Denver Grout Medic Blog

Learn to Install A Tile Fireplace Surround

Is your brick fireplace a little tired? Or did someone try to cover it with paint back in the 80s, and fail horribly? Do you hope that the screen you use in front of it is nice enough to detract from the soot stained grout you can’t get clean for the life of you? Well you can stop. There is an easy solution to all of your fireplace woes. Tile. There are so many options and designs, some even mimicking brick (but easier to clean), that there’s no possible way you won’t find something you adore. A great weekend project is to do it yourself. Tiling your fireplace surround will take some time and patience, but the results are well worth the effort.

What You’ll Need:

Latex Modified Thinset

    • Grout
    • Caulk and Gun
    • Trowel (notched and straight edged)
    • Grout Float
    • Grout Bag (only if you are working with decorative tiles with uneven surfaces)
    • Tile Spacers
    • 2 1”x3” beams the width of your fireplace surround
    • Wet cutting tile saw (rentable at your local hardware store)
    • Drill and 2” masonry screws
    • Painters tape and plastic sheeting

Day 1:

      • Make a cardboard template of the fireplace surround and lay out your pattern on the floor to establish how you would like your spacing and pattern to look. Get a sense of where tile will have to be cut before committing to it more permanently on the installation. Begin laying the tile on the template from above the opening of the fireplace, working from the middle moving outward and up, then do the same with the legs.
      • Make sure your bricks are clean and dry, remove your mantle if possible, then protect any surface not to be tiled with plastic sheeting and painters tape. If you cannot remove the mantle, tape around it’s edges to protect it as much as possible.
      • Mix your latex modified thinset and begin spreading a layer over the brick with your straight edge trowel. Make sure to fill all of the spaces and grout joints to create a flat surface for your tile. If you still see the grout through the thinset after it has begun drying, lay another thin layer over it to even things out.

Let Dry Overnight

Day 2:

  • Grab your two 1”x3” boards and place one just over the opening of the fireplace, making sure it’s level, secure it with 2” masonry screws into the wall. Repeat this with the second board at the base of the legs.
    • Since you are working vertically, these ledges will provide support for the tiles as the thinset dries.
  • Mix the latex modified thinset (which is used on vertical surfaces because it is stronger and stickier), and apply with your notched trowel above the top board, working from the middle out and then up, just as you did with your template.
  • Use the spacers between the tiles to keep the grout lines fairly consistent. Keep an eye on the tiles making sure they are even with one another, so that you don’t end up with a wavy or awkward looking surround.
  • Then move to the base of a leg, spread some of the thinset with the notched trowel and begin the same process laying tile from bottom to top, repeat on other leg.

Wait for a few hours until everything’s secure.

  • Remove the spacers and the support ledges.
  • Taking into account space needed for grout, cut your final tiles to fit using a wet cutting tile saw.
  • Apply thinset with the notched trowel to the back of the tile and place, making sure to press it enough that suction is created between the tile and wall.

Let Sit Overnight

Day 3:

  • Clear off any misplaced thinset from the tile and prepare your grout.
    • If you have decorative tiles with uneven surfaces, cover the surface with your painters tape and use a grout bag to grout the areas around those specific tiles.
  • Apply the grout at an angle using your grout float to push grout down into the joints.
  • Let dry 30 minutes and wipe tiles clean with a damp sponge to clean the excess grout.

Dry Overnight

Day 4:

  • Wipe tiles clean once more, and reinstall the mantel.
  • Apply a thin bead of caulk along the outer tiles and the mantle.

Wait 4 days before using your beautiful fireplace.

Annalise Proctor is a avid writer, reader and urban Chicago adventurer, with a love for DIY projects, butterfly collections and other oddities. When she's not searching for new book stores, she often writes for the DIY portion of theDenver Tile Installationblog.

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