How to Install Marble Tile on a Fireplace

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Marble fireplaces make a beautiful impression in a home.
Marble fireplaces make a beautiful impression in a home. (Image: David Sacks/Lifesize/Getty Images)

You may be taking a look at your fireplace and wanting to install marble tile instead of the dingy looking tiles that have been there for years. It's a task suited for those with a lot of patience and determination, but well worth the effort.

Things You'll Need

  • Wet saw or tile cutter
  • Chisel
  • Marble tiles
  • Bonding mortar
  • Tile grout
  • Grout float applicator
  • Grout sealer
  • Tile spacers
  • Old rags
  • Safety goggles
  • Tape measure
  • Pencil
  • Large tiling sponge
  • Backerboard (optional)
  • Square notched trowel

Remove the old tiles from the fireplace with a chisel. This is the hardest part of the job. Do your best not to pull sheetrock off the wall. Also be sure to peel off any mesh backing before moving on with installing the marble tile.

After removing the old tiles from the fireplace, make sure the surface is smooth. You may have to replace the sheetrock if the existing sheetrock has large holes or is bumpy. You can also install backerboard (optional) where the tile will be placed by screwing it into the wall. The backerboard provides a lightweight, smooth surface for the tile. Be sure to patch any holes with a joint compound before moving on with installing the marble tile.

Measure and find the center of the fireplace wall. Mark this with a chalk line both vertically and horizontally. Determine where the marble tile should sit and dry fit the tile to be sure you like the spacing.

Measure and cut the marble tile. You can rent a wet saw (for large tiles) and/or tile cutter (smaller tiles) from a local home improvement store.

Mix the bonding mortar according to the manufacturer's instructions. Be sure to mix it thoroughly, without lumps. Let the mixture sit for five minutes.

Using a square notched trowel, apply the mortar to the fireplace surface you want to tile with marble.

Place the first tile into the mortar on the center line where you have determined it should be. Continue placing tiles along your line including spacers for each tile to keep the spacing consistent. Be sure to move the marble tile slightly while placing it, then move it back into the set position. This helps make sure the tile is firmly placed in the mortar. Continue until you have all the tiles in place.

Let the mortar dry on the fireplace for at least 24 hours, undisturbed.

Mix the grout and let it sit for 10 minutes. Be sure to purchase the correct type of grout for the amount of space between each marble tile.

Remove the tile spacers. If there is extra mortar hanging out, carefully remove it.

Use a grout float applicator to apply the grout between the marble tiles on the fireplace. Wipe off the excess grout with a large tiling sponge, rinsing often.

Let the grout dry on the fireplace, undisturbed, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Wipe off any grout haze with a dry cloth. Seal the grout according to manufacturers directions.

Tips & Warnings

  • When buying marble tile, be sure to tell the sales staff that the tile will be for your fireplace.
  • Sometimes homeowners decide to install tile right on top of the old tile. This sometimes works, but is not generally recommended if you want your tile to stay in place for the long-term. Starting fresh is best.
  • It's always a good idea to buy extra tile in case you cut the marble tile to the wrong measurements.
  • You can use pieces of wood to hold the marble tiles in place while they dry.
  • Put on your safety goggles before removing the old tiles - tile shards can be sharp and fly everywhere.
  • Wear your safety goggles when cutting marble tiles with the wet saw or tile cutter.

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