What is Fireplace Hearth? 6 Designs And A Complete Guide To Build It

Hearths have been an integral part of home fireplaces since the medieval age. In the past, people used them for cooking and heating, but today they serve more of a protective purpose. A fireplace hearth is the base of a fireplace that extends inside the room, often paved with bricks or cement.

Fireplace hearths keep you and your house safe from the fire by offering a dedicated place for it. Moreover, the hearth holds an ornamental purpose, matching with the décor of your house. By bringing a classical look, it helps to impress your visitors or a potential buyer. Today, we will discuss seven common questions, including what is a hearth, why you need one, and various points suitable for a hearth’s installment.

What Is A Fireplace Hearth?

Before reviewing the purpose and different positions, it’s crucial to know about the fireplace hearths. A hearth is the floor of a fireplace, often made with bricks, marble, stones, or cement, and expands into your room. As it uses non-combustible material, it acts as a protection for the house’s floor against the fire’s heat. Moreover, by extending into the room and providing an enclosed space, it avoids flying embers and misplaced wood logs rolling inside your room and damaging your house.

The extent to which the hearth takes place in your room depends upon its use. In the past, people used to cook their meals on the fireplace and hence had the space big enough to hold their cooking paraphernalia. Furthermore, some families preferred to stay close to the fire and had hearths big enough to hold large benches and sofas. However, if you prefer to have a fireplace to keep your room warm and for decorative reasons, the hearth’s size should be small. Still, make it spacious enough to decorate with hearthrugs, candles, and fireplace toolsets. As most people have hearths for aesthetic feels nowadays, decorating it should be a priority.

Do You Need A Fireplace Hearth?

Before diving into details about a hearth, the crucial question is; do you need a fireplace hearth in the first place? A hearth is essential for places that burn solid fuel, such as wood logs, to protect against the heat and flying embers. If you have an electric or open-gas fireplace, a hearth might not be necessary.

However, you may still want a hearth for its looks. A fireplace hearth is a wonderful addition to any house, aesthetically uplifting the decor. Unlike the olden days, people no longer use hearths for cooking or keeping warm. They now favor having them for the cozy experience it offers.

Nevertheless, if you have a solid fuel-burning fireplace, then you need a hearth. By extending into the room, they provide a protective layer between the fireplace and your house. They also keep in check the flying embers and rolling lit wood logs, which could severely damage your property.

Whether you need a fireplace hearth also depends on your family size. Hearths often serve as a get-together spot in the house. Relatively larger ones can house several people for a cozy evening near the fire. Also, children love hearths because they’re the focal point in Christmas decorations and family pictures. If you like to capture good memories and look back at them later on, a fireplace hearth can be an amazing place to originate those events.

What Are The Top Fireplace Hearth Materials?

The materials used to build a hearth depend on the owner’s choice and the house’s overall theme. Mostly, a fireplace hearth uses one type of material, but you can make variations to augment its beauty and feel. The most common materials used to build a hearth include the following.

1. Brick

Brick

Brick is the top choice of many for building a hearth. Their cheapness and effortless installation make them an excellent choice. Moreover, bricks are highly heat resistant, offering good protection for the house’s floor.

However, they might not add as pleasantly to the hearth’s look as other materials. Nevertheless, bricks remain the go-to option for fireplaces’ surrounding walls due to their heat resistance. In the end, it all depends on your taste.

2. Marble

Marble

If you prefer a more modern and sleek appearance, marble is the best choice. Like brick, marble is also a highly heat-resistant material, meaning you can pair it up with any type of fireplace. Moreover, marble is a very easy-to-clean material and just requires a wipe to restore the glowing look. However, marble is expensive as compared to other fireplace hearth materials.

Do you want to make your interior look modern on a limited budget? Here are six cheap ways that make your home more luxurious.

3. Concrete

Concrete

Another famous fireplace hearth material is concrete. It is cheap, you can shape it the way you like, and is easy to patch up. Moreover, you can paint the concrete to any color that matches your house’s décor.

4. Stone

Stone

Multiple stones also make good material for a fireplace hearth. Limestone is a common and cheap hearthstone, but it is not as heat resistant as other materials. As it’s a soft stone type, it is best suited for electric or open-gas fireplaces. The reason is they don’t produce the same level of heat as conventional hearths.

