How to Lay a Tile Hearth


A hearth is the floor of a fireplace, often extending into the room, and usually covered with stone, brick or tiles. Long ago, the hearth was considered the most important feature of a home due to its functionality and symbolic relevance, as seen in the phrase “hearth and home.” Today, a hearth is typically an aesthetic and functional element of a living room fireplace that, along with the mantel, defines the style of the fireplace itself. If you want to make your fireplace stand out or simply change its appearance, you may want to know how to lay a tile hearth.

Things You'll Need

  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Sponge
  • Marker
  • Tile cutter or tile saw
  • Mortar
  • Trowel
  • Grout
  • Putty knife or rubber float
  • Prepare the surface of your hearth for laying the tiles. Use a vacuum cleaner to remove all loose dirt and dust from its surface. It is essential that the surface of the hearth be completely clean because that way the mortar will adhere to it better.

  • Clean the surface of the hearth thoroughly with a sponge dampened in warm water. Make sure to get rid of all the dirt that vacuuming did not remove. For hardcore dirt residue, scrub the surface with a more abrasive sponge. Allow the entire hearth area to dry before proceeding with the next step.

  • Lay the tiles out in a pattern of your choice around the hearth area, as a tryout or “dry laying.” Make sure to decide exactly how the tiles will be laid. Use a marker to mark any tiles that need to be cut. Use a tile cutter or saw to shape the tiles into the needed dimensions. You can rent a tile saw in most hardware stores.

  • Make a mortar mix following the instructions on the package. Stir it thoroughly and then apply a small amount of mortar onto the hearth surface with a trowel. Apply only small patches of mortar at a time--enough for a few tiles--so it does not dry out.

  • Start laying the tile on the mortar, starting from one corner of the hearth. Be careful and precise, making sure to follow the pattern you chose. Use plastic spacers to properly lay the tiles, creating even spaces between them. When all the tiles are installed, wait one hour for the mortar to dry.

  • Apply grout in the spaces between the tiles of the hearth, using a bendable putty knife or a rubber float. Make sure to fill all the spaces between the tiles. Then remove the excess grout from the surface of the tiles with a wet sponge and let the whole hearth dry and settle for 24 hours.

Tips & Warnings

  • Be extremely careful when working with a tile cutter tool and always make sure to wear tough, thick working gloves.

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