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What Are the Pros and Cons of a Concrete Hearth?

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  • Written By: Dan Cavallari
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 13 July 2014
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When building or installing a hearth, one of the most common materials to use is concrete. A concrete hearth is generally easy to make, can be molded to fit a variety of shapes, and is non-combustible so stray sparks or embers will not cause damage to the hearth or home around it. While a concrete hearth certainly is not the most attractive option for hearth materials, it is easily covered with other materials such as tile or slate to give it a classier, more beautiful look and feel. Since concrete can be molded to different shapes and sizes, it is the most adaptable material for building a hearth.

One downside to the concrete hearth is the look and feel of it. Bare concrete is not attractive by any means, and while it works well as a non-combustible material for a fireplace, it can negatively affect the tone of a room. The concrete hearth must therefore be covered with another material, which adds cost and time to a concrete hearth project. The upside to such a project is that the homeowner will be left with a strong, safe hearth that takes on the look of whatever non-combustible material is covering the concrete. Slate, stone, brick, and ceramic can be used to cover a concrete hearth, or the concrete can simply be painted.

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Building a concrete hearth as opposed to using stone or brick is a good choice because concrete is relatively cheap compared to other materials. If the hearth being built is a raised hearth — that is, the hearth is not flush with the floor but is instead raised off the floor. Concrete can be easily mixed and poured to accommodate the height without adding a lot in the way of cost. Most hearths in modern homes have concrete at their bases. Other materials are simply built on top of the concrete.

Another advantage to concrete hearths is the time investment in making one. Making a mold, mixing the concrete, allowing it to sit, painting or sealing it, and putting it in place takes only a few hours — a day or two to let the concrete properly set, but in terms of hours worked, only a few hours are needed. A small slab can be poured in a few hours, and moved inside the house the next day after it has set. Smaller concrete slabs are also movable, but they are extremely heavy, so moving them is not always a feasible option.

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Discuss this Article

BoniJ
Post 4

Using concrete and a frame sounds like a really good way to construct a hearth. It's strong and is fairly easy to put together. After it's in place, all you have to do is use your imagination and put any nonflammable material on it or create an unusual design.

We lived in a house for a while that had a brick hearth. I never thought that it was especially attractive.

I can't imagine any one using a material that was flammable to make a hearth because sparks do fly out of the fireplace opening. Concrete is the best.

truman12
Post 3

One really nice thing about concrete hearths is that it allows builders to experiment with all kinds of fireplace designs. If you are using a building material like stone your design is often bound to the size and shape of the stones you have available. Its pretty limiting.

I have a good friend that has a concrete fireplace that is kind of shaped like a smirking mouth. It is short on one side but taller on the other. He was able to do this striking project pretty easily using concrete but it would have been a much harder job requiring a lot more expertise if he had used stone or brick.

nextcorrea
Post 2

I have a good friend that built his own hearth out of concrete. But the concrete was only the beginning. He went on to build a mosaic in the concrete that is really impressive.

The mosaic is made out of brick fragments and other heat resistant materials that can withstand the extremes of the fire. It is really striking to look at, a conversation starter if there ever was one. But what is so cool about it is that the fireplace is impressive to look at even when there is no fire. Most unused fireplaces are just an empty looking eyesore, this one is a work of art.

myharley
Post 1

We have a concrete fireplace hearth that is covered with slate to give it a smoother finish that looks a lot nicer.

When we built our house, my husband did much of the work himself, and knew that concrete would be cheaper and would hold up well.

I love having a large hearth as you can sit down next to the fire if you really want to get warmed up quickly.

It is also very safe because there are many times when sparks will land on the hearth, and you don't have to worry about them starting a fire.

If these were to land on carpet or on some fabric like a chair or sofa, this could be easily start a fire. When the sparks fall on the concrete hearth, I know they will quickly die out without spreading anywhere else.

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