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Why raise a hearth for a wood stove?

Post in 'The Hearth Room - Wood Stoves and Fireplaces' started by The Dude, Jan 17, 2011.

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  1. The Dude

    The Dude New Member

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    Hello,

    I am laying out the design for my wood stove''s hearth right now, and I'm debating whether or not I should raise the stove up on a step. What I can't figure out is why stoves are sometimes raised, and I can't seem to find this information either.

    At first I was thinking maybe for safety reasons, which appealed to me because we have a three year old and another on the way. But the way our stove will be positioned, a raised portion could not be much larger than the stove footprint, so it won't keep little arms and bodies away from the stove. Then I thought maybe there is still a functional purpose of a raised hearth, maybe making it easier to clean up ash and wood debris before it makes its way to the bordering carpet.

    Now I'm wondering if some hearths are raised only because they are required to be. My stove (Harman TL-300) only requires tile or 20 gauge sheet metal below the stove, not any certain depth needed.

    Can anyone share with me the reasons for raising a wood stove up above floor level?

    Thanks! Great site by the way. It has been so helpful to me during this process of bringing a chimney and wood stove into our modern home.

    Tom

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  2. cptoneleg

    cptoneleg Minister of Fire

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    Mostly for looks and convenience, One person on this post stated its easier to load his stove.

    Welcome
  3. Pagey

    Pagey Minister of Fire

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    You'll find that several stoves must have a hearth pad meeting a certain minimum R value, as the bottom of the stove becomes very hot during use. To achieve the required R value, some hearth pads end up pretty thick/raised. Other stoves, however, simply require "ember protection", as the bottom of the stove does not get hot enough to require a minimum R value.

    Most of the prefab pads are of a certain thickness anyway, so they're going to be raised to some degree. Some people find the raised hearth makes loading the stove easier on their back, too.
  4. WhitePine

    WhitePine Feeling the Heat

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    Our hearth is raised one foot above the floor. We did this for a couple of reasons.

    One, it looks better, which is a personal opinion, not applicable to everyone. Two, it raises the stove and wood one foot above the floor, which means less stooping for loading and service. As you get older, you will come to appreciate that. :)
  5. PapaDave

    PapaDave Minister of Fire

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    Well, my knees are crap, so I raised mine to be able to sit in a chair to tend the stove. It's 12" high.
    Dennis also has a raised hearth. I think he's mentioned that it's 16" high. I'm sure there are others.
  6. madison

    madison Minister of Fire

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    Easier to load, better view into firebox from the "captains chair", looks all around better according to the wife.

    I imagine the materials you plan to use, the location and current subfloor etc play more a role in the decision to raise the hearth vs performance considerations.

    Pics of a raised stone hearth in signature link below.
  7. fortydegnorth

    fortydegnorth New Member

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    My house was built with a 12" raised hearth fireplace and after having my insert raised I would never want it any other way. I don't have to kneel down to scoop ashes, I can see the secondary tubes burning from my couch, the heat blows out at head level when sitting and it's much easier to load.
  8. The Dude

    The Dude New Member

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    Excellent replies, thanks. My stove is top loading in addition to the front, so I imagine I'll be loading that way mostly (I honestly don't know yet though). However, I will have to get low for the ash pan, so that's reason to consider raising it up. I will be using my stove to grill food occasionally in the top-loading opening, so I will take that height into consideration also. I wouldn't want that level to be too high. This is a great advice that is getting my mind working. Please keep it coming!
  9. Dakotas Dad

    Dakotas Dad Minister of Fire

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    We needed a pretty high Rvalue (6+). But if I was doing it again.. I would raise it about 6-8 more inches, after seeing how much butt traffic it gets, might as well have made it a more convienent height for sitting. We also wanted it high enough and deep enough to discourage or dogs from getting to close.

    It would also be easier to load, esp. during those 3am reloads, my knees are already complaining by the time I come down stairs, kneeling down to the stove just makes them madder..lol
  10. gpcollen1

    gpcollen1 Minister of Fire

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    Why raised, because many fireplace hearths were raised about 1 foot and it makes ergonomic sense when modifying them or designing new. I don't think it matters one way or another if you are designing it new - drop it down if you like.

    As for worrying about the kids, I WOULD NOT. Raised hearths and gates are not necessary to 'protect' your child. A little bit of teaching about 'HOT' and they get it pretty quickly. I have 3 girls who all survived without 1 burn and the youngest is now 4.
  11. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    I considered several different options, even thought about cutting a section out of the laminated flooring and placing the stove directly on the poured concrete floor beneath. The one I settled on was to build up a hearth high enough to give sufficient R value for the specs on my soapstone stove. I'd noticed in the stove store that when hearths were only about an inch high, I'd trip over them. I wanted something big enough to let people *see* that hearth as they walked past it, and to balance the visual weight of the stove. Unfortunately, the `butt-traffic' (cute) thing didn't work out, because the higher I raised the hearth, the higher I raised the standing zone next to it. One inadvertent stroke of smart when I built mine was to top it with granite (I used the panels sold at HD for countertop, got a deal on some of it because it had minor edge chipping/scratches that were hidden under the stove). The granite soaks up heat just like the soapstone, and is delightful for warming toes while toasting buns. (Recipe for those interested: four 31"x18" panels, one cut into thirds to turn it into an almost-42"x54" hearth. Local granite shop made the cuts for me for $10.)

