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A hearth is the raised structure on which a stove or fireplace will sit, and several designs exist for the structure depending on the stove or fireplace being placed upon it, available materials, and the aesthetic of the room in which the stove and hearth will sit. When choosing hearth designs, it is important to consider the look of the house, the space in which the hearth will be built, the materials beneath the hearth and the combustibility of those materials. Hearth designs often take into account both safety and usability, so it is important to choose hearth designs that will account for the carpets, flooring, and furniture around it.
Hearth designs depend largely on the size of the stove being placed upon it, as well as how much space the hearth will use. Larger stoves will often need a larger hearth, which could be a problem in a small to medium-sized room. Since stoves often spill ashes or embers when the door to the stove is open, the hearth designs must use non-combustible materials that can handle the hot materials. This non-combustible material will have to run over the entire surface of the hearth, which must in turn be large enough to be able to catch any stray embers that escape the stove. Again, the larger the stove, the larger the hearth must be. The stove being purchased often has a manual with size requirements written inside it.
Some hearth designs are made to have the hearth itself raised above the floor, while others are built right into the floor. Raised hearths are much easier to build or install, while hearths built into the floor offer a fine aesthetic and a permanent structure for the stove. When choosing hearth designs, one of the primary considerations is what kind of hearth works best in the room the stove will be in, as well as how permanent of a structure the homeowner is comfortable building. Since most hearth construction requires some sort of insulation beneath the hearth to prevent combustibility, a raised hearth is a good choice for the homeowner on a budget and with limited carpentry experience.
Hearths may also be movable. Such portable hearths must meet the same safety and combustibility requirements as more permanent structures, but they can be moved if the stove or the dwelling is a temporary situation for the homeowner. Most portable pads can be simply placed and used, but some may require the removal of carpet or other materials beneath the surface of the portable hearth.
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