How to Design a Raised Hearth for Freestanding Wood Stoves

Freestanding wood stoves add warmth, ambiance and style to any room of the house. If you're planning on adding a wood stove to an existing room, you also need to construct a raised hearth to protect the flooring beneath the stove from heat. Your new hearth can be tiled in a number of different materials, from ceramic to stone, but make sure you build it with heat safety in mind, as well as looks.

Man putting firewood into wood stove
credit: Jupiterimages/Comstock/Getty Images
If you plan on installing your stove less than 36 inches from the wall, consider a wall shield.

Dimensions

The overall dimensions of your hearth are dictated in part by the size and shape of your wood stove. The protective flooring, or hearth, installed beneath a wood stove must extend 18 inches past the stove in front and to both sides. If your wall is not tiled or otherwise protected, plan on having your hearth extend backward up to 36 inches past the stove. To get the exact dimensions of your hearth, take the measurements of the stove itself, and add 18 inches to the front-to-back measurement and 36 inches to the side-to-side measurement, then add in the distance your stove will be installed from the wall behind it.

Frame and Shape

While the size of your stove dictates the dimensions of your hearth, there is nothing to dictate the shape beyond personal preferences. Hearths can be square, rectangular, or neo-angle with a straight front that angles back toward the sides before tapering to the wall behind it. Plan on constructing the frame for the hearth out of two-by-fours standing on their ends. Remember that for every angle your hearth takes, you need to miter the ends of the boards together for a tight fit. In addition to the exterior of your frame, plan on running additional two-by-fours from front to back every 12 inches on the interior as well.

Hearth Height

While the two-by-fours make up the bulk of the height of your hearth, they won't be responsible for the whole finished height. In addition to the 4 inches of the frame, plan on an additional 1 inch of height from noncombustible spacers, which must be installed on the frame to help air circulate and prevent the frame from burning. On top of the spacers, plan on installing 1/2-inch-thick cement backerboard sheets, which will make the hearth 5 1/2 inches in height before the tile. Plan on having a tiled or finished front edge to the frame that can accommodate this height.

Hearth Tile

Tile your hearth using any porcelain, ceramic or stone you desire. Plan the layout of the hearth with a full tile in the front, center of the design. This creates an even and balanced layout with cut tiles on the edges and in back of the stove where they are less likely to be seen. Plan also on using a tile with a finished edge, or using a pencil or rail molding along the edge of the hearth to give it a finished appearance. Remember to take grout joints into consideration when planning the layout to ensure a good fit for the tile.