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What Is a Fireplace Hearth?

 Dec 22, 2016  Fireplace Know How

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

What is a fireplace hearth? Do I need a hearth?

It used to be that all fireplaces had a hearth. As a matter of fact, hearths have been an integral part of homes for over 300,000 years.  Pretty much since the time man figured out he could harness fire inside a fireplace. And, although they’ve changed a bit here and there over time, their purpose stays the same. 

What Is a Hearth?

A hearth is normally a brick or cement slab that sits in front of your fireplace. Made from 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 it’s 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, as well.  A hearth is an important part of a wood burning fireplace for this reason. 

Does Every Fireplace Need a 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 fussing with starting a fire - 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.  

A hearth wish ash buckets

The History Of Hearths.

Sitting on the hearth for portraits may be a trending thing on Facebook, but did you know that sitting on the hearth has been something people have done for centuries? 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.

Hearths Of Today.

Fireplace hearths from those times were more utilitarian. Today we have access to many different materials that will work as a hearth. Marble, granite, flagstone, cement and brick are the more traditional materials for hearths. But there is also Micore board, as well as glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) that can be molded to look like any type of thing - even wood.  

As you can see, there are many different uses for a fireplace hearth, even if you don’t necessarily need one.  Next week we’ll be exploring this topic a little more.  We’ll be discussing why a hearth is so important to a masonry fireplace when you’re purchasing glass doors for it. 

Last updated on February 23rd 2018.


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