A crackling fire in the fireplace is a soothing, inviting focal point in your room, especially on a snowy day or a fiercely cold night. If your fireplace has a sitting-height hearth, it's the ideal spot to soak up the fireplace's warmth or roast marshmallows. A sitting-height hearth also offers extra seating in your room and is a good setting for family photos.
A hearth is a fireplace's brick or stone floor. Some fireplaces are designed so that the hearth extends out into the room. A sitting-height hearth is simply a hearth that extends out into your room and is built up, or raised off the floor, to a height that is comfortable for people to sit on. Tim Carter of "Ask the Builder" recommends a sitting-height hearth not be more than about 17 inches high.
A sitting-height hearth provides a spot to sit that's right next to the fire, which is ideal for anyone wanting to warm their hands or tend the fire. It also raises your firebox up off the floor, making the fire easier to see and more of a focal point. Additionally, a raised hearth can act as a barrier between children and pets and your fire. Although they can still access the fire, the raised hearth simply makes doing so a little more difficult. Also, whether you're burning a fire in your fireplace or not, a sitting-height hearth offers additional seating if you're having a get-together.
A raised hearth that extends into your room takes up floor space, which, if your room is small, you might rather keep open or use for furniture. Additional materials to build up the hearth means additional expense, so you may wish to keep your hearth near the floor if you need to keep your building costs low.
A fireplace hearth is a also a decorating opportunity. If you're building a new fireplace from the ground up, thoughtfully select your materials, whether brick, stone, stucco or tile, to complement the rest of your home. Once built, you can use your raised hearth as a display shelf of sorts for an artfully arranged collection of baskets, ceramics or even plants. During winter months when you're burning fires in your fireplace, be aware that decorative items such as candles will melt if they are too near the fire, and plant leaves may be scorched by the heat.