However, if you look for a more heat-resistant stone, Soapstone is a magnificent option for its remarkable heat properties.

5. Granite

Granite

Another wonderful fireplace hearth material is granite. It is inexpensive, tough, and durable. It also comes in various colors and textures to offer countless decorative options to match your house’s theme. Furthermore, granite is a scratch- and dent-resistant material, meaning you shouldn’t worry about any chip or crevice on the surface.

However, when using granite, special consideration is to place it in different slabs. Granite has the property to expand and contract, as it heats and cools. It means the granite is vulnerable to cracks. If you place granite in a single slab, the probability of cracks and dents increases.

6. Quarry Tiles

Quarry Tiles

Another high-quality material for fireplace hearth is quarry tiles. If you’re up to a more traditional and ancient look, quarry tiles are an excellent choice. They usually come in red color and closely resemble brick. In addition, they are highly heat resistant, durable, and do not attract dents and stains very easily.

7. Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

Porcelain and Ceramic Tiles

Some people prefer to have their hearth made from porcelain or ceramic tiles. They are fairly heat resistant and easy to maintain; a wipe across the surface cleans it as well as new.

8. Slate

Slate

Slate is another fantastic fireplace hearth material. Being a natural stone, it offers a simple yet elegant look. However, it requires more maintenance than other materials and needs constant cleaning to uphold its good looks.

Just like granite, slate also expands and contracts with heating and cooling. For this reason, you must not place a single slab and instead divide it into many to avoid cracking. If you’re placing it in a single slab, ensure the heat’s not intense, and the fireplace is electric or open-gas.

How To Choose The Best Fireplace Hearth Material?

Now that we’re aware of different material options to choose from when building a fireplace hearth, it is crucial to know how to choose one.

Mostly, the hearth material would depend on your preference and budget. Nonetheless, the following are some questions you should answer before finalizing the material.

  • How intense is the heat the fireplace generates?
  • Can the material withstand the intensity of the heat?
  • Is the material non-combustible?
  • Is the material strong and able to bear the heat for a prolonged period?
  • How durable is the material, and is it resistant to cracks, crevices, and dents?
  • Does the material add aesthetically to your home and match its décor?

The best material for fireplace hearth is the one that answers all the above questions satisfactorily. In short, it should keep you safe and look decent according to your décor theme. The material’s overall look, color options, and design requirements can shape your final decision.

However, if you seek advice related to the best fireplace hearth material, granite is the most popular one, used by the majority. Due to its hardwearing properties, high heat resistance, and impressive looks, it is the go-to material for many.

Moreover, the reasonable price makes granite an ideal option. Nevertheless, be careful when sliding heavy objects across the hearth, as granite is vulnerable to scratches and cracks.

Purpose of A Fireplace Hearth

Now that we have an in-depth understanding of fireplace hearth, it’s time to study its purpose. A hearth has both practical and ornamental uses. Let’s discuss each in detail below:

1. Practical

Practical

The hearth is a layer of protection for your house’s floor against the fire. Made with non-combustible materials, such as brick and cement, it ensures the radiant heat from the fireplace does not damage your room’s floor.

Moreover, the hearth extends to a reasonable length to keep out any flying embers, coals, and misplaced wood logs. Lit embers, soot, and ash are swift, and they can enter your room and damage your property and the items within. An extended hearth can collect these flying materials before they enter the vicinity.

If you have children or expensive furniture nearby, consider having a hearth extended long enough to house a fireguard. This netted curved fence stands right in front of the fireplace and denies any flying ember leaving the hearth.

Furthermore, a fireplace hearth acts as an area specifically designated to fire. You can store accessories and tools related to the fireplace, such as the fire prodding stick, coal, and wood logs. By providing a clear picture of where the fireplace starts and ends, it prevents you from getting too close to the fire and keeps precious items away.

2. Ornamental

Ornamental

Although a hearth has various practical uses, most people like to have one for its decorative aspect. As you can build a hearth with different non-combustible materials, there comes a wide range of options to match your house’s theme. You can use several colors and designs that would uplift the aesthetic look of your interior.

