Any decision in choosing a hearth base for a fire must take into account the appropriate material for the purpose and the type of heating appliance that will stand on the hearth. The main consideration, apart from the design and colour, is to make sure the hearth is made of non-combustible and fire-proof material. The size of the hearth is also of great importance to ensure it is not too short a base, especially for using with a coal fire where there is the possibility of a piece of coal falling on to the surface beneath it.
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Particularly suitable for electric and gas fires, granite is a strong durable material with a shiny, dark polished surface that will enhance the look of a fire and surround. According to Creative Fireplaces, granite is much stronger than marble and is popular as a hearth for wood burning stoves and inglenook fireplaces. For use with a solid fuel fire, the granite slabs are often cut and joined with a concrete fill to avoid any cracking from intense heat.
Tiling is a popular material for a hearth base and many of the tiles come highly glazed and available in a variety of colours and designs. The plainer types of quarry tiles are hard wearing and robust, although colours may be more restricted. Fireplace Hearths suggests that quarry tiles are particularly good for hearths as they are long-lasting and not at all porous, making them suitable as a base for all types of fires.
Although limestone is a popular material for fireplaces and hearths, it is very porous and may need a special cement base to protect it from the extreme temperatures of some types of fires such as solid fuel. According to the building regulations provided by Chesneys, a hearth base should be perfectly level along the length and width and parallel to the chimney breast. A limestone hearth needs to be “set on quick setting cement based tiling adhesive.”
A long-lasting material, natural slate is a solid choice for making a hearth base as it has low water absorption and is resistant to acid and alkali, according to Welsh slate company, Grey Slate and Stone. It is highly suitable as a base for most types of fires, as it is naturally fire-resistant and can easily be cut to fit the required area. However, if using with solid fuel fires, it is advisable to fit the slate in sections to avoid cracking.
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