Repair & Care
Transition Fireplace Hearths
Installing hardwood moldings around fireplace hearths has never been an attractive solution for covering up those gaps. Unfortunately inexperienced installers will handle it this way, either because they do not know of other solutions or don't care to handle it any other way.
Scribing Around To Fit?
You may find some suggestions on scribing, or cutting and fitting each plank next to a hearth. This can be a very time consuming job that often calls for cutting many pieces two and three times to get the perfect fit. Getting up and down walking back and forth to the saw can be a back breaker too. Often upon completion the areas are still not gap free, requiring some matching caulk to finish off.
What's The Best Method?
Undercutting the hearth will be the most appealing way of handling this area, providng there is enough to undercut. Our picture example shows the method being done with an undercut saw, used more for cutting door casings. An alternate diamond tipped blade can be purchased that will cut through some of the hardest rock, marble, and stone, while handling brick the easiest.
The tool itself can be adjusted easily for any thickness flooring. Methods for using this tool calls for two cuts into the hearth. One at the finished vertical height of the floor so the flooring will slide under, and the other flush with the subfloor. Once both cuts are made, carefully chisel out the area that has been cut. After the flooring is installed it will provide the best appearance possible. Doing this kind of work can be very dusty unless you have someone along with a vacuum hose in front of the cutting area. Some of the more up to date undercut saws have a dust attachment port.
Other Methods. Picture Framed Hearth
Picture framed hearths work best with floors that are fastened to the subfloor; nail downs or glued floors. For best results the picture frame should be installed before the installation work nears the area.
Our example to the right shows a tiled hearth with a control chalk line that designates where the top of the picture frame will end. For glue down floors your groove should be facing out, preventing excess scooping of glue when the installation continues from this area into the rest of the layout. Nail down floors would have the tongue facing out. Chalk line markings will have to reflect the added tongue, otherwise it will hide under the hardwood. Tongue will have to be removed so it fits flush with the hearth on a glued installation.
Some hearths will not be square and will require some adjustments with your mitered corners. This may also throw off some of the angles once you begin to work backwards or handle the fill area. For either type of installation you want to keep everything tied together by tongue and grove. Otherwise over time, the area may begin to squeak when stepped on. This is more common with solid nailed floors rather than glued. However, keeping them tied together will allow the same vertical flush visual.
While we prefer not to top nail any boards, you may be thinking how can I avoid it if I'm nailing this floor down? Using a pneumatic nail gun you can nail into the groove when anchoring the first row that lays against the top border, making sure it is set well and does not interfere with the next pieces fitting tight. Professionals have also been known to squeeze construction adhesive through a caulking gun.
Picture framed material can be pin nailed or set into a construction adhesive. Mitered corners should be milled with a groove so a spline can be inserted. This will help prevent potential squeaking as mentioned above. Splines may also be needed to connect the other angles of the picture frame to finish the fill area.
Planning Ahead. Before the Fireplace Is Built
For newer homes being built, simple communication with the builder and stone or brick mason before can also provide great results. If they know what thickness the flooring will be, they can offset the face of the hearth so the flooring can slide under.
Pictures Of Hardwood Installed Under Fireplace