    Mine's only a about 2-1/4" high, but it's enough that I tend my stove seated rather than kneeling. (My dining room chairs are low-ish, and comfortable--arms, w/springs in the seat, and one of them is almost always parked in front of the stove). I didn't want to go too high, because I wanted the heat to circulate around the floor as well. I'm really happy with my hearth.

    Keeping the littles safe is probably best served with a gate around the stove.

    It's a long process thinking through all the aspects of stove selection and installation, but I commend you for it. You'll be glad you took the time to ponder. Safety, heating, wood storage and loading, and comfort all have to be taken into consideration. Taken heart, and keep hanging out here--you'll get there.


    ETA: re-read your post, and yes, if I had carpet around it, even if I didn't need it, I'd want it raised enough to keep ash and wood debris out of the carpet.
  12. madison

    madison Minister of Fire

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    Also research for your stove -- Clearance requirements from stove/insert top to ceiling. I actually got lucky as I never considered this clearance requirement -- until well after the stove was installed -- that there was a 56.5" requirement for the t6, i made it by a couple inches.

    I quickly perused the Harman TL-300 install manual and did not notice the ceiling to stove top clearance mentioned, but there are obviously stovepipe considerations etc that could affect performance and clearances.
  13. Backwoods Savage

    Backwoods Savage Minister of Fire

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    Picture was taken during installation. Both the wife and I agreed we wanted it higher rather than sitting at floor level. We just did not agree on the height. We ended up with 16" high and love it. I have a chair that I sit on while reloading the stove and like it because I can see inside the firebox much easier. Also, as stated above, as we age our bodies don't like to bend as much.

    One of my concerns was that heat raises and was worried the floor might be cold. That has proved to not be true as our floors are nice and warm. I do feel it enhances the beauty of the stove having it higher and it certainly does make loading the stove much easier.

    [​IMG]
  14. Wood Duck

    Wood Duck Minister of Fire

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    Mine is raised solely because we thought it would look nice.
  15. partybob99

    partybob99 Member

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    my hearth is about 12 inches off the floor. I think it helps keep the heat from the stove from raising the floor temps. I've read other posts from here about people saying their floor in front of the stove would get so hot they couldnt stand on it. My floor temps barely increase at all when the stove is running.
  16. DanCorcoran

    DanCorcoran Minister of Fire

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    Mine sits on a stove board covered with tile, total of only about an inch in height. After living with it for a year, I think I would prefer it raised 4-6". Not for convenience (I'm 65, but have no problem loading or cleaning the stove), but purely for looks. I have a very attractive stove and raising it would accentuate it as a centerpiece in the room. It looks kind of dinky sitting (essentially) on the floor....just my opinion.
  17. SlyFerret

    SlyFerret Minister of Fire

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    My hearth is raised about 3" above the floor. It doesn't really make loading any easier for me to reload, and it wouldn't make anything safer for kids.

    I like the look though. It helps to visually set the tile hearth apart from the wood flooring.

    -SF
  18. WhitePine

    WhitePine Feeling the Heat

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    One thing to consider when building a raised hearth is your local building inspector. In our case, it was in a new house so the inspector would see it. The builder was concerned that the inspector might consider it a step and apply all the step rules, etc, so he suggested no higher than 6 - 7 inches. We mulled it over, and I told him to build it at 12 inches, and if the inspector makes an issue of it, we'll deal with it then.

    The inspector didn't say a thing about the hearth, so no problem, but he did make the builder tear out and rebuild the steps between the house and the garage. They were out of code by a 1/4 inch. :roll:

    Just a FYI.
  19. Renovation

    Renovation New Member

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    Hi SnowLeopard,

    Thanks for your thoughtful ideas and encouragement.

    I agree that careful planning and consideration of one's preferences pay off in the long run.

    Personally, I want a raised stove for easy loading and viewing, along with a large flush hearth, to allow wood carts to be easily parked on either side with proper combustibles clearance and a robust floor that can handle wetness and mess.

