How to build a wood stove hearth pad

Written by david thompson
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How to build a wood stove hearth pad
Choose a decorative tile colour or pattern for your hearth pad to complement the room's decor. (Tile wall image by Pontus Edenberg from

A hearth pad under a wood stove prevents fires or damage caused by the heat of the stove itself or by burning embers that drop when you have the stove door open. A wood stove hearth pad can be more than just a safety shield, though. A tile hearth pad adds a decorative flair that can be colour-coordinated with the surroundings. A heart pad beneath a wood stove also makes spilt ashes and dirt from firewood easier to clean up. Build your own hearth pad using ceramic tiles in the colour and pattern you want.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • Measuring tape
  • Carpenter's square
  • Utility knife
  • Tacks
  • Hammer
  • 1/2-inch-thick cement backer board
  • 2-inch galvanised nails
  • Thinset adhesive
  • Trowel
  • Tiles
  • Grout
  • Sponge
  • Coarse rag

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  1. 1

    Check the building codes in your area to see what the requirements are for wood stove installation. The codes may specify required size, thickness or materials of the hearth pad, depending on the construction of the stove and the lengths of its legs. Follow the minimum requirements.

  2. 2

    Mark a rectangle on the floor with masking tape, using a tape measure and carpenter's square. Unless the building codes require a larger size, make it a minimum of 12 inches larger than the stove on the sides and back, and 18 inches beyond the front. To avoid cutting tiles, choose a size that's an even multiple of the tiles you'll be installing, allowing spacing for grout between them.

  3. 3

    Cut through wall-to-wall carpet, if there is any, 1 inch inside the marked rectangle, using a utility knife. Remove the rectangle of carpet. Pull up the edges of the remaining carpet a few inches and cut away the underlying pad for 2 inches. Tuck under 1 inch of carpet and tack it back in place to create a finished edge around the rectangle.

  4. 4

    Mark the size of the rectangle on a piece of 1/2-inch-thick cement backer board. Cut it to size by scoring it with a utility knife and snapping it, or by using a circular saw. Lay it on the floor and nail it to the wooden floor or subfloor along the joists with 2-inch galvanised nails.

  5. 5

    Mark lines about every 2 feet on the cement backer board, running parallel to the edges in both directions, using a tape measure and square.

  6. 6

    Spread thinset adhesive on the backer board with a trowel, covering one of the sections marked off by the grid. Lay tiles, pressing and seating them firmly into the adhesive, keeping them aligned with the marks so they'll be square. Leave a small gap between them to add grout later.

  7. 7

    Tile the other sections the same way until you've covered the board. Let the adhesive or mortar dry.

  8. 8

    Spread grout over the tiles with a sponge, wiping across the seams so the cracks become filled with grout. As soon as the grout becomes firm, wipe off most of it from the surface of the tile with a damp sponge. Polish off the remaining haze with a coarse rag.

Tips and warnings

  • If building codes call for a thicker hearth pad, use one or two layers of fireproof brick or hollow block to increase the thickness, depending on what's allowed by the code.
  • Make sure the floor beneath the stove is strong enough to support the weight of both the stove and the hearth pad.

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