How to Build a Hearth Base

Written by jonah morrissey
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How to Build a Hearth Base
Build a hearth base for your wood stove. (Hemera Technologies/ Images)

Hearths protect the floor beneath a wood stove. Hot sparks and embers from the stove can damage flooring and also pose as a potential fire hazard. The exposure to heat beneath wood stoves also necessitates a heat proof barrier between the stove and the flooring. A hearth consists of a plywood base that is covered by cement board. You can make the final layer of the hearth using tile, stone, brick or slate. Make your hearth base extend 8 inches past the sides and back of the wood stove and 16 to 18 inches past the loading door.

Skill level:

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Things you need

  • 3/4-inch plywood, 48-by-60-inch
  • 1/2-inch cement board, 48-by-60-inch
  • Box, drywall screws
  • Screw gun
  • Thinset cement
  • Notched trowel
  • Tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • Sponge
  • Water bucket
  • 4 wood trim boards, 96 inches long
  • Tape measure
  • Mitre saw
  • Hammer
  • Finish nails
  • Nail set
  • Wood putty
  • Putty knife
  • Fine-grit sandpaper
  • Wood finish
  • Paintbrush

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  1. 1

    Lay the plywood panel flat in the selected location for the hearth base. Orient the panel so that the 60-inch sides will correspond with the longest sides of the stove when it is placed on the hearth.

  2. 2

    Place the cement board flat on top of the plywood panel. Drive drywall screws through the cement board into the plywood panel every 4 to 6 inches around the sides and in rows throughout the rest of the board using a screw gun.

  3. 3

    Spread an even coat of thinset cement over the surface of the cement board with a notched trowel. Lay the tiles in rows across the entire surface. Insert spacers between the corners as you lay each tile down into the thinset cement. Allow the thinset cement to dry for 24 hours.

  4. 4

    Load grout onto the edge of a grout float and drag the float across the tile joints at a slight angle to fill each joint completely. Allow the grout to dry for approximately 15 to 20 minutes. A haze will begin to form over the tiles.

  5. 5

    Wash the tiled surface with a damp sponge. Rinse the sponge off in a bucket of water until it wrings out clear.

  6. 6

    Lay the trim boards on a work surface with the back sides facing up. Measure and mark two trim boards at 48 inches and the remaining two at 60 inches using a tape measure and pencil.

  7. 7

    Adjust the mitre saw to cut a 45-degree angle. Cut the trim boards to the marked lengths using a mitre saw. The outside face of the trim boards should have the long points and be longer than the marked measurements. The back side of the trim boards will be at the marked measurements. The boards will fit around the hearth base like a picture frame.

  8. 8

    Fit the boards around the hearth base. Hammer finish nails through the trim boards every 4 to 6 inches along the length of each board to secure it to the base. Set the nails approximately 1/16 inch below the surface of the wood with a nail set.

  9. 9

    Fill the nail holes with wood putty using a putty knife. Allow the wood putty to dry for 24 hours. Sand the putty flush with the surface of the wood in the same direction as the wood grain using a fine-grit sanding pad.

  10. 10

    Apply wood finish to the trim boards using a paintbrush. Allow the finish to dry for at least 4 hours and apply a second coat.

Tips and warnings

  • Select a natural, earth toned tile to accent your wood stove.
  • Wear eye protection when operating power tools to prevent potential eye injury.

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