Question: We recently purchased a home that has a 1985 Black Bart fireplace insert wood stove. The fireplace hearth is not flush with the floor, but is instead built up with about 4-5 rows of brick and mortar. I wanted to replace the stove (inefficient) with a Jotul or other brand you might recommend that would be a freestanding unit instead of an insert. Just wondering if you have heard of anyone taking a raised hearth down to a floor level hearth in order to avoid having an insert. I like the idea of being able to have a stove that offers a cook top, as well. Thanks for any help you can offer. I'm a novice, but extremely interested in heating with wood, as this home is around 2400 square feet and drafty... Answer: I have run into many fireplaces where the outside hearth is lower than the interior hearth. We used to call these "picture window" fireplaces. Of course, it will be a mess removing all that masonry and making it look good again. Many of the newer stoves have relatively low rear flue exit heights, which might allow you to fit some units in with the hearth as-is. As I remember, the Black Bart was of normal height, so if your fireplace is 26" or more high then lots of units will fit. As far as particular brands, Jotul are very nice. In your case, it will be important to measure the hearth extension and the fireplace height and select something that will fit well. Another option is to install a "hearth stove" or "fireplace insert without panels" such as the mid-size Avalon model with the 45 degree flue outlet. This allows you to place the stove part way back into the fireplace and still easily vent up the existing flue. It will put out as much heat as a freestanding stove...actually, it really is a freestanding stove. You will compromise on the cooking area somewhat. Best thing to do is take those measurements and then shop around on the manufacturers sites on the net.