A wood stove hearth is a non-combustible floor for the wood stove to sit on. The most common material is stone, such as granite and slate.
A wood stove hearth is a safe, fireproof base for the stove to sit on. In traditional homes, hearths were built into the house and made out of either brick or stone. If you are adding a stove to a modern home as we did, you will need to add a wood stove hearth before firing up your stove.
Is a Hearth Necessary for a Wood Stove?
Is a wood stove hearth really necessary? In short, yes. Aside from being a good idea to keep fire away from combustible surfaces, such as wood flooring and carpet, fire codes require a non-combustible hearth under all fireplaces and wood stoves. Not having a wood stove hearth may void your home insurance.
To find the size of hearth needed for your wood stove, look in the owner’s manual. Typically, a wood stove hearth should extend 8 inches from all sides of the stove, and 18 inches from any side with a door. The door side requires a bigger clearance to ensure that no hot coals or ashes drop onto the unprotected floor during cleaning and reloading.
It is important to note that for some stoves these clearances may be different. Always check the owner’s manual and consult a professional to ensure safe fires in your stove.
Wood Stove Hearth Styles
There are two main styles of wood stove hearths: raised hearths and flush hearths. Both are acceptable as far as fire safety goes, but installation looks a little different.
A raised hearth sits on top of the main floor. A raised hearth is the easiest to install after a house is finished. It does not require removing any existing flooring. Raised hearths usually sit anywhere from 1″-3″ (2.5-7.5cm) above the rest of the floor. Most manufactured hearths are designed to be used as raised hearths.
A flush hearth sits flush with the floor; it does not protrude up from it. If you are building a new home, it is easy to install a flush hearth when installing the rest of the flooring. Flush hearths have the advantage of making a more continuous, inviting living space. They also ward off toe-stubbing during cleaning and reloading the stove.
To install a flush hearth in a home that is already finished, the existing flooring needs to be removed down to the subfloor. Next, measure the difference between the floor and the subfloor. This is the height that your finished hearth should be. Make sure to finish the edge of the flooring you removed so it does not deteriorate over time.
What is the Best Material for a Wood Stove Hearth?
Regardless of the material, a wood stove hearth should be at least 3/8″ (8mm) thick and contiguous. Contiguous means that there are no gaps between materials. Loose bricks or tiles laid over the floor won’t cut it. Even a small crack might allow embers to ignite the floor under the hearth pad.
The solution to this is to place your hearth materials on a hearth pad. This can be a piece of sheet metal or concrete board placed under the bricks or tile. Any loose pieces such as individual stones, tiles, or bricks, should be stuck onto the contiguous surface to ensure they do not get dislodged while using the stove.
Stones such as soapstone, granite, marble, and slate all make excellent wood stove hearths. A stone wood stove hearth will vary in price depending on the stone selected. Before installing a stone hearth, research the type of stone you are considering. Some stones, such as limestone, are not suitable for wood stove hearths. Limestone will crack under extreme heat.
Concrete wood stove hearths are a great DIY option. They are durable, affordable, and can be customized with tile or brick. Concrete dye is also an option for making the hearth more decorative.
A drawback to a poured concrete hearth is that it cannot be moved. Rarely, if ever, will you want to move a woodstove once installed because this means moving the chimney as well. Regardless, a poured concrete hearth is very permanent.
Brick (or brick faces)
Brick is one of the most traditional materials for a hearth. A regular brick is over 3″ (7.6cm) thick, making it overkill for a hearth. If you want the look of a brick hearth, but don’t want the weight of full bricks, brick faces can also be used. A brick face is a little over 1/2″ (1.2cm) thick. These can be laid on the contiguous surface and mortared just like full bricks.
Purchased Wood Stove Hearths
If you plan to purchase a wood stove hearth, expect to spend anywhere from $400-$800+ depending on what you want. Wood stove hearths can be purchased online or through a local fireplace store. If you decide to purchase a manufactured hearth, double-check all measurements and clearances. If purchasing locally, a store representative may be willing to come to your home and recommend what size of hearth to purchase.
DIY Wood Stove Hearth Ideas
If purchasing a wood stove hearth is out of your budget, don’t despair! A DIY wood stove hearth can cost under $200 and is infinitely customizable. When we installed our woodstove, I didn’t realize DIY was an option. We went with a manufactured pad from a local retailer. There are many tutorials on making a DIY wood stove hearth pad. Here are some of my favorites:
Each of these goes in-depth about how to build a different style of hearth pad. If you are a DIY-er these methods could save you a lot of money.
Now that I’ve gone over different styles of wood stove hearths and how to safely install them, I would love to hear about YOU! If you already have one, please share about your wood stove hearth below in the comments. If you are in the market, what are you looking for in a hearth?
Also, you can check out my other posts about heating your home with a wood stove here:
Thanks for coming along on the journey,