While offering a protective layer against the fire for you and your family, the hearth can also add to the beauty of your house. As the fireplace is a focal point in any house, the hearth can beautify the spot, being an integral part of it.

Different Fireplace Hearth Styles

As you can choose from plenty of hearth materials, you can also opt for different fireplace hearth styles. The four most common hearth designs are as follows.

1. Raised Hearth

Fireplace Hearth

In this design, the hearth rises above the fireplace surface. This style is good for extra protection, as it acts as a small wall between the fireplace and your house. The flying embers and sparks have little chance of invading your property.

2. Flush Hearth

Fireplace Hearth

The flush hearth is level with the fireplace surface. Therefore, it does not offer the extra protection wall-raised hearth does. But it can still deliver decent safety depending on the size. If the fireplace hearth is big enough, the sparks and embers would still land on it rather than your room’s floor.

3. Raised Firebox

Fireplace Hearth

In this style, the fireplace surface rises above the hearth. As the fireplace and hearth are not even, this runs the risk of fiery materials entering your room and damaging your items. With this design, the size of the hearth must be big enough to act as a protective layer.

4. No Hearth

Fireplace Hearth

The last common design is the No Hearth. As the name suggests, the hearth does not extend from the fireplace into your house. Instead, there’s just a hole in the wall where the fireplace sits, covered by the firebricks. As the hearth does not extend beyond the fireplace, this style carries the most risk of property damage.

Depending on the hearth style, you’ll need to choose from various fireplace doors. The two typical fireplace doors are:

5. Overlap Fit Doors

Fireplace Hearth

An overlap fit door is larger than the fireplace opening. Due to this, the door overlaps the hearth material, such as brick and granite, when installed. Overlap fit doors need hearth for support because they mostly have three-sided frames, and therefore best fit with raised or flush hearths.

However, overlap fit doors also come with four-sided frames, also known as picture frames. These can fit on raised firebox and no hearth designs. If going with a picture frame, you might need the support of an extra lintel bar.

6. Inside Fit Doors

Fireplace Hearth

An inside fit refers to when the door fits right inside the fireplace opening, and therefore will be flush with the hearth material. Inside fit doors require a more precise measurement of the hearth and are custom-made according to each hearth.

These doors are compatible with each of the four hearth designs. However, installing inside fit doors to a raised hearth can be tricky due to the height difference. If the height variance is significant enough to disturb the door from opening freely, then you must have extra length added to the frame’s bottom part. Besides, be careful of the uneven or rough stonework around the fireplace’s edges. It could cause interference with the inside fit door, as well.

Safety Regulations

Even if your fireplace has a hearth, it does not mean you should stop observing safety regulations. A fire inside your house can be dangerous, especially with children. Here are some tips for hearth fireplace safety.

1. Always keep a window open in the house whenever the fire’s burning.

2. Use dry and mature wood as fuel. Avoid placing green or wet wood in the fire because it produces more smoke. Consequently, it leads to soot build-up in the chimney.

3. Chop wood into smaller pieces because they lead to lesser smoke and burn faster compared to larger pieces.

4. Make sure the ash accumulating at the fireplace’s base is less than 1 inch thick. The more ash remains from the previous fire, the less is the air supply to the existing wood logs. Therefore, it leads to more smoke.

5. Move every item vulnerable to catching fire away from the fireplace. Inflammable articles close to the hearth can catch fire anytime.

6. Never leave the fireplace unattended while it’s burning. Always check twice before heading to bed that the fire’s out.

7. Stay with the children when they’re near the burning fire. Moreover, keep the fireplace tools and accessories out of children’s reach.

8. Always keep a fire extinguisher by the fireplace.

Read more about the standard fireplace safety measures for families.

Final Words

A fireplace is a much-needed area in any modern house, and a hearth is an integral part of it. A fireplace hearth not only adds a protective layer between the fireplace and your house but also augments its aesthetics. Whether you need a hearth would depend upon the type of fireplace you have and your personal preference. Fireplace hearths come in various materials offering numerous color and texture options. Additionally, you can follow four common hearth styles. However, you shouldn’t solely rely on hearths for protection against fire and constantly follow standard safety regulations.

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