Installing Your Natural Stone Fireplace with Denise McGaha

You’ve picked out the perfect fireplace design, chosen a beautiful stone to have it carved from, and now after a short 4-6 weeks, your mantel is being delivered to your job site. Now, how do you go about installing it? This may seem like a daunting step, but interior designer Denise McGaha has a few tips and tricks to offer to make the process as smooth as possible. We recently sat down with her, as she finished the installation process of her own fireplace. Here is what she had to share.


Industry Tips and Tricks for Installing a Fireplace:

“I have learned a lot about the process of installing mantels. Before, I thought that it only took a day, or that it could easily be delivered and installed in a short amount of time. This is an art. This is all custom carved stone, and there are some very specific tips that I would like to share with you that I’ve learned along the way.”


Tip 1 – Hire a Mason:

“The first tip that I have for you when installing your mantel is to make sure to hire the best mason you can find. They need to be professional. They need to understand natural stone. They also need to understand what it takes to install a mantel. That means unpacking, inspecting, and dry fitting — which means laying it out on the ground and making sure all the pieces fit before ever installing the mantel.”

installing a fireplace


Tip 2 – Create Proper Grout Lines:

“The second tip that I can give you is to make sure that you aren’t making your grout lines too small. An 1/8 inch is just too small. You may not want the grout line too large, but you really need it for the tools to get in and for the grout to fit. Do not go any smaller than 1/8 of an inch.”

fireplace installation


Tip 3 – Seal Your Mantel:

“When it comes to sealing your mantel, make sure that you are using an approved sealer for natural stone. I love to use Dry-Treat. We have had such success with it. The beauty of it is that it doesn’t affect the color or the sheen of the stone in any way, and you can be sure that it is sealed and ready to enjoy.”


Tip 4 – Experience Matters:

“When determining your installer or your mason, make sure that you are looking for someone who truly understands natural stone. A cast stone mantel installer often doesn’t understand the intricacies involved installing natural stone. I highly recommend that you work with someone who has experience in natural stone.”

fireplace installation


Tip 5 – Communication is Key:

“One of the most important pieces of the design and installation process is communication with your sales team and your installer. Make sure that if you have any questions once your mantel arrives, that your installer has a direct line to the salesperson who helped you design the mantel. They are always there to help answer any questions. Also, make sure that you are referencing the documents that come with your mantel. There are installation instructions and drawings.”



“One of the things that you should know about your mantel is that it is up to you who gets to install it. You get to make that choice. I often refer to my salesperson for their suggested list of installers. There are many to choose from. You can get bids, and you can decide who you work well with. I have a favorite installer that I’ve used for years, and he understands the intricacies of installing a natural stone mantel.”


On Her Own Installation Experience:

“I am so excited to have finally installed one of my mantels in my own home. It was an exciting process for me, because I was there the entire time to watch the installation. I watched the crate getting delivered to my front yard, I watched it being uncrated and inspected, we did the dry fit in my living room, and I got to watch each piece being carried in by the installers. It was a meticulous process, and I have an understanding for the artisanship to not only carve these mantels but to install them in homes. I am looking forward to enjoying it for years to come, and I am even more proud that an idea that I had so many years ago has come to fruition in a piece that my family will remember. It is in my family room, and we will be having holidays here, entertaining friends here, and I can’t wait to have my own mantel in my own home.



“One of the hardest things about deciding which mantel and stone we were going into my home was choosing. I started out with a white stone and ended up with a dark stone, and I absolutely loved both. In the end, the dark stone gave us the impact that we were wanting in the overall design of the room. I love to insert contrast into my design, so having a dark stone mantel with lighter walls and wood finishes was the look that I was going for. I also love the marble that we chose, because it is heavily veined, has lots of character and texture, and really creates a look that is unique and one of a kind.


“Thanks so much. I have really enjoyed talking about my collection. I can’t wait to share with you what we have coming soon, and when I have it you will be the first to hear about it.”