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What is a fireplace hearth?

Have you asked yourself, "What is a hearth?" or "Do I need a hearth for my fireplace doors?"

Fireplace Doors Online answers your questions and helps solve this mystery!

 Dec 22, 2016    Heating: Fireplaces, Inserts, and Stoves, Wood Burning Fireplaces, Zero Clearance Fireplaces, Frequently Asked Fireplace Questions

Hearth (härth) n.
The floor of a fireplace, usually extending into a room and paved with brick, flagstone, or cement.

In earlier times, the fireplace was known as the hearth. Hearths have been an integral part of homes for over 300,000 years.The hearth was where the fire burned for cooking and heating although now the term hearth is what is directly in front of the fireplace opening. And, although they’ve changed a bit here and there over time, their purpose stays the same.

What is a Fireplace Hearth?

A hearth is normally a brick, stone, marble, or cement slab that sits in front of your fireplace. Made from a non-combustible material, the hearth protects your home’s floor from radiant heat, flying embers, sparks, and burning logs that may roll out of the fireplace. Although the main purpose is to create a layer of protection, a hearth is also used by many as a place to set their fireplace tools and ash buckets. Hearths used to be made big enough to hold a large bench so the entire family could cuddle up and stay warm on it. They also cooked their meals in the fireplace, so cooking pots and utensils were often kept on the hearth, as well.


A diagram showing the four different fireplace hearth positions



Different Fireplace Hearth Positions

Masonry fireplace doorsThere are four different styles of fireplace hearths. (Click on the diagram above for a closeup visual reference)

  1. No Hearth or 'Hole In The Wall' - This is very self-explanatory. There is no hearth.
  2. Raised Firebox – The fireplace hearth is BELOW the firebox opening.
  3. Flush Hearth – The fireplace hearth is EVEN WITH the firebox opening.
  4. Raised Hearth – The fireplace hearth is ABOVE the firebox opening.

Now how does the position of the fireplace hearth affect the installation of a masonry fireplace door or a factory built fireplace door? (Not sure which type of fireplace you have? Check out our easy fireplace door finder!)

Factory built fireplace doorsOverlap Fit Fireplace Doors

  • Most overlap fit doors have a three-sided frame and need a hearth to sit on for support. So they need to be installed on raised or flush hearths.
  • Occasionally, an overlap fit door can be made with a four-sided frame (also known as a “picture” frame) that can be installed in a fireplace with a raised firebox or 'hole in the wall.' However, you may want to check with our experts to see if the door will need the extra added support of a lintel bar.

Inside Fit Fireplace Doors

  • Inside fit doors can be installed with any of the four hearth styles.
  • Raised fireboxes can be a bit tricky with inside fit doors. Most of the time, the height difference is small enough that it won’t affect the door. But if it’s substantial enough to prevent the door from opening altogether, we can have most of our doors custom made to add extra length to the bottom part of the frame.
  • Some things to keep in mind is that on masonry fireplaces, the measurements of inside fit doors have to take into account the rough, uneven stonework around the firebox. Grout or masonry cement will need to be applied around the door to fill in the gaps.

A hearth wish ash buckets

Pictures are always extremely helpful for our team to best match products with your fireplace. Try out our quick and easy snapshot quote for fireplace doors!


Do I Need a Fireplace Hearth?

Gas burning fireplaces do not need hearths, but most are still built with them.  A hearth gives your gas burning fireplace a more traditional look.  When you want the look and feel of a traditional wood burning fireplace, but don’t want to deal with the chopping of wood, cleaning of ash, or the risk of rolling logs, then a hearth on a gas burning fireplace is the way to go.

Whether you use your hearth for a gas burning or wood burning fireplace, there are many other ways that a hearth can be useful in your home.  A hearth is a great place to set frozen mittens to thaw out in front of the fireplace after the children have been sledding.  When you need some extra seating in your family room, a hearth makes a great place to fit a few more people. Many families take Christmas family portraits while sitting on the hearth.  

Are you looking for a fireplace door? A Fireplace or stove? Or some Outdoor Living products?


Last updated on July 18th 2019.