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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    Mantels & Hearths, Heating Your Home, Classic Wood Burning Fireplaces, Easy Gas Fireplaces

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

The hearth has been a part of the home for as long as humans have been able to put walls and a roof together. For over 300,000 years the hearth was where the fire burned for cooking and heating. Today, though, the term is used for the area directly in front of the fireplace opening. The hearth may have changed a bit over time, but the purpose remains the same.

Red Dead Redemptione" by SnakeDrone, shared using Attribution 2.0 Generic CC BY 2.0

If the hearth isn’t the fireplace anymore, you may be asking yourself why you need one. 

Is it essential to the function of your fireplace? 

And, if it isn’t, is it worth having one? 

The truth is that yes, it’s totally worth it. You’ll love how it enhances the look of your fireplace whether you just want to impress your in-laws or a prospective buyer down the line. And, it helps keep your property safe.

But really, what exactly is a hearth?

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. You may not do that today, but you can still decorate your hearth with candles, fireplace toolsets, and hearth rugs. 

The image to the right and above is an example of a fireplace with a flush hearth. And though we can’t help you install a fireplace under your stairs, we can help you capture some of that unique elegance! Check out our Classic Fireplace Tool Set with Multiple Finishes for a sense of old-world beauty in the modern-day. This fireplace doesn't have a fireplace door, but fireplace doors are very practical when it comes to keeping your fireplace clean and keeping the temperature in your home regulated when it isn't in use. Imagine our Ancient Hidden Frame Masonry Fireplace Glass Door on this fireplace!

You may not be able to recreate the look above exactly, but spending a DIY weekend with brick stain can create that beautiful aged look on the brick, and our hearth accessories can help add an old-world, fantasy air to your beautiful fireplace. You can even check out some of the mantels we have available at our other site, CJ’s Log Mantels, and pick out what will look great with your refreshed fireplace!

If you aren't ready to invest in a new fireplace door, consider a fireplace screen. A three-fold arched screen like this one is a great choice if you want the arched look of a fireplace without the expense of having a contractor come out and rebuild your fireplace. Or, if you aren't completely sold on having an arched look, this 3-fold arched fireplace screen is a great choice if you'd like something that keeps your home safe and isn't a big investment! It's a hard decision, so if you aren't sure exactly what you want, we can help with our 'What's The Difference Between Various Styles of Spark Protection?' page.

Our '8 Easy Steps To Installing a Fireplace Mesh Curtain' is a great resource too for learning how to install mesh protection so that you can enjoy the warmth and crackle of a fire without worrying about the sparks!


Different Fireplace Hearth Positions

There are four different styles of fireplace hearths. (Click on the diagram below for a closeup visual reference)

A diagram showing the four different fireplace hearth positions

  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!)

Masonry fireplace doors Factory built fireplace doors

Overlap 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.

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!

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 and electric fireplaces don’t need one but very often they are built with one anyway for aesthetics. Most homeowners would like their vented fireplace to look like a traditional one. In today’s modern age a fireplace typically isn’t necessary for cooking or keeping warm during cold months; it just feels good to cozy up in front of a warm fire with a mug of cocoa, even if you are in an area where there’s no such thing as winter.

Keep in mind that your wood-burning fireplace, however, definitely should have a hearth. A hearth helps protect your home from errant sparks that could turn an evening of roasting chestnuts into a traumatizing visit from the fire department. 

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.  This picturesque part of your home can be where you make memories either with the kids or entertaining co-workers and friends.

Please give us a call if you're interested in a fireplace or stove!

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Last updated on September 21st 2020.

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