When you hear someone use the term hearth, it generally is being used to refer to the masonry work that covers the floor and chamber inside and around a fireplace or wood burning stove. This masonry construction is designed to allow for ashes, embers, and flaming piece of wood that may fall or rollout of the fireplace or stove to fall on stone rather than on flammable materials such as wood or carpet. The word hearth may also, in many contexts, indicate the fireplace as a whole and abstractly has come to represent the warmth and safety of a family unit. There are many different types and styles for hearths but they all help our family stay safe and warm while enjoying a roaring fire in the chilly fall and winter months.
Hearths are generally constructed from stone, brick, cement, or tile. “Hearth materials may come in a variety of colors and styles. Rustic-looking fireplaces may use hewn rock. Contemporary fireplace design may incorporate limestone, marble, sandstone, or even synthetic composite products. Each has a different level of heat resistance, and some materials are better than others, depending on the intended use of a fireplace or wood-burning stove” (WiseGeek). However, here at Wharfe Valley Hearths, we were the first UK company to think outside the box. That’s when we started to sell Glass Hearths for stoves
It may cover part or all of the wall around a fireplace, as well as the floor in front of it. Many hearth designs also feature a mantle above the fireplace which traditionally is used to display photos and other décor ad to hand stocking on at Christmas time. For wood stoves, the hearth may be simple tile, stone, or ceramic slab that the stove sits on. The slab will extend for a few inches around all sides of the stove to catch falling ashes and embers.
Traditionally, hearths came to be because any people did their cooking on and around the fireplace and needed a flat safe place to put pots and pans without catching the floor on fire. Also, many buildings and homes were once heated with wood stoves and fireplaces and hearths allowed for the heat to be held in the room and also gave families a place to site close to the warmth without the risk of being burned. Everyone from the rich to the poor had hearths if they had fireplaces or stoves but naturally the more well-off a family was the nicer their fireplace and hearth would be so for some a nice hearth was a sign of social status as well as a practical way to stay warm and a place to prepare food.
Hearths come in many shapes and sizes, and are made using a variety of building materials. Larger ones are often found in larger homes with large living rooms in order to give more area for the family to gather around the fireplace. Hearths today are often considered to be a key interior design element for a room, especially up north where fireplaces are common. The visual impact that a fireplace and tile or stone hearth can give is a popular design choice in modern designs and constructions, making them a popular option that more and more homeowners are including in their home’s design and décor.
Winter is upon us and while this is the most joyous time for many families, there is a hidden risk that comes with the cooler temperatures and snow fall. A roaring fire on the hearth and the beauty of the fireplace make this season extra special. But before enjoying your fireplace this winter it is important to make sure that all components, including the hearth, mantle, and chimney are all inspected and ready to go.
Hearth Cleaning and Inspection
The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA) recommends getting your chimney cleaned and inspected annually before the active burning season sets in. There are several hazards that can turn the enjoyable fireplace and hearth into a health and safety hazard for you and your family and your pets. The most dangerous involve the buildup of soot, creosote, and glaze, all of which can pose a serious fire risk and also can poison the air of your home if not properly removed and cleaned out.
Soot is the well-known byproduct of chimney fires and is composed of a black flaky or powdery substance. It is created by the incomplete burning of logs and is made up mostly of amorphous carbon and a small amount of actual ash. The less ash present in the mix, the more dangerous soot is. This is because the carbon is very flammable and can catch fire up in the chimney if burning embers from the fire are carried up and ignite on the soot.
Creosote is another common substance that can accumulate in the chimney and fireplace and create a fire hazard. Creosote is smoke and vapor residue that is left over from wood that is not burned completely. A highly flammable material, creosote may look like soot at first but it is a harder deposit of dark flaky material in your chimney liner.
Glaze is another major fire and safety hazard in the fireplace and takes on the form of shiny, tar-like substance which creates black puddles in your chimney. Glaze is more difficult to clean and remove because it is thick and sticky and it’s a more dangerous fire hazard due to the fact that there is more of it in a small area. Glaze has also been known to create icicle-like deposits that can form over the fireplace or along the inside walls of the chimney.
A final fire risk that needs to be checked is for any problems with the fuel line if you use a gas fireplace. The most common issue with the fuel line is cracks or breaks in the line which can cause gas to leak into the home and cause a major fire hazard. A fuel lining crack should be repaired before using the fireplace.
Other Fire Prevention Tips
Make sure there are smoke alarms on every level of your home and that they are checked monthly and the batteries changes as needed.
Get a carbon dioxide alarms to alert your family to the risk of cab on monoxide poisoning which is a critical precautionary step, since the deadly gas has no smell.
Dispose of ashes carefully and ensure they are properly cooled so as to not start a fire by dumping hot ashes inappropriately.
Burn only seasoned firewood or logs in your stove because the less moisture your firewood contains, the less soot and creosote buildup there will be.
Do not forget about cleaning and taking care of the hearth as it is an important part of your fire place safety set up and help keep your home safe from fire risks.