Finishing a wood floor at a stone fire hearth

With any wood type floor from Solid wood laminate, the way it looks around a fire hearth is massively important. A fire hearth is the focal point of any room. A place where your eyes and your visitors naturally gravitate. The hearth is often an aspect that really doesn’t come into peoples minds as being important, until the floor is fitted and they stand back. Well, then it’s just simply too late! 

This isn’t a ‘how to guide’, but I will briefly run through the process of getting that all important crisp neat finish. It may well open your options. I’ll be approaching this from the point of view that your fire hearth is already in place and not removable. However, if you’re in the luxurious position of your hearth not being installed yet, please click here..

The options

What choices do we have to finish the floor around a hearth? Most of the time the options are limited. Any wood floor needs an expansion gap/space to allow the floor to breath during seasonal climate changes. With this in mind, we can’t simply butt the wood floor straight up against the hearth, although that particular look will always be favoured. Therefore, most of the time our options are only to cover the expansion gap with a moulding (decorative wood strip/profile/stone veneer). There are decorative tapes that are available that are designed to mimic the appearance of stone, but you’d be very lucky for that method to work to a satisfactory standard. They’re obviously also very thin and would need fixing to a wood fillet as to actually cover the expansion gap.

If the face of the hearth is extremely uneven like perhaps brick limestone, a moulding may not be an option as they’ll be little to adhere to as well as the obvious visible gaps along the top of the moulding and brick. In that instance the wood flooring could be neatly scribed to match the shape of the limestone brick face, of course still allowing for expansion. This method can be extremely fussy, both from the look and actually doing it. With the exposed expansion gap either needing to be filled with a flexible sealant or simply left exposed, this option isn’t ideal for the effort required and often unsatisfactory finished look. Although, the technical skill used is high and kudos must be given a sound execution of this method, it simply and unfortunately doesn’t cut the mustard.

Stone fireplace undercut 3The best method 

The best method to finish a wood floor at an in-situ fire hearth is largely not for the faint hearted, but it is for those that require THE neatest detailed looking finish.

The method we use is to undercut the hearth. This process is very similar to undercutting a door lining/frame. We essentially offer up a piece of your flooring to the hearth (lay on top of underlay if that’s the method of installation being used), and draw/mark a line on the hearth along the top of the flooring.

Stone fireplace undercutOnce a nice crisp line/mark has been made. we then attach a relevant stone cutting blade to a grinder. A four inch grinder is preferred as this size offers the best feel and accuracy. A large grinder can be too cumbersome and a struggle to get a cut that’s parallel to the sub-floor.

Stone fireplace undercut 2Then a fine guide cut (A shallow cut – not deep), is made along the pre-marked line as a prelude to going deeper once our guide cut has been completed. We don’t want to commit early by trying to do the cut in one, particularly if we’re dealing with a delicate stone that chips/cracks easily (please read below for notes of caution). If the stone is soft like limestone, then an early deep cut is fine as the material is easy to work with.  The deep cut should be no less that 15 mm.

Once the cut is complete, a cold chisel or breaker can then be used to clear the strip of stone that’s left between the sub-floor and cut. Once cleared of the cut stone, the flooring can be slid neatly beneath the hearth, being sure to maintain an adequate expansion gap. This gap is out of sight, so care should be taken here. By sliding the floor beneath the undercut, then drawing a pencil line on the top of the flooring where it meets the hearth and then pulling the flooring out, this will give an indication as to exactly how much expansion clearance has been left.

Notes of caution

There are many different types of stone hearths. From clay brick (Sedimentary), slate (Metamorphic), limestone (Sedimentary), granite (Igneous), marble (Metamorphic) etc. It’s important to understand what material your hearth is, how the stone will cut, and how it will behave when both cut and chiseled. Clay and limestone are soft materials which cut and chisel with relative ease. Granite and Marble are hard and brittle. They can crack, chip, and/or break easily. Therefore, care and thought should be taken prior to carrying this process out.


© Copyright 2016 Wes, All rights Reserved. Written For: Fitmywoodfloor

I am a Pergo trained professional installer of 20 years. I've been up close and personal with lots of floors and have the knobbly knees to show for it...Should you have any questions or comments please feel free to add them below. Thanks for taking the time to call by and I hope the information you've found has given you some insight!........................................................................................................................................................................“When you click on links to various merchants on this site and make a purchase, this can result in the site earning a commission. Affiliate programs and affiliations include, but are not limited to, the eBay Partner Network,,,,,,, affiliate window network.” This statement is to comply with current internet regulations regarding transparency to consumers.

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