Gas fireplaces are one of the hottest items currently on the fireplace market, thanks to innovative features and many modern, contemporary, and traditional designs (and no pun intended!). But regardless of the type of gas fireplace you own, it’s important to know whether or not you need a hearth. So, do gas fireplaces need a hearth, and if so, what are the requirements?
Since no combustion or burning of solid fuel happens inside a gas fireplace, they typically don’t require a hearth – though it’s best to check the manufacturer’s requirements. Direct vent and ventless gas fireplaces often need no hearth. However, natural vent gas fireplaces often require a hearth.
If you’d like to know which types and styles of gas fireplaces typically require a hearth, keep reading. We’ll go over why some gas fireplaces may need a hearth and why some do not; plus, provide you with basic hearth requirements and things to consider before getting to work.
Do Gas Fireplaces Need A Hearth?
Gas fireplaces with an open-front design typically require a hearth, as there’s the risk of fake coal and logs falling out. Gas fireplaces with a closed design (glass-fronted) are sealed off from the room and do not require a hearth. Typically, natural vent gas fireplaces require a hearth, while direct vent and ventless typically don’t need one.
Furthermore, if a fireplace is designated as “zero clearance,” it does not require a hearth.
We recommend always checking the manufacturer’s requirements in the owner’s manual upon installation. Each manufacturer creates its requirements, so what measures may be considered safe for your neighbor’s fireplace may not comply with your particular gas fireplace model.
Does My Gas Fireplace Need A Hearth?
Whether or not a hearth is necessary for your gas fireplace depends on several factors, including the type of fireplace, the manufacturer, and your local building codes. Always check with your local code regulations and the fireplace manufacturer.
To determine whether or not your gas fireplace needs a hearth, keep in mind these three factors:
- The type of fireplace – Is it ventless, direct vent, or natural vent (B-vent)?
- The manufacturer requirements – some makes and models require a hearth (you can locate the requirements in the fireplace instruction manual), while others do not.
- The local or national building codes and regulations – for safety reasons, these guidelines should be strictly followed when installing your gas fireplace.
Scroll towards the bottom of this article for general measurement requirements for gas fireplace hearths.
What Is A Hearth?
A hearth is the floor area within and around a fireplace and is made from non-combustible material such as concrete, brick, stone, or slate. It’s installed to catch flying embers and other products that could otherwise set fire to your interior.
A hearth typically looks like a rectangular piece of flooring that rests underneath and jets out from the opening of a fireplace, usually about 1 – 3 feet into a room. Some gas fireplaces come with hearths already built-in for aesthetic purposes.
What Is The Purpose Of A Hearth?
A fireplace hearth’s purpose is to stop any stray embers, debris, or ash from coming in contact with combustible flooring or nearby objects in the room. Since hearths are made from nonporous and porous materials that aren’t flammable, they’ll help prevent the spread of potential fire.
You certainly shouldn’t expect carpet to stop any flames!
Additionally, hearths are also an excellent way to elevate any fireplace look. There are currently three different hearth styles. Each style positions the hearth a little differently:
- Raised Firebox: The hearth is placed below the opening of the firebox.
- Raised Hearth: The hearth is above the opening of the firebox.
- Flush Hearth: The hearth is placed at the same level as the opening of the firebox.
Which Gas Fireplaces Need A Hearth?
It’s common for natural vent gas fireplaces to require a hearth, while direct vent and ventless gas fireplaces can typically operate safely without one. Gas fireplaces that do not need a hearth have an inner and outer shell that absorbs heat for maximum heat insulation, preventing high temperatures from making nearby combustible materials too hot, whereas gas fireplaces that usually require a hearth feature an open front that exposes into a room.
This section will take a deeper look at which gas fireplaces need a hearth and explain why or why not. We’ve broken it down by fireplace style, venting method, and standalone gas stoves and inserts.
By Fireplace Style:
Unless your gas fireplace is open-front (as is common with traditional styles), most gas fireplaces do not require a hearth. There are three styles of gas fireplaces, including traditional, contemporary, and modern.
- Traditional: Some traditional gas fireplaces may need a hearth if they’re open-front, meaning the glass panel is not sealed and can open to ventilate. Traditional fireplaces have that classic fireplace look that’s very distinguishable. Picture a square fireplace, surround, and an adjoining horizontal mantel that branches outwards and higher from bottom to top. You’ll likely see a hearth stretching outwards below.
- Contemporary: Another style of gas fireplace, contemporary-styled furnaces often do not need a hearth. Contemporary fireplaces are inspired by European designs like linear flames, black glass, and eye-level placement.
- Modern: A modern gas fireplace does not need a hearth since it is not considered a real fireplace per standard building regulations, and no chimney is needed. However, we still recommend checking the manufacturer’s installation requirements. Modern fireplaces often mimic minimalist designs – like sleek horizontal lines and a rectangular shape – opposite traditional.
If the type of fireplace you have does not require a hearth, this means your floor can extend up to the base of the gas fireplace – aka have “zero clearance.”
By Venting Method:
There are three venting options for gas fireplaces: natural, direct, and ventless. Natural vent (also known as B-vent) gas fireplaces typically require a hearth. Direct vent and ventless (vent-free) gas fireplaces commonly do not need a hearth since they are typically glass-front and not open-front; however, some manufacturers may still require a hearth.
- Natural Vent Gas Fireplace (B-Vent Gas Fireplace)
Also known as a B-vent, natural vent gas fireplaces typically need a hearth for safety reasons since they’re usually designed with an open front to allow the air in a room to vent up through the chimney or pipe through the roof.
