Concrete Hearth Removal Guide: Step-by-Step Instructions

Jan 21, 2024

Removing a concrete hearth is a big project that requires proper planning, tools and safety measures. As specialists in all types of flooring jobs, including concrete removal, we’ve created this comprehensive guide to walk you through the entire concrete hearth removal process.

Why Remove Your Concrete Hearth?

Here are some of the top reasons you may need to remove an existing concrete hearth:

  • Updating your fireplace: If you are upgrading your existing fireplace or installing a new one, removing the current concrete hearth will likely be necessary. This allows you to customize the size and shape of the new hearth.
  • Leveling floors: Over time, hearths can crack, crumble and become unleveled. Removing the concrete gives you a fresh start to lay a new level surface.
  • Flooding issues: Concrete is porous, so built up moisture can lead to flooding issues inside the hearth. Removing the old wet concrete fully eliminates this problem.
  • Remodeling: Part of a larger remodel, such as removing walls, may require you to take out the existing hearth.

If you need to get rid of an unwanted, damaged or outdated concrete hearth, this step-by-step guide will show you how.

How to Remove a Concrete Hearth

Removing a concrete hearth involves planning, prep work, demolition and cleanup/disposal. Here is the full process of concrete hearth removal:

Step 1: Gather Materials and Tools

Taking out a concrete hearth requires an assortment of tools and protective gear:

  • Sledgehammer – The extra weight helps break up thick concrete.
  • Crowbar – A long metal bar you can wedge under concrete edges to pry up pieces.
  • Shovels & buckets – For moving concrete chunks and debris as you demolish.
  • Gloves & eye protection – Essential for safety when breaking up concrete.
  • Dust masks – Prevents inhaling concrete dust and particles while working.
  • Ear protection – Reduces noise from hammering concrete for long periods.
  • Trash bags/containers – For cleanup and concrete disposal at the end.

Step 2: Clear the Area

Before demolition, fully clear the workspace. This includes:

  • Remove any trim, wood panels or surrounding decorative materials with care to avoid damage. Set aside anything you may want to keep or reuse.
  • Take out the gas or wood fireplace insert if it will remain in place when you install the new hearth.
  • Move all nearby furniture and any removable flooring out of the concrete removal zone.

Step 3: Outline Demolition Area

Next, decide what area needs removal. The hearth itself? Part of the floor under or around the hearth? Use chalk, tape or hardware markers to outline the exact footprint to demolished. This keeps the removal work controlled and tidy.

Tip → Draw outlines a few inches outside of the hearth itself to account for space needed to pry up thick edges.

Step 4: Cut Concrete Into Sections

Trying to remove a hearth all in one piece would be nearly impossible. Plus it makes debris disposal much harder. Instead, plan to break up the concrete into smaller, movable chunks.

Start by using the sledgehammer to drive holes into the outlined removal area. Space holes about 8-12 inches apart going across the entire span of concrete. Make holes about 6 inches deep.

Go back through with a chisel and sledgehammer to connect the holes by knocking out material underneath the surface. Create a grid pattern across the whole removal section. Only break through the top few inches initially.

Deeper internal sections still hold everything together for now, but score lines make it easier to direct the crack pattern when you start actually lifting concrete pieces.

Step 5: Break Concrete Into Pieces

With scored lines mapped out, now focus on cracking through deeper layers of the slab.

Position the chisel or pry bar into scored seams and use the sledgehammer to drive it further under the concrete. This takes patience, striking repeatedly along each line. Top layers will start splitting and breaking away first.

Once cracks propagate through deeper into the slab, switch to prying or lifting out broken segments. Use pry bars or shovels to wedge underneath cracked concrete chunks and lift them free.

Tip → If lines crack in unexpected ways, don’t worry about removing perfectly uniform squares. Just free any intact pieces you can separate from the surrounding hearth.

Step 6: Remove Adhered Concrete and Debris

After lifting all the large, loosened pieces of the hearth itself, you still need to deal with concrete stuck underneath. Use a chisel, scraper or mallet to gradually break this away from the subfloor.

A mixture of cement bits, aggregate and dust will cover the newly exposed area. Thoroughly sweep then vacuum up all debris to prepare for your new floor. Use shop vacs, buckets and trash cans to remove all remnants before continuing.

Step 7: Inspect and Prepare the Area

With old concrete fully erased, closely check the freshly uncovered space before laying a new hearth. Look for:

  • Damage to subfloor – Cracks, gouges or weak spots created during concrete removal. These must be repaired before installing any new floor.
  • Moisture – Check for excess moisture on the slab and inside the firebox so it has time to fully dry out before new materials are placed.
  • Levelness – Use a long level in several areas to ensure you have a flat surface to work with. Grind down small high spots or fill low areas as needed with patching compound.

