A hearth at its most simple is the floor slab upon which a fire is built. All open fires, whether they burn solid fuel or gas, require a hearth. Hearth material used for a solid-fuel fire may not be suitable for a gas fire. Many homes in Britain that were built before the 1960s and the widespread use of natural gas for domestic heating will have a hearth.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Challenging
Things you need
- Three concrete slabs
- Quarry tiles
- Tile adhesive and grout
Choose between a freestanding hearth and one in a wall recess. A recess hearth is best for fire safety reasons.
Check local and national building regulations about hearth dimensions. The constructional hearth is a fireproof base for the fireplace. According to British regulations, it must fill the entire recess and extend 500 mm in front of the naked flame, 150 mm each side of the opening and be a minimum of 125 mm thick.
Draw a scaled plan of the hearth. Ask local stonemason or building materials supplier to cut three equally sized concrete base slabs to the hearth’s dimensions. Building the hearth in separate but equal parts reduces the risk of fracture or thermal shock to the base.
Make a bed for the slabs in the recess by mixing 4 parts sand and 1 part cement with water. Place the slabs on the bed so the weight spreads evenly across the hearth area. Use a trowel to grout any spaces between the slabs and the slabs and the house wall with the same cement mixture. Allow to dry.
Decorate the slab by arranging the quarry tiles over it in a desired pattern. Leave 1/16 inch between the tiles for grouting. Fix tile adhesive to the tile bases and allow to dry for 24 hours. Grout with a non-combustible grout mixture between the tiles.
Tips and warnings
- Choose a fire surround before measuring the dimensions of the hearth as the surround will affect the hearth’s width.
- Ensure the slabs are of a uniform thickness to avoid any pressure points on the floor below them.
- Avoid using marble or natural stone tiles as decoration within the recess. These can explode when heated by the fire.
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