Geoffrey Morrison is a writer/photographer about tech and travel for CNET, The New York Times, and other web and print publications. He's also the Editor-at-Large for The Wirecutter. He has written for Sound&Vision magazine, Home Theater magazine, and was the Editor-in-Chief of Home Entertainment magazine. He is NIST and ISF trained, and has a degree in Television/Radio from Ithaca College. His bestselling novel, Undersea, and its sequel, Undersea Atrophia, are available in paperback and digitally on Amazon. He spends most of the year as a digital nomad, living and working while traveling around the world. You can follow his travels at BaldNomad.com and on his YouTube channel.
Don't mount your new TV over your fireplace. It is, quite literally, the worst place you could put a TV. And look, I get it, it seems like the perfect place. Interior designers on TV say it's a focal point. There's lots of space there, your room is probably perfectly arranged already, and it can be up and out of the way. It's a trap.
Placing your TV so high, and above a heat source, can not only seriously decrease its picture quality, but it can also shorten the life of your TV, as well as leading to possible physical pain. Even if you don't use your fireplace, this placement is about as bad as you can get.
If you're still considering it after that preamble, do you know how you'll get power and signal (HDMI or wireless) to the TV? How you're mounting it to the brick or stone? These are concerns too, but more fixable. Really, though, you should just avoid these potential issues and just not mount the TV above the fireplace. Here's why.
1. Viewing angle: A TV over a fireplace is too high
Ever sit in the front row of a movie theater? Some people like it; most don't. That sore neck you get from staring up at the screen? Imagine that every time you watch TV. Most people find staring up at something for long periods to be uncomfortable. Worse, it might seem fine at first, but then you develop a neck issue later.
Not surprisingly, one of the first Google autocomplete results after "TV over fireplace..." is "too high." This isn't a rare issue.
Sure, this won't be a problem in some rooms. The fireplace might be low, you might be reclining to watch TV, you might be far enough away that you're just barely looking "up" at it. But if you've ever had neck issues, often from something work-related, this aspect is something to consider as it could make such an injury worse.
Most of us would much rather look slightly down at a TV. It's a much more natural position (similar to what's recommended by OSHA for monitors). Ideally you should be able to keep a neutral/relaxed neck position to watch your TV, which will vary depending on your sofa/seating position and so on.
2. Your TV will be off-axis
Most TVs on the market today are LCDs. There are higher-end models from LG, Sony, and Vizio that are OLED, but otherwise, regardless of the marketing name, it's an LCD.
Most LCDs look significantly worse if you're not looking at them straight on. Even a few degrees below their centerline, like you'd have sitting on a sofa looking up at the TV, can make the image look profoundly different than what it looks like directly on-axis.
This is fairly easy to fix, but you'll need specific equipment. Some wall-mounting brackets let you pivot the TV downward, so it's directly facing the seating area. If you insist on mounting your TV high on the wall, keep an eye out for mounts that at least pivot the screen. Flat-mounting the TV on the wall (the cheapest solution) might make your TV look worse.
An OLED TV like the LG C2 tech looks much better from off-angle than standard LCD televisions. Sure an OLED TV is expensive, but if your room calls for off-angle seating and you want peak image quality, it might be worth the investment.
There is nothing worse for an electronics product than heat (OK, maybe water or kicking it could be worse, but you get my point). Increasing the operating temperature of the TV can shorten what should be a lively and reliably long life.
Worse, the soot from the fire can get into the TV's innards, doing nothing good. Even worse, the damage will be slow and over time, not right away, so the TV will likely fail sooner than it would have otherwise, but still beyond the length of your warranty.
This won't be an issue for everyone. If you don't, or can't, use your fireplace, then this won't be a problem. A gas fireplace might not have soot, but if the wall above is warm to the touch, that heat is going to warm your TV too.
4. Where should you mount it?
I understand the frustration. Many rooms are designed so the fireplace is the focal point. Trying to switch things around to fight against this inherent layout is a challenge. It's worth it. At the very least, buy a TV mount that lets you adjust the pitch and position of a TV. This lets you angle it down toward your seating area and, ideally, reduce its overall height so you're not looking up at it. These certainly add costs but are the bare minimum if you don't want to rearrange your room.
Though stylish and popular, mounting a TV above a fireplace probably isn't the best option for you or your TV. Placement is a big issue, and location and TV height can be significant factors when it comes to picture quality.
If you think we're in the minority with our concerns about poor TV placement, consider there's an entire subreddit with nearly 100,000 subscribers dedicated to bad TV placement called r/TVTooHigh. If you don't want to take our word for it, scroll through there and see what people think.