How to Tile a Fireplace Surround


You can create a beautiful fireplace surround with tile without it being too costly and without being an expert.

  • GETTING STARTED: If this is a new install you will want cut backerboard to fit and install with thinset mortar and self-tapping masonry screws. You can tape and finish joints with fiberglass tape and joint compound. If you are covering a brick surface, make sure the brick is cleaned thoroughly and flatten high spots with a rubbing stone. Spread a thin coat of heat-resistant mortar of the bricks. Level with a 2X4 set against 1/2" screed boards tacked into the mortar joints on both sides of the fireplace opening. Let the skim coat dry and use it as a base for the tiles.

  • MAKE A DIMENSIONAL DRAWING: Measure the surface to be tiled and graph it out on graph paper. Experiment with your designs and then draw your final design to scale. Include grout joints. This is where you can make adjustments so that you won't have narrow tile pieces along the edges. If this happens adjust your grout lines or use larger tiles.

  • SET UP DESIGN: Lay out your tile on the floor, using tile spacers to insure correct measurements. If you are using insets, lay them on top of the tile and mark their outlines. Cut the tiles and test-fit them in the design. Number the tiles to keep track of their location when you pick them up for installation.

  • SET EDGES: Set the edges of the opening of the fireplace with the trim or bullnose tiles. Keep them straight with a batten.

  • FINISH THE EDGES: Use a radius bullnose tile to finish the edges at the fireplace opening. If a matching bullnose is not available for your tile, you can grout the inside edge of the tiles and bevel the grout with a margin trowel.

  • SET THE FIELD TILES: Spread and comb mortar for the the field tiles. Line up the bottom edges with a metal straightedge. Support the tiles by driving finishing nails into the backerboard. Repeat the process for the rest of the rows. Use tile spacers to keep spacing even. Follow your numbered tiles to set them according to your design.

  • FINISHING: Grout tiles and finish with a seal coat.

Tips & Warnings

  • Use all heat resistant materials.
  • Check on all local building codes that might be required for this project.

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