    So far, my best solution for these conflicting desires is a large stone hearth flush with the surrounding floor, with stone pads under the stove legs. Stone pads also allow easy reconfiguration for different stoves.
  20. phatfarmerbob

    phatfarmerbob New Member

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    I did 3/4 plywood under a sheet of 20 ga steel under durock under micore 300 under durock under 1.5'' thick bluestone with the bluestone hanging over the rest and the rest being trimed like the rest of the houses baseboard... that bluestone really stores the heat!!! and it looks great too!
  21. Snag

    Snag New Member

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    Am I the only one with a hearth just high enough to catch your heel on and just low enough to have to kneel down to load the stove? One of the reasons I wear welding gloves is because it takes two hands on the wood stove to "umpf" me back up on my feet (grin). Tiz pure 'ell gettin' old.
  22. The Dude

    The Dude New Member

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    Amazing replies. I am so impressed with the level of response I am getting for this question. I am certainly favoring raising the stove now based on all the recommendations. The one thing that may hold me back from doing it is the top loading and grilling option for my 5'3" wife. Right now my stove is sitting on a 3 or 4" high pallet, so I'll have her stand next to it.

    Given the location of our hearth next to an entranceway in between our living room and dining room, I am limited to how far I can have a raised area stick out into the room. The stove needs 18" of non-combustable floor in front of it, but if I were to have the raised portion stick out that far, it will stick out into the walking path right up at the entranceway in between the two rooms, so I can't do that. I'd have to limit the raised area to be pretty close around the stove, stepping down onto the rest of the hearth that would be flush with the carpet. I might be able to manage 12" of raised area in front of the stove (one whole tile for perspective), but I'm wondering if that is too small to stand up on when loading or grilling. If it is, then the stove can only be as high as my wife can handle from floor level. I hope that makes sense. Pictures would help, but the stove isn't even in place yet.
  23. snowleopard

    snowleopard Minister of Fire

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    Oh, it makes sense. Painful sense. Put myself through *fits* trying to figure out where to put my stove in a house that seemed ill-designed to have one in it, how it would work w/hearth, second-story stovepipe placement through living room above, yadda. The punch line? Having calculated all of that, including a preliminary visit from a stove-store guy and a woodsy friend both recommended the same corner location I was hoping to use, when the installers came, we quickly figured out that this wasn't going to work, and I had only a few minutes to make a decision about a swap in location. High trauma at the time. The upside? Because I had spent so much time obsessing about all the options, I was able to run the numbers, so to speak, very quickly, offer up an alternative placement, and got a straight run w/no offsets through first-floor ceiling, second-floor ceiling, and roof, and it's on the south side of roof peak, absolute steam-locomotive of a draw. And the location is, ironically, I think much more liveable and pleasant than that corner would have been. Also ironically, the stove looks as if its been there forever. There *is* light at the end of this tunnel. Heat and light.

    So what I'm saying here is, even though you'll probably feel like you're going around in circles and tying yourself in knots thinking about it, and driving your friends nuts obsessing about it, hang in there--the process *will* pay off. Would a custom-built step-stool solve the cooking issue? And is the right-next-to-the-entrance location the only option?

    George, thank you for your kind words. Yep, stone pads would get the stove up. I'd sketch it out to see what it would look like--might not have that visual bulk that gives you the raised-area look. I suppose you could drop a section of the floor to get a conversation pit/stove-gazing zone, but that seems a little much,
  24. The Dude

    The Dude New Member

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    Okay, I am just about ready to build my hearth (tile saw rental reserved for Saturday), and new stuff has come to light. I'm hoping to get some some more advice regarding a rasied hearth versus flush with the floor.

    After the great advice received in this thread, I was set on building a raised pad. I even bought 2x6's last night to build the frame. Then something just occurred to me...my stove's door is already higher than the typical cast iron stove, about 6 inches higher on average. It's a Harman TL-300 pedestal style rather than legs, with a deep ash pan raising the firebox significantly. See stock photo attached.

    The issue I ran into raising it up is that my wife at 5'3" might have difficulty top-loading and cooking on the grill on top. So I planned on the raised pad being large enough for someone to stand on it next to stove. That was becoming a bit intrusive in the room. SO I started thinking about my main reasons for raising it up...convenience in loading and better viewing. That's when it hit me that the height of my firebox was already raised up.

    Now my plan is to just leave it flush, and then after trying it out during the last month of winter right now, adding the raised portion for next season if I feel it is missing. Any thoughts or suggestions? Feel free to disagree...Im open to any advice.

    I'll try to remember to snap a picture of my proposed tile floor layout to give a visual of my situation. None for now though.

    (STOCK PHOTO)
    [​IMG]
  25. OhioBurner©

    OhioBurner© Minister of Fire

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    C.G... I feel the same... are you saying you have this setup or are you just pondering? If you have it I would like some pics. I've always had raised hearths and almost every pic of a flush hearth I've seen I've liked better. But I see the dilemma about the better view, especially secondary burn, and possibly easier loading. Your idea of a taller stove but a flush hearth is what I am thinking as well. But I dont know if just blocking the legs up would look right.

    The Dude: yeah that stove already sits a lot higher than most. Unless you really wanted it higher I think it would be easier not to have to build the hearth up further.
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