"Hearth" has long referred to the part of a fireplace where the blaze was kept going for heating and cooking. More recently, the word has come to describe the horizontal and vertical spaces extending from the front of the firebox. Standard hearths are usually a few inches lower than the bottom of the firebox and extend 1 foot to 18 inches outward. Raised hearths are set level with, or slightly below, the firebox and have vertical surfaces below them to create height. Because this area gets hot, stone is a favoured material.
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Flat, consistently thick stones made mostly of sandstone create functional hearths at moderate cost. Use flagstone for the horizontal surface by fitting the irregular shapes together like a puzzle. Lay the same material flat against the vertical space below a raised hearth. Alternatively, you can stack flagstone for this area. Choose stones that are at least 2 inches thick.
Use a slab of cut stone for the horizontal portion of a raised hearth. Apply river rock to the vertical portion below. Use small river rocks for fireplace inserts and small fireplaces and progressively larger river rock for fireplaces of increasing size. For river rock with mainly shades of grey and black, use a stone slab of grey granite, clear marble, or white limestone. Use black granite or marble with pink or red swirls above river rock that has red.
This stone comes in many hues and tones, and some is multicoloured. Stick with a single colour for small spaces inside the fireplace. Use the ledge stone on the vertical space of a raised hearth and cap it with a slab of granite, marble, limestone, or colour-matched flagstone in a formal pattern.
Slate comes in tiles and is also available in-the-rough, much like flagstone. Slate tiles come in a wide range of colours, so you have the opportunity to create subtle designs. Match the grey streak that ends on one side of a tile with a grey streak of another. These tiles provide a finished, regular, and modern look for an entire raised hearth or standard hearth. Another idea is to use the slate for all of a raised hearth's vertical surfaces and then use a complimentary stone slab for the horizontal surface.
This white, crystalline stone often comes with veins and swirls of rust and yellows. Use pieces that are consistently thick for the horizontal portion of the hearth, laying them flat. Stack pieces that are at least 3 inches thick to form the vertical surface of a raised hearth.
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