When building or installing a hearth, one of the most common materials to use is concrete. A concrete hearth is generally easy to make, can be molded to fit a variety of shapes, and is non-combustible so stray sparks or embers will not cause damage to the hearth or home around it. While a concrete hearth certainly is not the most attractive option for hearth materials, it is easily covered with other materials such as tile or slate to give it a classier, more beautiful look and feel. Since concrete can be molded to different shapes and sizes, it is the most adaptable material for building a hearth.
One downside to the concrete hearth is the look and feel of it. Bare concrete is not attractive by any means, and while it works well as a non-combustible material for a fireplace, it can negatively affect the tone of a room. The concrete hearth must therefore be covered with another material, which adds cost and time to a concrete hearth project. The upside to such a project is that the homeowner will be left with a strong, safe hearth that takes on the look of whatever non-combustible material is covering the concrete. Slate, stone, brick, and ceramic can be used to cover a concrete hearth, or the concrete can simply be painted.
Building a concrete hearth as opposed to using stone or brick is a good choice because concrete is relatively cheap compared to other materials. If the hearth being built is a raised hearth — that is, the hearth is not flush with the floor but is instead raised off the floor. Concrete can be easily mixed and poured to accommodate the height without adding a lot in the way of cost. Most hearths in modern homes have concrete at their bases. Other materials are simply built on top of the concrete.
Another advantage to concrete hearths is the time investment in making one. Making a mold, mixing the concrete, allowing it to sit, painting or sealing it, and putting it in place takes only a few hours — a day or two to let the concrete properly set, but in terms of hours worked, only a few hours are needed. A small slab can be poured in a few hours, and moved inside the house the next day after it has set. Smaller concrete slabs are also movable, but they are extremely heavy, so moving them is not always a feasible option.