Removing tile from fireplace aurround

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My daughter bought a home built in 1928. Walls are plaster. The fireplace surround has clay tile cemented to plaster walls. She'd like to remove them, but realizes it could be a bigger messier job than it appears. Any suggestions?
q removing tile from fireplace aurround, cosmetic changes, fireplaces mantels, home improvement, tiling
  12 answers
  • Annie Annie on Jun 26, 2016
    I'd give my eye teeth to have that mantle! Maintaining the character of an older home also maintains its value. If it must go, it is a messy job but not difficult. You break up the tiles with a hammer which creates a lot of dirt. Put a drop cloth down and wear a dust mask. The area can then be covered as she chooses. The wall behind the tile will have to come out down to the lathe. It can then be repaired with new plaster. She may be fortunate enough to find a mantle she likes to cover the space. Of course one can be custom made.
  • SG SG on Jun 26, 2016
    Wish I could move it here, Too bad it's not her style,
  • Mike Williamson Mike Williamson on Jun 26, 2016
    I agree with Ahodie: You just won't find tile and workmanship like this anywhere. I removed some "builder's grade" tile from my fireplace surround. It is messy. You MUST wear eye protection along with a good quality dust mask. Don't forget to protect your ears too. The noise from a hammer striking a cold chisel will damage your hearing....I know. Gloves are a good idea to protect your hands. The broken tile pieces are sharp as razors. God luck and post an after pic.
  • Anne Dabecco Anne Dabecco on Jun 26, 2016
    I have to agree with all of you. This tile was made and installed by German craftsman who immigrated to this area in the early 1900's. If she removes it, it may in fact lower the value of her home over time, as many in the area look for this style and craftsmanship. We'll see h it goes. 😬
  • Janette Janette on Jun 26, 2016
    Janette, Poughkeepsie, NY It's charming and would always be a conversation piece, especially with the history. I just took all the stone off my fireplace - 13 feet to the ceiling, so I understand not liking something. But in this case, I would give it some time, live with it for a while, decorate around it, which could be fun, and get lots of opinions before doing anything drastic.
  • Leslie Leslie on Jun 26, 2016
    Before you destroy any of those tiles please consider consulting with a very good tile dealer preferably one that deals in antique tiles. They may be able to give you instructions on ways to remove without destroying the tiles, or offer to do it for a price. Tiles such as these are a commodity. It will be a messy job but plaster is cheap and the wall can be repaired. Those tiles are a treasure.
    • See 1 previous
    • Leslie Leslie on Jun 26, 2016
      Anne you are most welcome. Your Daughter is lucky to have you to teach her. Thank you for that :)
  • William William on Jun 26, 2016
    Those are beautiful tiles and the tile work is amazing. Rather than remove them have her decorate around them. Paint the fireplace wall a lighter shade than the tiles. A beefy mantle held up by chunky corbels are a few things I would do. If the sconces are not original, I would replace them with Craftsman or Mission style sconces.
  • Larry Chura Larry Chura on Jun 26, 2016
    You can remove them but you will destroy part of the wall behind and around them. As far as I know there is no easy solution. Pick which one you can or can't live with. Good Luck.
  • Annie Annie on Jun 27, 2016
    I was so taken by the wall tile work that I didn't notice the floor. Is that tile as well? It does add a busy factor to the fireplace and maybe that is what your daughter objects to. Whatever material that is, how about removing that and replacing it with a simple solid color porcelain tile?
    • Anne Dabecco Anne Dabecco on Jun 27, 2016
      The floor is tile as well. It is busy, but I have to say, in person, it's really kind of cool. The workmanship is beautiful and it's been there since 1928!! But again, at 24 years old, it's simply not her style, so I get it. Someone who has done home renovations in Cincinnati and is familiar with this type of tile has suggested putting a "false" mantle and fireplace surround over it. So if she sells the house, then the integrity of the tile would remain. Thanks for the suggestions. Removing the tile, which we think is cemented onto plaster, could be a big mess.
  • Annie Annie on Jun 27, 2016
    Why not buy her a book on the arts and crafts movement! We all have our taste in things evolve. Someday granite countertops and stainless steel will go the way of the avocado appliances I grew up with. But this is a gorgeous piece of vintage craftsmanship and it will never be duplicated. Tell her there's this crazy lady in NJ who would BEG her to give herself some time to get her eye used to it. I live just outside of Short Hills and these magnificent homes from this period are being torn down and replaced with McMansions. It hurts!
  • Anne Dabecco Anne Dabecco on Jul 02, 2016
    Thanks for all the feedback. This has been very helpful.
  • Tela.waggoner Tela.waggoner on Nov 14, 2016
    Why not leave it since it is original to the house. Can't she just 'cover it with a newer mantle/fireplace surround without destroying something that could be a selling point later?
    • Anne Dabecco Anne Dabecco on Nov 14, 2016
      Agree. So far she's living with it and it's kind of growing on her. The design is such a part of the culture of the area.