Now the stripped down fireplace is prepped and ready for your new concrete hearth or other flooring design.

Step 8: Dispose of Concrete Debris

Lastly, properly contain and dispose of all concrete demolition waste. Here are a few disposal options:

  • Rental dumpsters – Ideal for large volumes of debris if local regulations allow concrete dumping.
  • Landfill drop off – Many waste management centers have concrete recycling programs or areas to specifically accept brick, concrete and stone debris. Much gets reused for erosion control projects.
  • Haul away service – A junk removal company can haul away debris to properly dispose of it for you.

Follow all local waste disposal regulations on allowable amounts and wrapping methods. Never dump unwanted materials illegally. Materials that can potentially leach harmful substances require strict procedures to contain environmental risks.

And with debris cleared, the arduous concrete removal job is officially complete! Now the fun part begins designing and installing your fabulous new hearth and fireplace.

Transform Your Fireplace With New Hearth Ideas

Fireplace With New Hearth Ideas

Once the outdated or damaged concrete is gone, an empty blank canvas awaits! Time to design a fresh new hearth tailored to your home’s style. Consider these on-trend options:

Tile Hearth

From sleek stone to rustic brick, tile instantly elevates any fireplace. Mix various sizes and patterns for lots of visual interest. Add mosaic insets or border accents. Tile stands up extremely well to concentrated heat.

Natural Stone Hearth

For an elegant yet wonderfully rugged hearth, natural stone exudes timeless beauty. Honed limestone and granite plus rough-cut slate and travertine feel pleasingly organic. The sky’s the limit on stone shapes and patterns.

Metal Hearth

Industrial fireplaces beg for the sleek lines of a stainless steel surround. Or add a touch of rustic warmth with textured powder-coated metal. Use raised profiles for definition. Metal transitions wonderfully into other flooring looks.

Marble or Quartz Hearth

Luxurious marble and engineered quartz slabs emit sophistication. Glossy finishes bounce firelight amazingly. Durability does require careful sealing, but the effect wows.

Hardwood Hearth

The warmth of hardwood reflects fire glow exceptionally. Oak and hickory suit traditional tastes while exotic ipe and bamboo feel more modern. Singe-resistant finishes allow safer extended contact than raw wood.

Mixing multiple styles, textures and shapes creates interesting depth within the hearth space itself. For a cohesive look, repeat elements on surrounding walls or tie into other floors.

In terms of replacing the actual fireplace insert itself, modern gas and electric models offer wonderful convenience and efficiency perks over struggling with wood.

Safely Install Your New Concrete Hearth

If opting for a new poured concrete hearth, proper installation technique ensures it cures level, fully supported and built to endure extreme heat exposure over years of use. Here are best practices to follow:

  • After prepping the subfloor, compact down 4-6 inches of gravel filler as a base layer. This grants slab stability while allowing heat dissipation underneath.
  • Frame the perimeter with temporary plywood form boards to hold shape as you pour. Seal any gaps. A layer of wire mesh reinforcement adds strength.
  • For the concrete itself, use high heat capacity 4000+ PSI mixes approved for fireplace/chimney applications. They resist cracking as temperatures fluctuate.
  • Pour about 4 inches thick on average. Carefully screed and smooth the finish. Consider imprinting or stamping for decorative textures.
  • Allow concrete to fully cure 28 days before exposing it to fireplace heat up to 1000+ degrees.

Get every detail right so your sleek new concrete hearth serves reliably for decades.

Want to leave all the concrete work to the experts? Our crews handle full hearth demolition, custom concrete forming plus mixing and finishing specialized heat-resistant concrete designed to compliment your new fireplace wonderfully.

Transform Your Living Space With a New Hearth Design

Eliminating the outdated old concrete around your fireplace opens exciting new possibilities. Any of these hearth materials can completely change the look, feel and functionality of the space:

  • Modern stone, tile or concrete hearths enlarge rooms visually thanks to seamless layout options. Say goodbye to restrictive standard sizes. Open up interior walls at the same time for even more spaciousness.
  • Blend hearths beautifully with adjacent flooring such as hardwood, laminate, stone or porcelain tile. Use the same materials or complementary patterns and textures.
  • Raise hearths to comfortable seating height to create enticing conversation areas. Integrate bench seating or surround the space with cushy chairs and sofas.
  • Extend hearths deeper under stunning floor-to-ceiling stone surrounds. This amplifies the anchoring visual impact of the whole installation.
  • Incorporate niche shelving, built-in media centers or floor-level storage cubbies within enlarged hearth designs. Remove nearby walls to capitalize on new dead space.

No question, removing and replacing concrete hearths takes significant work. Yet few projects pay off with as dramatic an impact! The end result makes any fireplace the centralized heartbeat of your home.