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How do I Choose the Best Fireplace Hearth?

Dan Cavallari
By Dan Cavallari
Updated May 16, 2024
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A fireplace hearth can add a touch of class and beauty to a room, but most importantly, it should add a healthy amount of safety. When choosing the best fireplace hearth, you should consider several factors: safety, aesthetics, cost, and function. The hearth must be made of non-combustible materials should any stray sparks or embers escape the fireplace. It should match the aesthetic of the room and not stand out too prominently from other features of the room. Most importantly, the hearth must be the right size for the room as well as for the fireplace itself; otherwise, the hearth may dominate a small room or get lost in a large one.

The most important consideration when choosing a fireplace hearth is safety. Most cities have codes written specifically for fireplaces, so you must be sure to choose a plan that follows the code for your city. Such codes often include considerations for size, materials, and distance from walls or furniture. Most fireplace hearth plans call for materials such as brick or stone because such materials will not catch fire should the embers stray from the fire. These materials are the best choice for a hearth, but they can also be some of the most expensive. Other materials, such as ceramic, can be placed on top of wooden structures that are insulated to provide a less expensive, safe hearth.

Another consideration when choosing a fireplace hearth is whether or not you want a raised hearth. A raised hearth is set up off the ground, as opposed to a flush hearth, which sits flush with the floor. This is mostly a matter of aesthetics, but a raised hearth is also farther away from combustible materials on the floor, such as carpet. When considering a raised or flush hearth, consider too what will be resting on the hearth. If your hearth will simply contain a fire built from wood, you won't have to think too much about the weight being placed upon it. A hearth holding up a wood stove, however, will need more support and space.

The last consideration for your fireplace hearth involves materials. Bricks and stone are always a good choice because they look good and they are non-combustible, but they can be cost-prohibitive. Slate tiles are a good alternative, but slate takes a bit more effort to install properly, as it often needs to be cut to the proper size. Whatever materials you choose, make sure the materials look good, are non-combustible, and are within your ability to install.

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Discussion Comments

By lighth0se33 — On Oct 05, 2012

@wavy58 – I would rather have a big area of brick around the base of the hearth than a rug. I would just feel more secure that way.

My neighbor has a raised hearth that is made of two different colors of brick. The base is a huge semicircle, and it is reddish-brown and half a foot tall all around. The part surrounding the fireplace on the sides is more of a grayish-brown, and the top part matches the base.

I think it's good to mix up the colors of the material. It keeps the hearth interesting and prevents it from fading into the background.

By wavy58 — On Oct 04, 2012

If you want extra protection from stray embers and sparks, you can get a fireplace hearth rug. I have one that is made of fiberglass, and I never have to worry about it catching on fire or a spark escaping and setting the floor on fire.

I have a raised hearth, but the stone extending out from the bottom doesn't go very far. That's why I thought it would be a good idea to get a rug.

By kylee07drg — On Oct 04, 2012

My friend has a corner fireplace hearth, and I think it looks much more interesting than the typical hearth put in the middle of a wall. It makes that corner extra cozy, too.

No one ever really notices the corners of a room, unless you have something special there. Hers was the first corner hearth I had ever seen, and it totally redefined the layout of her entire living room.

By OeKc05 — On Oct 03, 2012

I hired a company that specializes in installing fireplace hearths to do mine. My husband wanted to do it himself, but I just felt safer going with a professional.

There is just too much at risk with something that will contain flames. One little thing that's done wrong could cause a disaster.

Yes, it cost a bit more for us to have it installed than to do it ourselves. However, I feel that the security of knowing it was done right is worth the extra cost.

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