A hearth is defined as brick or stone-lined fireplace used for heating. It’s an essential part of many types of fireplaces as it protects your home from potential fire risks.

The fireplace hearth is located at the base on which the fire is built – or where the fireplace insert is placed. This insert could burn wood, or be a gas fire with or without a vent system.

A hearth’s extension provides a suitable flat area for a fireguard to be placed in order to protect fireplace users and the room – preventing ash or burning embers from spitting out onto the floor.

Want answers to frequently asked questions? Read on…

What Common Materials Are Used as Hearths?

Fireplace hearth materials include:

  • Brick
  • Ceramic and quarry tiles
  • Concrete
  • Granite
  • Marble
  • Slate
  • Stone

These materials are all suitable for fireplace hearths as they are:

  • Fire-resistant
  • Non-combustible
  • Able to withstand high temperatures
  • Hardwearing and durable

What are the Guidelines for Hearths and Extensions?

The size of fireplace hearth as detailed in the building regulations section of the International Association of Home Inspectors states that each location has different local building codes and controls.

Size regulations: UK define recommendations of at least 150mm to the side of the firebed for hearth extensions, and at least 300mm outward into the room for an open appliance. For closed appliances, this measurement of 300mm can be reduced to 225mm. if the fireplace is open the hearth must project at least 500mm out into the room.

International fireplace hearth requirements require that the thickness of the hearth should be at least 102mm for any size fireplace opening. In the UK building regulations state that hearths must be at least 12mm thick for temperatures reaching less than 100 degrees Celsius, and for over 100 degrees Celsius this is extended to 125mm thick for a gapped hearth, and at least 250mm thick if the location is on a combustible floor.

An exception to the rules is cool hearth rated appliances which cover modern stoves that don’t exceed 100 degrees Celsius at the base – these are suitable for superimposed hearths that are made from glass or slate for their protective and decorative qualities.

Bear in mind that freestanding contemporary convection stoves can be positioned anywhere in the room but still require a hearth. The regulation here is that the hearth must measure at least 840mm x 840mm.

Fire hearth surround

How Do You Remove a Fireplace Hearth?

How to remove fireplace hearth begins by removing the fire hearth surround. The tools you’ll need to carry out the work include:

  • Bolster chisel
  • Club hammer
  • Wooden wedges
  • Screwdriver
  • Penetrating oil

The majority of surrounds are held in place by metal lugs located around the edge – and covered with plaster. Chipping away at the plaster around the entire surround will reveal the lugs and allow you to remove the screws that hold it to the wall. Positioning a length of wood against the surround will prevent it from falling when you remove the final screw.

If the screws are rusted soaking them in penetrating oil will help to loosen them. If this doesn’t work you may have to drill out the screw heads.

Brick and stone surrounds will need to be removed with a bolster chisel and hammer a piece at a time. Work from the back of the bricks to break the wall bonding. Metal ties may have been used to hold the structure together so these will need to be cut away, or loosened to be able to pull them out.

The bolster chisel and hammer can then be used to break the bond between the material hearth and the constructional hearth which will be flush with the floor. As soon as you see a crack forming along the bottom edge, you’ll be able to knock in wooden wedges to lever it up.

Often the hearth will come away in a single piece letting you lift it out of the way. If it breaks up you’ll simply have to remove it in stages. If the hearth is constructed from layers of tiles, just lever them up and remove.

If you don’t have the right tools or skills for the job why not consider calling in the professionals? Trusted and experienced fireplace installation experts will provide you with all the help and advice you need.