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What Is A Fireplace Hearth?

By Lawrence Macmillan August 15, 2021

The fireplace hearth is often known as the heart of the home, but what exactly is it? Fireplaces have many different components, all of which are essential in helping them to work effectively and run safely. 

However, unless you are clued-up on all things fireplace-related, then you may not know what on earth most of the components of a fireplace are. One of the elements of the fireplace that often evades people is the hearth. We all hear it mentioned, but do we know what it means? 

In this article, we are going to be looking at the fireplace hearth, exploring what it is and what it does, as well as giving you specifications of how tall and wide it should be. Think of this as your foolproof guide to fireplace hearths. 

What is a fireplace hearth? 

In its most simplistic terms, the hearth of a fireplace is the area at the very base of the fireplace. It is the space on which the fire is built, or, if you have a fireplace insert or even a stove, it is where this is placed. 

The hearth is a kind of safety feature, at least in some senses. The reason for this is because it is made from a fireproof material that will not combust when subjected to what and flames. 

Generally, the hearth of a fireplace is within the room, as well as around the fireplace. What we mean by this is that it extends out from the fireplace, into the room, and on either side of the fire, stove, or installed fireplace. This is simply called the hearth extension. 

These days, it is common for hearths to be used for decoration, or as a way of heating a room. However, the latter is less common these days. Since the introduction of modern heating systems, many fireplaces have gone unused. 

People no longer need these fireplaces to heat water or generate heat. Instead, we have radiators, boilers, and kettles! As such, it is common to see them being used for decorative purposes only. 

Traditionally, they were also used for cooking as well as heating the home. This was the main place in a home where food and water were heated. Tea and coffee would be made on the hearth, as would hot water for bathing! 

As we mentioned, they are often used for decoration, especially in more recent years. Typically you can expect to find unsightly or dirty fireplace installations removed, and the whole fireplace opened and cleaned. 

Many people will then put decorative candles, ornaments, or lights inside there. You just need to make sure that the chimney and flues are regularly maintained as well as adequately vented. The chimney pot will also need to be capped for you to safely use it for decoration when it is not being used for its purpose. 

What is the purpose of a fireplace hearth?

What is the purpose of a fireplace hearth?

First and foremost, the purpose of the fireplace hearth is that of safety. It is made from materials that are non-combustible, meaning they are heat and fireproof. This ensures the fire is not able to spread outside of the fireplace, keeping your home and people in it safe. 

Without the hearth, the open flames from within your fireplace would be able to spread. Hearths must be made from non-combustible materials because otherwise they would crack from the heat and let the flames spread. 

The hearth extension that we mentioned in the previous section is also very important in the fireplace. The hearth extension is where hot embers, ash, and other debris are caught. The extension should also be flame and heat-resistant to ensure a fire cannot start and spread. 

It is very important that you ensure there is an adequate hearth around your fireplace. Without this, your fireplace will not be fit for use as it is likely to be unsafe. It could pose a risk to your home, your family, and even neighbors if the whole house was to catch fire. 

It is less of a concern if you have decided not to use your fireplace, of course, but many people still choose to keep the earth or add a new one for its decorative value. 

Can a hearth be flush with the floor?

Typically, a hearth should not be flush with a floor, especially if the fireplace in question is intended to be sued. You should follow the very specific fire safety regulations in your town, city, or state. You can contact the relevant governing body where you live for more information about this. 

Of course, it may depend on where in the world you are, but most regulations will state that the hearth needs to be at least a little distance off the floor. This is usually only given in millimeters, proving that it is a short width. 

However, many people manage to get around this, especially if the fireplace is not intended for use but as decoration instead. Please follow the regulations in place for your particular state or city and practice fire safety at all times! 

What is the minimum depth of a fireplace hearth?

The minimum depth of a fireplace could very much depend on the state or city you live in. However, it is important to note that there will be a recommended minimum! 

These measurements and regulations are in place for your safety so please ensure that you follow them. This will help stop a fire from occurring, and will contain the fire inside the hearth, where it should be! 

As we have mentioned, the exact minimum may differ, and may well vary depending on building regulations that are in place where you are installing the fireplace hearth. However, there are indeed rules governing how exactly your hearth should be. 

You can usually expect these regulations to dictate that the minimum depth of your fireplace hearth should be around 12 inches in front of your fireplace and around 6 inches to either side of your fireplace.


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