Many can't fathom the true potential of concrete: The material has come a long way from the driveway. It's making a huge splash as a popular countertop material for its durability, versatility and attractiveness.

Now, combining the qualities of fire resistance, heat retention, and moldability, concrete is fast becoming a popular material for fireplace surrounds, mantels, and hearths. Artisans can replicate virtually any look, ranging from ornate to contemporary.

Few materials can compete with concrete when it comes to versatility. It can be molded into any shape, integrally colored or stained to match nearly any hue, and exhibit textures ranging from rough to highly polished. Because of these chameleon-like qualities, concrete adapts to a wide range of decorating styles, from contemporary to classic.

Fireplace Style Options"The stonelike look and feel of a concrete fireplace surround add dimension and excitement to any living space," says Wanda Ellerbeck of Grotto Designs.

A private residence southwest on Lake Michigan. David Eerdmans of Hard Topix in Jenison, MI used a special glass-fiber-reinforced-concrete (GFRC) to build the light cove and fireplace hearth. In the family room of this Rancho Bernardo, Calif. home, Brandon Cohen of Pourfolio custom matched the color of the red mantel to the front door of the client's home. The side panels were custom-mixed using integral dry pigments.Read about the design of this fireplace.

"A wide range of style options from Old World, ornamentation of Baroque or Victorian, to the Spartan lines of Post Modernism gives the homeowner an array of standard feature choices. Also, concrete offers the unique role as a strong mediator to bring out the best features in complementary materials such as stone, tile or metals, fusing them together in a dramatic marriage of texture and shape," says Ellerbeck.

In this home in Gig Harbor, Wash., a commanding entry fireplace was created using GFRC in an old-world, ancient-looking surround design.Read about how this fireplace was constructed This four-sided fireplace attracts attention as the focal point in a North Carolina residence. Built in 14 pieces, the fireplace features radiuses, match and kindling holders, lighted mantel, zinc plated electrical outlet, copper inlays, and more.
Read about how this fireplace surround was built.

Fireplace Color ChoicesConcrete is also a great choice because of the vast color possibilities. When it comes to brick, stone or marble, there are only a handful of color options. Not so with concrete.

Each concrete contractor offers his or her own unique standard and premium colors. And many will create custom colors to help you match or complement other materials in the vicinity of the fireplace, whether it's a cherished rug, your favorite piece of art, flooring, or your furniture.

Concrete-N-Counters in Lutz, FL Sierra Concrete Design, Inc. in Santa Ana, CA

If it's taupe or mushroom or khaki you're after, your concrete contractor will work with you to achieve the exact shade you're seeking.

Buddy Rhodes Concrete Products in San Francisco, CA Extreme Measures Construction in Beaumont, CA

Samples will always be different because each contractor has their own secret recipe and different types and amounts of cement and aggregates. In fact, cement will vary in different parts of the country. There are different brands of pigments, stains, and aggregate colors, so concrete sinks, vanities, and surrounds will always be one-of-a-kind.