Granite is the most commonly used natural stone type for fireplace surrounds. It is extremely hard, durable, scratch-resistant, and tolerant to extreme heat. Granite fireplace surround is very unlikely to crack or break because of external impacts. In addition, granite is readily available and not too expensive. Of course, some exclusive granite slabs can come in fantastic patterns and colours, which makes them several times more expensive than the ordinary slabs from familiar economy granite colour palettes. Granite is suitable for both hot and cold fires.
Marble is the second most common choice of natural stone for fireplaces. Although marble is slightly more expensive than granite and less durable, it has a unique and timeless beauty. Marble has excellent heat tolerance, making it suitable for gas, wood or electric fireplaces. Marble fireplaces will add a touch of classic luxury to any space. A light marble fireplace will require more maintenance than usually darker granite fireplace and will need to be cleaned more often. Marble fireplaces can crack, split and stain if not properly maintained.
Two other less common natural stone types used for fireplaces are travertine and sandstone. These stones are particularly suited to interiors that aim for restrained, hidden, unobtrusive luxury. Travertine and sandstone fireplaces have a warm and cosy look. Like other natural stone products, the sides of a travertine fireplace need to be impregnated and the natural holes sealed.
Onyx marble, which has similar properties to marble, is an impressive stone for a fireplace, but it is more brittle and softer than marble. Onyx can rather be used for cold fires, as it will not tolerate too big temperature changes. Another luxurious and exclusive stone that looks stunning is quartzite. Quartzite is tolerant to heat, can be translucent and have spectacular patterns, but its price is impressive too. The budget for such a fireplace must be calculated in multi-digital figures. Quartzite fireplace will be as strong and durable as granite, and also heat resistant.
Though the price for installing a luxurious fireplace from exotic gemstones will also climb up to multiple digits, but the impression the final product will exert may knock one down from their feet. Exotic slabs are about 3-4 cm thick and are more or less translucent, depending on the type of stone they are composed of. The wall behind such a fireplace can be lit from the inside. Just imagine a fireplace wall of blue agate, purple amethyst, pink quartzite with a cozy flame inside on a cold winter evening. A fireplace of red jasper, greenish amazonite, brownish-orange tiger's eye, fossilised wood looks dramatic. Each precious slab is a painting created by nature, a one-off work of art. Exotic stone slabs will not tolerate heat, therefore they are suitable for cold fireplaces.
A great alternative to natural stone fireplaces are fireplaces made of artificial stone. Artificial stone fireplace surrounds do not need to be impregnated or sealed. They are easy to clean, even when heavily stained. Fireplaces clad in ultra thin sintered stone, ceramic or porcelain slabs will be much lighter than the ones clad in natural stone. Slab thickness can vary between 3-6-10-12 mm or more. Such a sleek fireplace will look modern and elegant. In addition, you can also save a couple of centimetres of interior space.
The hardest and most resistant artificial stone material that can tolerate extreme heat, scratching and other mechanical impacts is sintered stone. The softest but most flexible and particularly suitable for irregular, oval or other shaped spaces is acrylic stone. However, you won't be able to light a hot fire in an acrylic stone fireplace, as it can simply... melt. A cold fire in acrylic stone fireplace will look great.
Engineered quartz can relatively be ok for fireplace decoration, but not directly in contact with the hottest points. Engineered quartz is composed of 95% natural stone particles and about 5% resins, and the latter can change colour because of the contact with extreme heat. This is especially true with light-coloured patterns. All types of artificial stone are non-porous and easy to clean. The thinness and lightness of artificial stone slabs make them easy to work with in multi-storey houses and small rooms.