Replacing a tile hearth around wood stove

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We are getting a new stove and so are replacing the tile hearth it will sit on. So, I am taking up the old tiles. Underneath them is the old mastic or mortar whatever it is called.

Can we just spread new mortar over the old and lay the tiles on top? Or do we need to actually chip all that old mortar away?

Underneath is particle board, which means it comes up just a little tiny bit at a time and makes for a huge job. Attaching a picture to explain better what I mean.

Any feedback or help for us? Thanks.

q replacing a tile hearth around wood stove
  14 answers
  • Everything I've read says you can retile over it as long as it's smooth.

  • FrugalFamilyTimes.com FrugalFamilyTimes.com on Nov 20, 2021

    You can add your new tiles on top of this! Just make sure you get any loose chunks and dust off it. And make sure it's level - so break off any old raised areas, if there are any.

    • Annie Annie on Nov 21, 2021

      It has been pretty difficult to break that old mortar to get it smooth and level, for sure.

  • William William on Nov 20, 2021

    Too bad you removed the tile. You could have just tiled over the old tile as long as it was stable. Then just add beveled wood trim around it.


    Right now with the tile removed you would need to smooth out the existing mortar as best as you can. You can use a hand held electric grinder with a masonry wheel to smooth out what you can. Doesn't have to be perfect. You just want to get rid of the larger grooves. Then you can spread new mortar and tile. I also suggest you butter the back of the new tile with a thin coat of mortar and groove with a trowel. This will create a suction when laying the tile and fill any voids that weren't smooth. Also give the tiles a slight twist to set them. A rubber mallet and two foot level to make sure they are level.

    • Annie Annie on Nov 21, 2021

      Thank you William, we will butter the backs of the new tile going down.


      We didn't really want to install over the old tiles because we thought it would make the hearth a bit too high. As in, something we could easily stub our toes on :)

  • Betsy Betsy on Nov 20, 2021

    Hi Annie: You should be able to put a skim coat over the old stuff to even it out. Do you really need to remove the old tiles? Can you apply the new tiles over the old and put something like a decorative bull nose tile around the edge? Also, what William said :)

    • Annie Annie on Nov 21, 2021

      Yes, we are putting a levelling compound over it today after we finish getting it cleaned up. Thank you!

  • I think you could retile it as long as it is completely even. This video is helpful: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iPwI6agHq0Q

  • Homeroad Homeroad on Nov 20, 2021

    I would just remove what is loose and tile on top.

  • Dee Dee on Nov 20, 2021

    This tile does not look smooth enough to tile over it. Lowes sells a hand tool that is a tile scraper. It is as large as a broom. It works great to clean up tile and mortar. It is going to be work but you will be very satisfied with the results if you clean it up properly.

    • See 1 previous
    • Dee Dee 7 days ago

      The larger scraper really works well in making the surface smooth. I have used it and loaned it out to several people and it did a fantastic job.

  • Flipturn Flipturn on Nov 20, 2021

    Wiliam is correct in saying that you need to smooth out any existing old mortar. Yes, it may be more of a job than you thought you had to do, however, for maximum adhesiveness and longevity of the new tiles, this is an important step not to be skipped.

    • Annie Annie on Nov 21, 2021

      Right, I agree and we will have a heavy stove sitting right on the tile so want to make sure we do it right.


      Not a job we ever want to do again here, for sure, thanks

  • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Nov 21, 2021

    Hi Annie, you can tile on top of the mortar/cement. If there are any large holes or gaps fill them first so the slab is flat, before tiling.

    • See 1 previous
    • Michelle Leslie Michelle Leslie on Nov 22, 2021

      You're welcome, enjoy your new stove when it's in.

  • Tuula - Color Me Thrifty Tuula - Color Me Thrifty on Nov 21, 2021

    if you make sure it's clean, smooth,and level you can put the new tile right on top.

    • Annie Annie on Nov 21, 2021

      Thanks, we have removed the tiles and evened out the hearth area as well as we could.

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 21, 2021

    We bought a ceramic tile pad when we got our stove. Looks much nicer then anything we could have done ourselves and since we bought the stove at the same business they came us a considerable price break.

  • William William on Nov 21, 2021

    Yes I understand. Even with about 1/4" height and wood trim around the perimeter it can still be a trip or toe hazard. 😁

  • Kathy Gunter Law Kathy Gunter Law on Nov 22, 2021

    I would chip away old mortar or replace the cement board. If you don’t, it won’t be smooth.

  • Mogie Mogie on Nov 22, 2021

    Most wood stoves are not in a highly trafficed area(s). Besides cleaning them out the only other time we really are near ours is to add firewood. They are no more a trip hazard then the curb on a shower (actually considerably less).