In many living and family room designs, it might seem like the best place to install the flat screen television is above the fireplace. But before you do that, the Chimney Safety Institute of America advises you to take a few precautions.

  • Review the fireplace and chimney venting system. Some natural gas log units are designed to be vent-free, which means high levels of heat can be radiating out from the appliance. Heat and TVs don’t mix.
  • Check the fireplace opening for discoloration. Discoloration means that some potentially hazardous by-products of combustion are entering the home and are rising above the fireplace opening, putting them in direct contact with the homeowners and the TV.
  • Consider industry safety standards when hiding cables. National building codes recommend a minimum 2-inch clearance between combustible electrical wires and a fireplace or chimney appliance. Carefully review mounting instructions when hanging the flat screen to reduce risk. If needed, consult a CSIA-certified chimney sweep.

Consider the Options

Rob Sabin, editor-in-chief of Home Theater Magazine/, suggests using an electronic thermometer with an outdoor probe and taping the probe to the wall above the fireplace, then setting the fireplace at its highest setting and checking the temperature. “Anything over 85 to 90 degrees or so should be considered less than ideal for electronics, whether it’s inside a cabinet or on a wall,” Sabin says. “Over time, a TV that is repeatedly exposed to rising hot air over 100 degrees could see its life unexpectedly shortened and possibly even experience some misshaping of its plastic cabinetry. If you’re using the television and have the display panel and circuitry active while the fire is going in that type of installation, you’re asking for extra trouble, particularly so with plasma TVs that tend to run hotter than the LED LCD models.”

Credit: Courtesy Design Build Pros

Sabin offers some tips and suggestions:

  • If you can’t find a suitable alternative location for the TV, try altering the mantel or hearth to allow for a different heat flow pattern. He recommends consulting a fireplace professional.
  • Another issue with fireplace installs is that the height of the TV can create uncomfortable neck-craning in situations where the viewers’ seating isn’t far enough back from that wall. Explore an alternative room design that allows the TV to be mounted away from heat at a more reasonable height.
  • If the room has space on either side of the fireplace, consider setting the TV back into custom wall cabinetry or shelving to the right or left of the fireplace and then mounting the TV on an arm mount that allows it to be pulled out from the cabinet and swiveled toward the seating area. Consider installing doors to hide the TV when it’s not in use and add matching shelves or cabinetry to the other side of the fireplace to balance the look.
  • If installing the TV above the fireplace is the only option, Sabin recommends using a motorized mount, such as the ComfortVu, that pulls the TV both out and down from its resting place. This type of mount will pull the TV out about 24 inches from the wall and can lower it by as much as 38 inches from its above-the-fireplace height, and it will clear a 12-inch-deep mantel with the TV mounted just 3 inches above it. The mount costs about $1,995. However, Sabin adds, keep in mind that this might place the TV even more directly in the heat of a working fireplace, which is not recommended. —Nina Patel is a senior editor at REMODELING. Find her on Twitter at @SilverNina or @RemodelingMag.