either side of the fireplace.
  • The cabinets are made of box store – “cabinet grade birch veneer plywood” and will be painted white with Behr Semi-Gloss paint.
Should I do anything for the base cabinets in terms of heat protection? While I don’t have any concerns about catching fire – I am concerned about the long term exposure/warping that might occur due to heat.
I guess here are the options as I can see
  1. Don’t worry about it
  2. Select a different paint
  3. Install a protective decorative metal sheet of some sort – ( have no idea what this would be or look like and is the last resort for sure)
  4. Allow more clearance – which I can do if required – but want to maximize the storage space.

Thanks in advance for your sage wisdom.

11 replies so far

View agallant's profile


551 posts in 3658 days

#1 posted 06-19-2017 03:51 PM

View JBrow's profile


1368 posts in 1691 days

#2 posted 06-19-2017 05:18 PM


It may be worthwhile to develop a rough sketch of your plans that include dimensions around the fireplace opening. Then visit your local building department and get their input. In my county I have found the inspectors are available for questions and are seemingly eager to help homeowners pursue projects that are safe.

Heat shields can be effectively used to significantly reduce clearances to combustibles. A heat shield is a piece of sheet metal with an air space on the cold side of the sheet metal. This air space is open so that air can circulate in the air space on the cold side of the sheet metal and dissipate heat. But even the heat shield should probably get a thumbs-up from the building department.

If the heat shield is a necessary, brushed nickel or copper would be attractive. Even aluminum that is sanded with at a fine grit on the random orbital sander is attractive to my eye.

I suspect that prolonged exposure to excess heat could adversely affect whatever finish is applied to the wood. I would also think that heat could dry one side of the wood more than the other and cause some cupping. An open design would help reduce this possible affect. If painted, MDF could be a better choice since it may better resist the differential moisture effects associated with solid wood.

View bondogaposis's profile


5787 posts in 3123 days

#3 posted 06-19-2017 05:28 PM

26 inches is an odd width for cabinets. Most cabinets project 24 inches or less form the wall, that way you can cut a sheet of plywood in half lengthwise and make the sides from that, otherwise you will waste 45% of a sheet of plywood making your sides.

-- Bondo Gaposis

View Bill White's profile

Bill White

5289 posts in 4732 days

#4 posted 06-19-2017 05:32 PM

I used exterior grade MDF for my mantle. No probs after 6+ years.
The product was EXTERA. Might wanna check it out.
Paint for sure.

-- [email protected]

View MrStyle's profile


88 posts in 2502 days

#5 posted 06-19-2017 07:20 PM

@ Bondo Gaposis

The 26 in cabinet depth is an odd size and definitely cost a little more in materials but my wife has some very clear requirements on what she wanted to store in these cabinets and so…. case closed so to speak she got what she wanted.

View Kazooman's profile


1489 posts in 2724 days

#6 posted 06-19-2017 10:22 PM

Cabinets butting up against the 8” surround and extending 26” from the wall?? I would be less concerned with the heat problems (not really) than I would be about how terrible the end result would look. Consider the resale value of your home. This is a design that only one person could love. The fireplace would truly become the “light at the end of the tunnel”.

You might consider consulting a mason to see if it is possible to move the firebox foreward using the existing chimney.

Added later: Looking at your picture, I would really be concerned about the heat being trapped between the cabinets affecting the flat panel display.

View Kazooman's profile


1489 posts in 2724 days

#7 posted 06-19-2017 10:33 PM

Double post due to problems posting from an iPad

View Kazooman's profile


1489 posts in 2724 days

#8 posted 06-19-2017 10:34 PM

Triple post, due to problems posting from an iPad.

Note to self: Never, never try to use an emoji from the iPad again.

View jerryminer's profile


960 posts in 2213 days

#9 posted 06-19-2017 10:51 PM

You’d be wise to take the code seriously on this. Your fire insurance may not cover you for a fire that starts from an illegal installation. You need at least 12” clearance from the firebox.

Talk to the local inspector before you commit to dimensions on this project!

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

View MrStyle's profile


88 posts in 2502 days

#10 posted 06-19-2017 11:25 PM

@Kazooman – I am not concerned about the design – 24 in base cabinet is rather standard – so the extra 2 inches – isn’t going to be a deal breaker for anyone – and I have other builtin projects in my home with similar dimensions – check out my other projects and they look good. So I am not worried about the look. – As an FYI – there will be book shelf from the base cabinet to the ceiling and these will be 13 inches deep.. to maintain the proportion. My wife wants to store a number of photo albums that she has completed and they are larger than normal store bought albums.

@jerryminer I am early in the project so adjusts are no problem related to heat etc. Will cause a little rework but nothing too serious.

What I don’t understand – in looking at what others have done all over the internet – thousands of pictures of fireplace surrounds that are not 12 inches from the firebox. Heck even the picture above the picture above has trim and drywall that is not 12 inches away… is that because it is “behind the heat” ?

Ok. so I did a closer inspection of the firebox – the actual firebox insert- has a 4 in black metal surround that serves as an additional buffer/air gap between the fireplace firebox surround/building materials and since the inside non-combustible metal (4 inches) + granite (8 inches ) exactly meets the code seems likely to me that I will be compliant.

I am going to confirm with an inspector since it isn’t worth the worry and I am not going out on the plank of what I “think I know” being truth… :)

Thanks for the advice folks.

View jerryminer's profile


960 posts in 2213 days

#11 posted 06-19-2017 11:33 PM

You can be closer than 12”—and meet code—if you follow the 1/8” per inch rule. At 8 inches from the firebox, combustibles can project 1” (1/8” x 8)—but for 26”, you need to be 12” away.

But local codes—and local interpretations—prevail. Talk to your local inspector. He/she is not your enemy. You are both on the same side: safety/reliability.

-- Jerry, making sawdust professionally since 1976

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