Fireplace Makeover! Learn How to Tile

Caitlin Bigelow
by Caitlin Bigelow
5 Materials
2 Days
Learn how to transform your fireplace in a weekend! This project makes a huge statement, and is really easy!
Learn how to transform your fireplace in a weekend! This project makes a huge statement, and is really easy!
Step 1: Gathering Supplies When purchasing tile buy 10% more than you think you'll need. You'll consume a lot of tile when you have to start cutting up edges and the worst thing is being 75% done and running out of tile! For this project you'll need: 5 Gallon buckets (these are useful in the demo for hauling out tile and also to needed to mix mortar and grout) Tile Mortar (I used mortar on the floor tiles) Wet Saw with diamond blade Plastic sheeting Notched trowel Tape Measure Various rags, brooms, dust pans Grout (unsanded) Most people don't think about the grout, but the color you choose is really important! Sealant
Here's an example of where having the right tool makes ALL THE DIFFERENCE. This baby jackhammer make demo a breeze (and honestly really fun and rewarding). If you're wondering if it's worth the rental fee at home depot, it is.
Make sure to scrape any concrete and existing mortar off the floor before moving to the next step. You need a smooth surface. The concrete foundation can be thin, so be careful not to hammer down into it.
Make sure your fireplace area is completely cleared of debris. If you're using a patterned tile lay it out and see where you want the pattern to display. I started from the face of the fireplace and went up from there. Make sure to give this step some thought before you dive in. I started on the bottom right (front face) and worked my way up and out. Don't start laying tile in more than one place at a time or your pattern won't match up. You'll also need to decide your spacing. For the floor tile I went with a 1/8" spacer. For the teal tile I tried to go 1/16" but the pattern was organic and the tiles varied in size so much that I ended up just eyeballing it.
Here's the fun (and exhausting) part. Start laying your tile! Spread your mortar on the surface. Start by spreading a thin layer covering the area and then go back with your notched trowel and drag the ridged edge across the mortar so you see rows of lines. This will help the tile stick. Tip: Some areas of the wall may need more or less mortar to keep your tiles flat. I wanted to tile over some of the black box of the fireplace, which you can do if you keep the vents clear, that area was slightly recessed from the rest of the wall so I needed to add extra mortar so it would all be flush.
You'll also need to cut tiles to size using your wet saw. Make sure water is continuously running on the blade. This one was $99 at Home Depot. Ask around though, friends may have one you can borrow!
After all your tiles are placed (congrats!) it's time to grout. Follow the instructions listed on your bag of grout. I mixed the grout, applied using a trowel (hint or my hand), let sit for ~20 minutes and wipe off with a large damp sponge. Have a bucket of hot clean water handy to rinse out sponge. Make sure not to take too much grout out of your edges. Try to just remove the grout on the tile. Grout will become very hard in 24 hours.
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Suggested materials:
  • Wall tile
  • Pans grout
  • Wet Saw with diamond blade
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Frequently asked questions
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3 of 4 questions
  • Rick Boyd Rick Boyd on Dec 24, 2016
    where did you get the wood for the mantle? I'm wanting to redo my fireplace and need something other than the so-so one mantle that is there. thanks!
  • Your Momma Your Momma on Dec 27, 2016
    Great job! Where did you get the tiles and what is the name of them? I'm in love!
  • Kverbanic Kverbanic on Jul 30, 2017

    Will any grout work, or is there a special grout for, high heat, tolerance?

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2 of 22 comments
  • EasyAs123 EasyAs123 on Dec 01, 2019

    Love the arabesque tile choice. But the grout color bombed. Not enough contrast. So it pulled down the beautiful hue of the tiles. That old drab 'n dingey FP insert doesn't help. Light gray, white, or even black would've been the best choice - Contrast.

  • Joanie Joanie on Nov 12, 2020

    I love your mantle........what is old is new!