This venting method provides potential leeway for stray embers, sparks, and hot material to roll out of the firebox and into the room. While the logs and coals may be fake inside a gas fireplace, they still pose a safety hazard without a hearth below.
Simply stated, fireplaces with an open front should have a hearth in case any material strays away from the firebox and lands on the floor.
- Direct Vent Gas Fireplace
With direct vent gas fireplaces, dirty and clean air is vented externally and stays separate from the air inside the home. Direct vent gas fireplaces typically do not require a hearth since many models forgo the open-front look and use a high-temperature glass panel to keep hot materials inside the firebox and away from flammable flooring.
Because of this sealed panel, hearths are less likely to be required or may not have as stringent requirements as B-vent gas fireplaces.
To note, glass fireplace panels can withstand scorching temperatures from 500 degrees Fahrenheit for tempered glass to around 1,300 degrees Fahrenheit for ceramic glass.
- Ventless Gas Fireplace
Ventless gas fireplaces burn similar to a gas stove in the kitchen, and they are often sealed with a glass panel front. It’s common for ventless models to follow similar hearth requirements necessary for direct vent gas fireplaces – meaning a hearth is likely not needed.
To illustrate, ventless gas fireplaces burn gas more efficiently and create fewer fumes than their vented counterparts, and they also conveniently require no flue. Since there isn’t much radiant heat inside the firebox, hearths are usually not required to protect nearby flooring from heat.
Keep in mind that some states in the US (such as California and Massachusetts) and other countries like Canada have banned ventless gas fireplaces – another reason why we emphasize checking your local building regulations!
Other Gas-Powered Appliances
Whether you have other gas-powered appliances around your home or are thinking of purchasing a fireplace insert for convenience, it’s a good idea to check if they should be placed on top of a hearth, too, for safety.
- Gas Stove
A gas stove is different from a gas fireplace in that gas stoves are free-standing and radiate heat all over, whereas gas fireplaces are built into a wall and only radiate heat from one side – the front. Gas stoves typically don’t need a hearth, though they should rest safely upon non-combustible material like concrete.
- Gas Fireplace Insert
Gas fireplace inserts are installed within the existing masonry of a wood-burning fireplace, and they come as vented or ventless configurations. Both venting methods should use a hearth since they can become quite hot (gas inserts can become hotter than a gas fireplace!) and heat combustible materials around them.
What Are The Requirements For A Gas Fireplace Hearth?
To prevent a fire hazard and/or injury, a hearth should be installed underneath your gas fireplace, and it must adhere to specific requirements upon installation inside your home. Basic requirements include a hearth made from a non-combustible material (like stone or brick) and proper floor and side clearance from combustible materials (like rugs and magazines).
Need to get back to installing your new gas fireplace and hearth fast? Take a screenshot and keep these three bullet points handy when measuring out space for your new furnace:
A fireplace hearth should have:
- A fireplace opening measuring 6 feet or smaller
- A hearth extending 16 inches in front of the fireplace and into the room at minimum
- A hearth extending 8 inches from the sides of the fireplace at minimum
Remember, a hearth protects your home’s floor from the heat that radiates from your fireplace. It also shields your floor against stray sparks, flying embers, and runaway logs that burn, break apart, and potentially roll onto your floor and create a fire. Wood flooring is especially flammable, but carpet and laminate – other popular flooring options – can quickly catch fire too.
Gas fireplace hearths must be made of non-combustible material, meaning the material that will not ignite, burn, or give off potentially hazardous vapor when exposed to extremely high temperatures.
Non-combustible materials that are appropriate for fireplace hearths include:
- Ceramic tiles
- Quarry tiles
You may also have heard of a hearthstone fireplace. That is a fireplace that features a hearth built from stone.
Floor Distance From Combustibles
The floor distance is from the hearth to any combustible material outside the fireplace, like furniture and decor. The recommended distance should be based on what type of fireplace you own, so you’ll need to consult the manufacturer instructions that came with your gas fireplace (or call the company or check their website) to determine what those specifications are.
Generally speaking, a hearth should project at least 36 inches in front of a fireplace if the fireplace has an open front or has doors that swing open to air out the flames. This is usually the case with traditional style and natural vent gas fireplaces.
If you own a direct vent gas fireplace (with a sealed glass panel at the front so the flames can be viewed without them possibly sparking out towards you), a hearth may not need to be as far-reaching as 36 inches.
Again, we recommend always checking those manufacturer requirements for your specific fireplace model since the size and temperature capacity can alter the hearth specifications.
Side Clearance From Combustibles
The sides of the fireplace are where people often love to stash aesthetic goodies such as blankets, books, and plants. Still, it’s essential to ensure that any combustible object has enough side clearance from the fireplace so it doesn’t catch fire.
- Standard requirements for side clearance from combustibles is a minimum of 6 inches around the fireplace’s opening, with a surround made from non-flammable material also a requirement as well.
- The top clearance must be at least 12 inches if the mantel projects more than 1 ½ inches from the fireplace opening. Natural vent gas fireplaces that have an open front will likely be along these guidelines.
Fireplaces labeled as “zero-clearance” are the only ones that require no distance from combustibles and do not need a hearth.
Can You Paint A Fireplace Hearth?
Fireplace hearths can be painted. However, it’s vital to use only heat-resistant paint. Think about what material your hearth is made from since some materials are better suited to be painted than others. For instance, brick and concrete are easier to paint since they are porous but not as slick-textured as marble and granite.
With that being said, hearths – especially brick ones – will benefit from a primer and a sealer to prevent soot stains if you’re regularly enjoying your gas fireplace. Not an active burner, and enjoy your fireplace solely on looks? Using a primer on your fireplace hearth will help the topcoat color come through even more!