The fireplace is traditionally the focal point of any living room or family room, and as a homeowner, you can drastically change the character of a room by playing around with the appearance of your fireplace. Many people today prefer a tiled fireplace to the exposed brick found in many older homes because it is neater and adds a cool modern twist to any old space.
Tiling your own fireplace can be a difficult and time-consuming operation, but it also allows you to be creative and design a style that you like and that complements the overall appearance of your home. In this article, we’ll guide you step-by-step through how to best tile your fireplace. Let’s get started!
What you’ll need:
- Tile – It is available at any home improvement or hardware store. There are so many different styles, forms, and colors that this page will not touch them all; it is left up to personal preference.
- Thinset Mortar - While conventional mortar or mastic can be used on floor tiles, a thin-set should be applied to vertical surfaces.
- Optional but recommended latex thin-set mortar additive. It contributes to a stronger bond.
- 1" X 2" Boards - you may need wider boards if you have a large fireplace - these are sed to support the bottom course on the firebox opening and for the lower border tiles.
- Ceramic tile spacers - To keep your grout lines nice and neat
- Grout - which comes in a variety of different colors.
Step 1 - Preparation
You're able to tile over pretty much any type of fireplace, but some materials may need additional preparation before you start tiling. If you are tiling a new fireplace that is made of unfinished wallboard or a plain wooden mantle, there is no need to prepare the surface.
But if you plan on tiling an existing brick or tile fireplace surround, you must level the surface to guarantee sufficient tile adhesion. Before placing the tile, level the surface material with a grinder and cover the entire fireplace with a thin layer of latex-reinforced thin-set mortar to ensure an even surface.
Using a hammer and chisel, remove any old tile that may still remain. To remove the first pieces, aim the chisel at a 45-degree angle to the joints between the tiles and smash it forcefully.
After that, aim the chisel directly into the exposed mortar, bringing up as much old mortar as possible to create a smooth surface to tile over. Check the thickness of the surround and the surrounding regions before tiling over a brick surround. Instead of removing the bricks, a tile backer will need to be put over them.
This will add anything from 1/2′′ to 1” to the thickness of the surround. Establish that the new thickness will not interfere with the remainder of the design, and plan accordingly for additional bullnose or end cap pieces to conceal it.
Step 2 - Placing the tiles
Before installing your tile, dry-fit it around your fireplace so you know exactly where to position each piece once the thin-set mortar has been poured. If you've never laid tile before, it may be useful to make a cardboard template for your fireplace so you can lay out your tile pattern on the floor to ensure proper spacing.
If someone else around to assist you, you can hold the tile in position on the fireplace and use a pencil to outline the surrounding area so you have a reference when you really install the tile.
When tiling a vertical surface, start with the bottom row and work your way up to ensure perfect location and spacing. If any tiles need to be cut to fit your fireplace, do so before you begin installing them.
Step 3 - Setting the tiles
Begin laying out the tile on the fireplace surround once you've determined how it should be laid out. If you're tiling a new fireplace with unfinished wallboard, you might want to apply masking tape along the perimeter line of the tiled area to help you know where to put the mortar.
To adhere to the tile, use a latex-reinforced thin-set mortar and apply it to the wall with a notched trowel to guarantee a smooth and neat finish.
Press the tiles firmly into the mortar, following the layout marks you made. To keep the tiles evenly spaced, use spacers. Place all of the tiles and let the mortar dry completely.
Step 4 - Grouting the tiles
Just before you jump straight in with the grout, inspect your fireplace to determine if there is any visible mortar between the tiles. If this is the case, use a putty knife to remove the debris. Consult the manufacturer's directions on the grout container before mixing.
Spread the grout evenly across the tiles using a rubber grout float. Hold the float at an angle and pull it diagonally along the joints to load them with grout. Return to the area a second time to remove any excess grout from the tile's face.
Leave the grout to cure for at least half an hour, then wipe the grout from the tiles with a moist sponge. After the grout has dried overnight, polish the tiles with a clean rag to remove any remaining white cast.
Before using the fireplace, allow the tile to cure for at least two days. If you end up buying too much tile, some hardware stores will accept returns of clean, undamaged tiles. It's a good idea to ask about this before you purchase your tiles.
Are tiles fireproof?
Most tiles are heat resistant, but it is best to keep them away from direct heat sources because they can break and, more typically, discolor over time if they are too close to the heat.
A tile 14cm away from the heat source is recommended. The best thing you can do is make sure you're using the proper grout and adhesive.
If the heat source is more than 20cm distant, most varieties of tiles are acceptable to use; nonetheless, porcelain is recommended. Due to its density, this material behaves similarly to fire-resistant bricks in that it absorbs heat without spreading it to the surrounding space.