Marble and granite are becoming clear choices for fireplace surrounds for many homeowners. There are a great many ways that natural stone can be used to make a fireplace a central feature of the room. Retrofitting a brick faced fireplace can add class and elegance to an otherwise dull situation. As fireplaces have evolved through recent history, so have the ways that homeowners choose to present them. No longer is a fireplace just for burning wood and providing heat for the family. Modern homes often have gas logs or fireboxes that burn other types of fuel. Much of the mess that was once a part of the fireplace is no longer relevant, and people want to make their fireplaces attractive focal points. There are two basic options in installing a stone surround in the home. If the fireplace already exists, the usual action is to use individual tiles to cover whatever material is on the face. If it is new construction, the builder can order a surround to be placed around the opening. Either installation will produce a great finish to any fireplace.Pre-Manufactured Surround One of the attractions of the pre-manufactured units is how quickly they can be installed. A special order can generally be shipped in a couple of weeks. These usually have a hearth, the front facing, and a mantel inclusively so that the pieces are put together in sections and attached in a very short time. These kinds of surrounds are good for fireplaces in framed walls where there is no brick or other facing that projects from the front. Additionally, they work better for fireplaces that sit on the floor rather than those with raised hearths. Dimensions are given to the manufacturer when the order is placed so that the surround needs no alterations when it arrives. What makes this an attractive choice is the wide variety of designs and colors available. There is almost no end to the different decor designs that you can create with these surrounds, whether you want oriental, Grecian, French provincial, early American or something else. Beauty does come with a price, and pre-built units can run into several thousands of dollars depending on how ornate and complicated they are. Built In Place For those people who have traditionally built fireplaces, contracting with a tile company to reface an existing fireplace is often the more logical solution. It is still possible to incorporate sculpted pilasters and designs into the hand laid stones, and in some ways, there are more options available when creating a surround. Stones can be set in a very straightforward fashion where each is the same size and the sides and corners align with each other. In a more creative design, stones may be in varying sizes and medallions can be placed in strategic areas. The stones can be lain diagonally instead of horizontally, too. For those who still like the traditional wooden mantel, it looks great with the natural stone. Some homeowners choose to mix the type stones that are used, preferring the harder granite on the hearth and marble on the vertical areas. Travertine and slate are other choices commonly selected. Smooth faced stone is chosen most often in formal style arrangements. It looks clean and presents true wall art for the fireplace. The coarse or rough stone is not used as much as once was the case, but it makes for an excellent accompaniment in a lodge or cabin setting. Create Your Own If you decide to have your fireplace transformed into a work of art, it is highly recommended that you have a complete plan before work commences. There are so many variations of style and color, and decisions must be made prior to ordering material. You may ask your friends for suggestions before you meet with your contractor, and it is always good to learn the contractor’s thoughts regarding the possibilities. Discuss all the options including how large to make the surround. You may just want a highlight area, or opt for an entire wall of natural stone. It is always a good idea to see other fireplaces that have been done similarly to the way you want yours finished. Many contractors have a portfolio of other work so you can make decisions based on work in place.