What is the Difference Between a Hearth and a Fireplace?

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Although it's acceptable to refer to your fireplace interchangeably as your hearth, the two differ significantly. In fact, a hearth is just one part of the larger fireplace.

Fireplace

  • Commonly referred to as a hearth, a fireplace is an opening at the base of a chimney in which you burn a controlled fire. You may add fireplaces to the interior or exterior of your home.

Hearth

  • The floor on which you build fires is known as a hearth. The hearth often extends 1 to 4 feet outside of the fireplace opening. Hearths may set above, below or level with the floor in your home. Some hearths may even provide a bench-like seat in front of the fireplace or create a small ledge on which to display trophies and trinkets.

Materials

  • Hearths and other fireplace parts are commonly made from stone, brick or block because these materials resist cracking under heat and are not flammable. Poured-concrete hearths and concrete-block fireplaces can be covered with fire-resistant slate, tile or stone veneers. Outdoor fireplaces may have gravel or dirt hearths instead of brick, block or stone.

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  • Photo Credit David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images
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