I'm scratching my head over how to layout some new flooring in relationship to our walls vs. hearth.

This is an engineered floor with somewhat wide boards (about 4.5")

As it happens, I could lay them out and not need to rip any of the boards as they'd fit wall-to-wall (see bottom image). However, if I do that, I'd need to notch-out a few to go around the tile hearth (top image).

Is this just an aesthetic decision I need to make or is there a general rule of thumb? My initial thought was that having a nice line across the front of the hearth would be better, as that seems like a dominant element in the room. But that would leave two uneven slivers of full boards on either side of the room and maybe that would look even more odd?

I should also note that around the hearth, there will be a beveled wood trim piece as the flooring is about a half inch lower than the hearth. I don't know if that would change things or not (would that hide the notch or accentuate it?)

enter image description here

Top image: floor laid out with seam lining up with front of hearth. This leaves two different sized partial strips on either end of the room.

Bottom image: floors laid out evenly wall-to-wall. Needs to be notched to fit around hearth.

  • Are both pics supposed to be the same? Do you have a pic of the room? Not sure why the hearth is on an angle.
    – DMoore
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 17:23
  • @dmoore the dotted lines are just a break line--the room is much wider than shown. Tan=hearth. Black lines=floor seams. Note the differences in the black lines.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 17:25
  • But...if you can't see a difference, perhaps that's the answer: it doesn't matter because it's not all that noticeable either way. ;)
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 17:27
  • 1
    I'd trim the hearth like a picture frame. Then supposing the picture frame is within the tan area, I'd go with first drawing. i.imgur.com/rhnBssU.jpg
    – mike
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 17:33
  • 3
    You may be thinking about this like a programmer/developer who needs order. Lines don't always have to line up.
    – Tester101
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 17:45

2 Answers 2


Most installs I have done we have trimmed around the fireplace. There are several ways to do it. If your fireplace hearth sits on flat ground we try to meet even - which is almost impossible unless you did the floor and hearth all in one install.

Most of the time we trim around the fireplace first and then cut to the trim. This is very very very time consuming because you will potentially have a lot of boards meet the trim and they need to be within 1/32".

An easier way to do this, especially if the hearth material is not as even, is to add a riser then maybe an optional board (or partial board). So you would layout your wood and just get as close as you can to fireplace then nail down the riser around the fireplace. The corners take some work but this is pretty easy. This looks really good if it is brick and you can get (or notch) the riser so its back sits in a mortar line.

enter image description here

And a note on floating - I would probably use a riser. Because you could set the floating wood 1/4 inch from fireplace, giving it a proper gap, and then staple the riser just to the underlying floating wood. It would still be floating then.

  • yep. This is the plan. I'm going to use a riser around the hearth. So, since that overlaps a good part of the floor boards, the whole 'lining up exactly with the front of the hearth' issue is perhaps moot.
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 17:56
  • 2
    I personally wouldn't line it up. Because if there are any issues then it looks off. Also not lining it up look more natural - that is just my opinion though. The only kind of lining up we ever do is to make sure - for example - we don't have a sliver of a piece in front of fireplace. If your line is off 1/4 of an inch from side to side you will notice it (no one else will) if one of the sides "match" but if one is at 2 inches and the other at 2.25 inches you don't notice.
    – DMoore
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 17:59
  • 1
    that last bit is actually an excellent point. I doubt the hearth is perfectly square to the wall and, as such, lining the floor to it might be an impossible task. Better to be purposefully off by a wider margin!
    – DA01
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 18:13
  • 1
    I like the riser idea for expediency, though they create another 'corner' that will capture dirt. As far as 1/32 goes, not if you start your run there and end it at a wall.
    – mike
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 18:54
  • Good point to start your run at the trim. Not sure how you leave an expansion gap without a riser for floating though.
    – DMoore
    Commented Jun 10, 2013 at 18:56

The simplest is just to do as others have pointed and to use trim around where the wood and hearth meet. On our fire place I didn't want to use any wood trim so I took an angle grinder with a mason grinding pad and ground the bottom of the hearth on all sides deep enough so the floating floor wood would slip under it. It's messy and loud but the results are I feel more aesthetically pleasing. With this approach there is no trim around the hearth and if the hearth isn't square, which ours wasn't, there is no gap that may need to be contended with.

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