When considering our fireplace, we often forget about the hearth: the floor or ledge of the fireplace that extends into the room.
When your fireplace is active, the hearth allows embers, ashes, and Hearth-Rebuild-2logs to fall without damaging your floor or creating a fire hazard. The hearth also creates a clearance so you know how far you should stand away from the firebox and where to place furniture or decoration.
Today the hearth’s foundation is made of concrete and steel supports. But older homes are vulnerable because structures were made of wood, which is combustible. We may not think about it since various materials already lay upon the foundation, but it’s still a critical fact to take into consideration. Over time, even the strongest and most durable fireplaces will decompose, leaving the foundation exposed through cracks or broken material. The danger arises when your fireplace is in use, where embers fall through the cracks and come in contact with the wooden structure. Because the structure extends into your basement/ walls, this could cause a house fire that may not be detected until it’s too late. The first photo shows the wooden structure found underneath the hearth in an older home we worked on. You can see in the next photo how far the fireplace extended into the basement. If this hearth was not fixed in time, a fire could have erupted.
Take care of your fireplace and chimney. Have a professional conduct a yearly inspection to ensure your home is running efficiently and properly. If you live in the Maryland, D.C. and Virginia area we would love to help you.