In the days before centralized heating became common in homes, the fireplace hearth was the center of the home, the place where the family would gather on cold winter nights to read, share stories about the day’s happenings or simply enjoy the warmth of the fire.
Although by strict definition the hearth refers to the floor of the fireplace, which extends into the room, the word also now means family life or home life.
The fireplace hearth is usually paved with non-combustible materials such as cement, brick and flagstone although tiles can also be used. If you’re into do-it-yourself projects you can decorate this part of your fireplace to give it a warmer, homier look.
If you want to build your own fireplace hearth, you first need to construct a platform using either plywood or medium-density fiberboard (MDF).
Once you’ve created the platform, you need to place non-flammable material on top of it, which can be cement, granite, plaster or even slate; tiles are also an option.
Two classic choices, however, are bricks and stone. Using these materials requires the construction of a wood frame for the bricks or stone. Place the bricks or stone inside the frame to ensure they fit and to gauge the pattern you have designed.
You may have to reshape some of the stones to fit the pattern you’ve chosen. You can also consider taking a photograph of the pattern you’ve created to ensure that you can recreate it later.
Once you’ve created and finalized the pattern, remove the stone or bricks and mix the mortar. Towel the mortar into the frame; make sure that it is level and at a depth that will receive the brick or stones at a height that is flush with the inner hearth. Once you’ve placed the stones or brick, towel mortar between them.
If you don’t want to go to all that trouble, then you can simply buy a fireplace hearth pad, which will protect your floor from embers and burning sparks if you have a wood-burning fireplace.
These pads come in conventional shapes that lie against the length of the hearth or decorative shapes ranging from teardrops to octagons, and are made of materials ranging from granite or slate.