Guide to Buying the Right Hearth for Your Fireplace
Hearths have been at the heart of our homes for thousands of years. The place where your fire will sit, it offers warmth and safe place to cosy up around.
So, it makes sense that when you buy a fireplace, purchasing the right hearth is essential. Not only are there a few important safety regulations you have to take into consideration, but you want to find one that looks good, too.
If you aren’t sure where to start when buying your hearth for a new fireplace, read our guide below for some advice on what you need to look out for and what the best hearth materials are...
What is the fire’s hearth?
Clearing up the basics first, the hearth is, quite simply, the floor of a fireplace. In a traditional fireplace, the fire basket would be placed on top of the hearth below the chimney opening. They usually extend out into the room slightly and are made out of some sort of stone or brick.
Why do you need a fireplace hearth?
The main purpose of the fireplace hearth is for safety. Obviously, open flames can be a hazard when around combustible materials, so a fire must be placed upon a fire resistant surface that wont crack.
The part of the hearth that extends outwards serves a purpose, too. Known as the ‘hearth extension’, this is put in place to catch any embers, ash or other combustible materials that might catch fire.
Fireplace hearths also serve a decorative function, making your fireplace look complete, and ensure a safe distance is kept from any hot materials that could cause burns.
Solid Fuel Burning Fireplace Hearths
For solid fuel burning fireplaces, a hearth is essential for safety. If you are fitting one into your home, there are a few regulations you must follow make sure you follow to ensure you are protected from fire hazards.
What size fireplace hearth do you need?
The size hearth you need depends on the size of your fireplace:
- If your fireplace opening is less than 6 sq ft, your hearth should extend 16 inches in front of your fireplace and 8 inches to the sides
- For fireplaces openings that are larger than 6 sq ft, your hearth needs to extend 20 inches to the front and 12 inches to the sides
The thickness of your hearth also needs to be appropriate. This takes the amount of heat your fireplace generates into consideration. If, following testing, this is less than 100°C, then a 12mm thick hearth is fine.
For fireplaces hotter than 100°C, the following is required:
- If your fireplace is sitting on a combustible floor surface, such as wood, you should have a 250mm thick hearth
- For fireplaces sitting on a non-combustible floor surface, such as concrete, the thickness of your floor and hearth combined needs to be at least 250mm thick
At Direct Fireplaces, we stock fireplace hearths in a wide variety of sizes, so you are sure to find one that works for your home.
Do Gas and Electric Fireplaces Need a Hearth?
While glass front gas fires do still require a hearth, electric fireplaces do not have as many requirements. In fact, most electric fires don’t require a hearth at all!
Nevertheless, hearths remain popular even when they are not strictly necessary. You might want one to serve as a safety measure that puts some distance in front of hot glass or metal. Alternatively, you may want one to give your fireplace the traditional look that a hearth can create. For many of us, a fireplace just isn’t a fireplace without a hearth!
What is the Best Fire Hearth Material?
The material hearth you need depends on the type of fire you have. Again, solid fuel burning fireplaces have more specific needs than gas and electric. This is because they give off harsher heat that can cause less hardy materials to crack.
Find out more about them below…
Granite is the best fireplace hearth material for solid fuel burning fires. However, to withstand the heat, you need to get one that has been ‘slabbed’. This means that it has been cut into pieces and mounted in concrete to give it space to expand as it heats up.
Ideal if you love the bold and modern look of a black hearth, granite hearths can also work well with period or Victorian style fireplaces.
Slate looks lovely with gas and electric fires, plus can even be used for solid fuel burning fires. If you would rather a black hearth than a light colour, slate is a good alternative to granite. You can keep it in its natural deep matte grey tone, or polish it up for a glossy jet black finish.
Micro Marble Hearths
Micro marble hearths, including perla stone, are suitable for use with certain gas fires and all electric fires. If you aren't familiar with it, micro marble is a man-made stone created from crushed marble mixed with resin. This creates a very strong and heat resistant material that has a similar appearance to marble, but much easier to clean. However, be aware that these can't be used with solid fuel or high efficiency gas fires.
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