26 October 2023

Why are Fireplaces and Hearths so Important?

So you are in the market for a new fireplace, but too often we forget the importance of a good hearth and what it is that they actually do.

What is a hearth and why are they important?

Hearths are an important feature in any home with a fireplace but also have a historical significance dating back hundreds of years. A fireplace hearth is the floor or ledge on your fireplace that extends into the room as well as the wall around the fireplace.

Hearths essentially were created to serve a purpose rather than strictly as decoration. They make the fireplace area a safe space and also prevent fire hazards. They extend into the floor space and effectively prevent burning embers or logs from falling onto the floor and potentially burning your carpets and floor coverings.

Let’s explore their importance below;

Aesthetic appeal

As well as serving a practical function, a fireplace hearth can be an effective way to add some creative flair to a room. Hearths made from high-quality and visually striking materials, such as marble, limestone, or sintered stone can be a striking design feature, bringing elegance to a space and elevating your fireplace.

A well-chosen hearth will make your fireplace the focal feature of your room, giving a cosy and homely feel.

Functional benefits

In practical terms, a fireplace hearth will protect your home from fire hazards caused by heat, as well as embers and ash if you have a real fire. They’re made from hard, non-flammable materials such as stone, brick, or ceramic.

They offer a fire-proof shield, catching any heat or hot materials before they reach your floor or furniture.

Cultural and symbolic importance

Hearths have been a feature of homes in Britain for hundreds of years, with the use of fire indoors for heating and cooking purposes dating back thousands of years, to early humans and the discovery of how to make fire.

Fireplaces, and the hearths that came with them, occupy a huge historical significance and were seen as the heart of the home. The first use of fireplace hearths as we know them today dates to the 12th century, when large hall houses of the time would have a large fireplace in one room which would heat the focal point of the house.

Over the next 300 years or so, hearth fireplaces became more widely implemented into an increasing number of homes and were at their peak around the early 20th century, prior to the introduction of more modern cooking and heating methods.

Modern hearths feature materials such as fireplace hearth tiles, and stone fireplace hearths are common, including granite fireplace hearths.

Wondering how to maintain your fireplace?

Fireplaces, particularly ones that burn wood or other fuels, will require regular maintenance for safety and usability reasons. There are a few key steps you should take to keep your fireplace safe and functional –

  • Cleaning – Make sure your fireplace is regularly cleaned of ash and other leftover materials. Debris can obstruct the burning of the next fire, as well as being unsightly and potentially finding its way around the rest of your home.

 

  • Carbon monoxide and smoke alarms – Fires pose a number of potential risks, and having early warning systems such as carbon monoxide and smoke detectors installed can give you warning to address the issues or evacuate as soon as they occur.

 

  • Chimney maintenance – Burning fuels such as wood releases soot and creosote, which can build up in your chimney and on the back wall of your fireplace, and, over time, pose a serious fire hazard in of themselves. Making sure your chimney is regularly cleaned and inspected is crucial to making sure your fireplace doesn’t become its own hazard.

 

  • Use the right fuel – Make sure you use the right fuel for your fireplace, not just in terms of whether you use coal or wood, but, for example, using the right kind of wood. Softer woods such as pine will burn more quickly and produce more creosote than harder, seasoned woods.

Most common FAQs on fireplace hearths

  • What part is the hearth on a fireplace?

You’re looking to update your fireplace, you’re shopping around to find just the right setup for your home, including all the various parts, and you come to the hearth – but what is the hearth of a fireplace? Well, the hearth is the large section of non-flammable material that adorns the floor in front of your fireplace to protect it from heat and any material that falls from the fire.

  • What is considered the hearth?

The hearth of the fireplace is considered traditionally one of the most important parts of the home. In practical terms it is a piece of non-combustible stone or section of brickwork or tiling designed to prevent heat or loose materials from the fire causing damage to your floor or starting a fire.

  • Does a fireplace need a hearth?

The answer to this question, rather frustratingly, is that it depends. Some fires don’t require hearths by law and some do, depending on how much heat they’ll likely transmit to their surroundings. For an open fire, regulations dictate that the hearth should reach at least 500mm in front and 150mm either side of the fireplace, to prevent heat and debris from reaching your flooring. Before installing any new fireplace or stove, you should be sure to consult the specific guidance for your setup. Even for those who don’t strictly require a hearth, the inclusion of one can add a touch of elegance to your interior design, so may be worth considering anyway.

  • What is the fireplace hearth a piece of?

Another question we come across often is what is a fireplace hearth made of? Hearths can be made of a variety of materials, including traditional solid stones or heat resistant tiles and bricks. The choice is yours, and you can choose a hearth that suits your interior design vision.

 

Do you need a fireplace hearth?

If you’re looking for a fireplace hearth with a touch of elegance, Impala Stone can help. We stock a range of high-quality hearth materials including granite, limestone, and marble, all of which can be tailor-cut to suit your specific needs.

You can contact us now using our online form, call us on 01332 824 200, or email us at sales@impalastone.com