How to Put a New Hearth Over an Old Hearth

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A fireplace provides style, warmth and the focal point to a room. Over time, a brick hearth can begin to look old, dirty and outdated. If your fireplace needs a redo, you don’t need to remove the existing hearth. Instead, cover the hearth with slate or marble tile that complements the fireplace surround. Prepare the brick, before you put a new hearth over the existing one, by clearing away any chipped mortar and cleaning off the soot.

Things You'll Need

  • Tarps
  • Tape measure
  • Wire brush
  • Scrub brush
  • Liquid dish soap
  • Warm water
  • Fortified thinset mortar
  • 12-by-12 inch slate tiles
  • Trowel
  • Masking tape
  • Tile grout
  • Grout float
  • Caulking gun
  • Heat-resistant caulk
  • Place tarps on the floor around the fireplace to protect it as you clean off the old mortar and soot.

  • Measure the front, top and sides of the existing hearth to determine how many full 12-by-12 inch tiles you'll need and how many you'll need to cut to cover the entire hearth. Lay out the tiles on the floor to use as a guide before you begin laying the tile.

  • Scrape away any loose mortar from the bricks with a wire brush.

  • Scrub the bricks with a solution of warm water and liquid dish soap. Rinse away the soap thoroughly from the brick surface and let the bricks dry overnight.

  • Spread a thin layer, about 3/16-inch, of fortified thinset mortar with the smooth edge of a trowel. Cover all grooves made by the existing grout. Apply another thin layer, if necessary, to create a smooth, level surface. Let the mortar set overnight. Fortified thinset mortar contains polymers that make the tiles adhere securely to the brick.

  • Apply another thin layer of mortar over the hearth with the notched edge of the trowel.

  • Cover the back of a piece of tile with a thin layer of mortar. Set the tile into the notched mortar on the hearth. Continue setting the tiles onto the hearth until you cover the front, back and side surfaces.

  • Place strips of masking tape across two tiles until all of the tiles are connected with tape. This will help hold the tiles in place as the thinset cures overnight.

  • Prepare the tile grout, according to the manufacturer’s directions. Apply the grout with a grout float by dragging it over the tiles in one direction then back over the tiles in the opposite direction. Wipe away the excess grout with a damp rag.

  • Caulk along the edges of the tile where they meet the fireplace surround and the wall. Use heat-resistant caulk that matches the mortar and complements the fireplace surround for a smooth, seamless finish.

Tips & Warnings

  • Add a strip of molding along the bottom edges of the tiles where they meet the floor if desired.
  • Consider painting the mantel to coordinate with the new tile hearth.

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  • Photo Credit Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images
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