Since the dawn of civilizations, when people learned how to build walled houses with rooftops, fireplaces, and chimneys, they have been a part of the human home. The home fireplace hearth has been used for over three hundred millenniums for cooking and warming the house during cold nights and days.
However, today the fireplace hearth has evolved, but its uses remain the same. The fireplace may no longer be used to cook, but it is important to have one, especially during winter.
Understanding that there is a distinctive difference between the fireplace and the hearth itself can often leave you wondering whether it is necessary to have a hearth for your fireplace. Whether you have a gas, electric, or wood burning fireplace, you may ask yourself, is it worth installing a fireplace hearth, and does it enhance the functionality of a fireplace?
The answer to your question is yes. Apart from its decorative aspects that easily impress your guests, the fireplace hearth helps protect your home from unwanted fires more than most people realize. To understand the value of a fireplace hearth to your home, you must first ask yourself; what is a fireplace hearth?
What is a Fireplace Hearth?
A hearth is a structure put in front of your fireplace and is made of non-combustible materials such as marble, bricks, cement slabs, or stones. Having a fireplace means that there can be burning firewood rolling out from your fireplace to your floor, flying embers and sparks, and even radiant heat that can easily cause a fire to spread from the fireplace and burn your house to the ground.
Therefore, a fireplace hearth protects your home from accidental fires that can start from your fireplace. You can also use the hearth to place your fireplace tools such as tongs, ash bucket, poker, and spade.
The Different Types of Hearths
There is no one type of hearth because different materials can be used to install a hearth at your fireplace. The various hearths have pros and cons depending on the type of fireplace you have installed at home. For example, some materials are not suitable for making a hearth in a wood-burning fireplace because they won’t last long. It is therefore imperative that you choose the proper fireplace hearth to match your requirements. The following is a list of the most commonly used materials for installing a hearth.
The ceramic hearth is a very customizable choice. It may be used with electric, gas, or wood-burning fireplaces. You may also select any color, pattern, or finish to complement the look of your house. Ceramic is the way to go if you want something that is one-of-a-kind.
Soapstone is a thick rock formed by extreme pressure and heat. The “soapy” texture of soapstone gives it its name. The color palette is constrained, with just tones of green and gray to pick from. It has excellent heat resistance, yet it, like slate, can fracture with time.
Slate is a sedimentary rock material that can be found in various colors, including red, dark green, gray, and black, as well as multicolored slate. It’s easy to spot because of its uneven texture, and it may endure for years. Slate is more costly than limestone but less so than granite, soapstone, or marble. However, because it is soft and may break under the heat of a wood-fueled fire, it should only be used with electric and gas fires.
As a mid-priced hearthstone, granite is more expensive than slate or limestone but less costly than marble or soapstone. Granite is suitable for use with gas or electric flames and the high-intensity heat produced by wood fires. Since granite is tough, durable, and comes in a greater spectrum of colors and patterns than other natural stones, it is one of the most widely used stones for hearths. You can also have the granite polished for a smooth surface and gloss or leave it unpolished for a natural, rough texture.
Limestone is the most cost-effective stone option for your fireplace right now, but it should only be used with gas or electric fires. When exposed to the heat of solid-fuel fires, such as those driven by wood, the stone can break. Under normal wear and use, limestone will not crack, dent, or scrape. However, the areas closest to your fire may become overheated and crack because it does not heat uniformly. There are many limestone colors to choose from for hearths, but the most popular are gray, white, tan, and cream.
Marble is highly valued as a hearthstone, even though it is softer than granite, because of its durability and heat resistance. It is made of limestone and is prone to chipping, although it can be used with gas, electric, and wood fires due to its good heat resistance. Marble, like granite, maybe polished or left unpolished for a more natural appearance. Marble hearths come in various colors, but they are one of the most high-priced kinds of hearthstones available.
Micro Marble Hearths
Micro marble hearths, including Perla stone, are compatible with all gas and electric fireplaces. Micro marble is an artificial stone formed from crushed marble blended with resin. The process results in a highly durable and heat resistant material, with a marble-like look yet simpler to clean. These, however, cannot be used with solid fuel or high-efficiency gas fireplaces.
The 4 Fireplace Hearth Positions
Apart from being a safety feature, the different materials used to make a fireplace hearth also add to the beauty of your home. In addition, there are four styles of installing a hearth also to complement your needs for both protection and beautification.
1. ‘Hole In the Wall’ or ‘No Hearth’ – There is no fireplace.
2. The fireplace hearth is BELOW the firebox opening in a raised firebox.
3. The hearth of the fireplace is flush with the entrance of the firebox.
4. The fireplace hearth is raised ABOVE the firebox entrance.
Why Do you Need a Fireplace Hearth?
A mantle, surround, and hearth have long been incorporated in fireplaces. While these components provide a design element, their primary function is to surround the central fire with non-combustible materials to prevent fire spread.
Although gas and electric fireplaces do not require one, they are frequently designed with a hearth for decorative purposes. The majority of homeowners want their ventilated fireplace to look like a traditional fireplace. Even if you live in a location where winter doesn’t exist, it feels nice to snuggle up in front of a warm fire with a hot beverage.
Please remember that your wood-burning fireplace must have a hearth made of proper stones like granite, ceramic, soapstone, and other similar materials. A fireplace protects your property from stray sparks and rolling pieces of burning logs, which may transform a peaceful evening of relaxation into a tragic and traumatic experience from a burning home.
There are regulations put in place especially for homeowners with wood-burning fireplaces. For example, homeowners must allow 36” of clear space in front of the installation – no furniture should be put too near to the fire, and 8 inches beyond each side of the fireplace aperture should be left vacant according to the regulations.
When the fireplace aperture is six sq. ft. or more extensive, the hearth extension (the non-combustible material in front) must extend at least 20 inches in front of and 12 inches beyond each side. The specifications are because they are burning wood, and hence the laws for wood burning apply. However, fireplace regulations vary from location to location, and some local governments completely prohibit the construction of new wood-burning fireplaces following concerns from the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). You should always check with your local laws while installing a fireplace and hearth.
Looking For Electric Fireplaces?
Are you looking for the best electric fireplace? We’ve got you covered. Check out our article on the top 5 best electric fireplaces on the market and find your perfect fit today! The Fireplace Lifestyle team has done all of the research so that you don’t have to. You can just sit back, relax, and enjoy reading about these incredible fireplaces. Our goal is to help people like yourself find their dream fireplace with ease. So take a look at what we have to offer – we know it will be worth your time!