Reader Request: DIY Concrete Hearth Update

On my Facebook page this week a reader named Glenn asked about our concrete hearth

“Just discovered your blog while searching for concrete hearth stones. Michele and I have also been searching for the right stone and have looked at granite, slate, etc. We think we’re going to go with the low cost concrete alternative. Have you finished the hearth and any pics? Would love to see how yours turned out.”

I realized it would make a great reader request update and immediately went to work taking photos. Hope this helps you out!

DSC_7929-01First things first, we really enjoy our concrete hearth. Post pour we had planned to seal the hearth as it was. After the concrete cured we realized we had a mild dusting issue on the very top surface of the concrete which led us to change our plans to polish the hearth instead. Polishing would expose the stones within the concrete for a smooth salt and pepper look. The more we talked the more we realized we actually liked the look of the raw rough surface if we took just a wire brush to it. The decision to forgo the polish step was solidified, and we don’t regret it at all.

DSC_7934-01DSC_7937-01The rough rustic nature goes well with our reclaimed pine floors and our design preferences in general. We easily could polish the hearth in the future (after not so easily removing the wood stove again), but I can’t imagine that we will. For a finish, we used Thompsons Water Sealer. Andy can’t remember how many coats he did, but it wasn’t many.

As far as any issues we’ve had with the hearth there has only been one…ish, and one we don’t care in the least about. To be honest, I’m not sure I would even classify it as an “issue”.

DSC_7932-01Once we put the wood stove on the hearth, which was task in and of itself, we adjusted it. As we did the adjustment the stove came off the planks we were using and it scratched the hearth. It’s not even a gouge, just a surface scrape. The white is just a light dust that shows up when you scrape concrete in general. If we touched those with a damp cloth they wouldn’t show up as prominently when they dried. As you can tell, we haven’t done that because it bothers us that little. You can get a better glimpse of it in the photo below.  The white dots in the photo below are ash. The scratches are directly by the legs.

DSC_7940-01Over all, we’re really happy with the concrete and we’d absolutely do it the same way if we had to do it all over again. No doubts about it. It saved us a ton of money, it fits our style, it suits the need, and it looks nice. The difference in color in the photo below is because the light was streaming in and hitting the hearth. It’s uniform in color.

DSC_7941-01Hearth aside, I’ve also been asked if the wood stove being in this location means the other areas of the house are cold. 99% no. The 1% is the toilet seat in the bathroom. Even when that room was heated with oil when we first moved in, the toilet seat would be pretty cold. Let’s just say this – it wakes you up in the morning. The upstairs bedroom on the road side is slightly chillier in the morning than the master but that’s often because we keep that door shut, and because the master bedroom is directly above the living room. The heat not only comes up the stairs to get in the room, but it also resonates through the floor. The house in total stays toasty warm with just this stove. It’s going to be even toastier once we fix all of the insulation in the original house. We also have a monitor heater in the same room which will kick on at a certain temperature. This helps keep the house comfortable enough when we’re gone that the pipes won’t freeze. It never kicks on as long as the wood stove is going though. Even when the wood stove goes out it takes a long time for the house to drop low enough for the heater to kick in.

I hope all of that helps! If there’s anything else you guys want to seen an update on let me know in the comments below. There must be other things I need to tie up the loose ends on!




3 thoughts on “Reader Request: DIY Concrete Hearth Update

  1. Love the concrete pad – we are thinking of doing the same thing, but are curious as to what type of material you have used under the concrete. Is your wood stove sitting on a slab, crawl space or basement? We have a crawl space and our logic was that we would need to stabilize the floor prior to pouring a concrete pad, such as, lay two layers of concrete backer board then the pad or 3/4 plywood then concrete board then the pad etc. Thanks in advance for your response!

    Ashley Geer

    1. Hi Ashley! Looks like there are a couple questions in there.

      1.) In the original post (here) you’ll see that we poured straight onto the sub-floor. The hearth was installed before any flooring went down. We used no concrete backer board.
      2.) We have a crawl space underneath of this space. This post shows the installation of the weather proofing, joists, and sub-floor in that area, before the second floor was framed up. It will give you a better idea of what we’re working with.

      I’m weary to give any advice on anything structural as every house is unique and I’m not a structural engineer (not even close). My only thoughts would be if you’re concerned it would be well worth it to bring in a structural engineer. They can ensure your floor system could hold the weight of a concrete pad. It wouldn’t seem to me logically that backer board and plywood would stabilize an underlying structural issue with a floor, rather than add more weight to an already compromised system. I could be wrong though, or reading your comment wrong, so I’d talk to a professional for sure—something I certainly am not!

      Best of luck!

  2. Hello,

    I am doing something similar this weekend and I have found both posts very helpful.

    Two questions which I couldn’t decipher from above is did you use a wire brush to give it that effect? And did the sealant stop the dusting issue?

    Thanks very much and I think it looks amazing by the way.


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