Hearthstones are generally flat cuts of sturdy stone used to form the floor of a fireplace, which is called the hearth. The stones typically extend beyond the base of the chimney out into the room, creating a low ledge that wraps around the base of the fireplace. Hearthstones are available in a variety of shapes, sizes, textures and colors, and they serve both practical and aesthetic purposes in the home.
There typically are two reasons why hearthstones are employed. First, the hearth protects the floor surface surrounding the fireplace from any sparks or flames that might stray from the fire in the base of the chimney. This is particularly important for a fireplace that is not particularly deep or for wood burning fireplaces that might be prone to throwing sparks. Without the added protection that heat- and flame-resistant hearthstones provide, a fireplace could be more hazardous than enjoyable.
Their second purpose also contributes to the enjoyment of the room; the many styles available allow homeowners to create a look for their fireplace that compliments the rest of their home. A broad hearth has the potential to make a fireplace the focal point of a room, and the color, pattern and cut of the hearthstones can drastically alter its feeling and design. For example, one might select smooth, glossy stones for a modern feel or natural, uneven river stones for a more natural look.
Hearthstones can be made from many different materials depending on personal preference, although the best selections are strong, durable and resistant to heat. It also is important that the stones be somewhat flat in order to create a sturdy hearth with a level surface. Some good materials might be brick, granite, marble, river stone or even cement or ceramic tiles.
If a hearthstone is made from a material such as granite or marble, manufacturers cut smooth, geometric pieces out of larger, rougher chunks. If a hearthstone is made from a clay-based material such as terra cotta or ceramic, the manufacturer can mold these materials into the desired size, shape and pattern before drying them. The same is true for cement hearthstones.
Hearthstones are available in a variety of shapes but are overwhelmingly square or rectangular. They are also available in many sizes to accommodate different construction plans or style preferences. These stones generally are not cubic but are longer and wider than they are thick.