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How To Tile Over A Brick Fireplace Surround

Hey friends! I’m finally back with another edition of our fireplace makeover.

You may recall it started out in all sorts of orangey-oak-and-painted-peach glory when we first bought our 80s-era house and I immediately painted it all white. Eventually the hearth ended up black because we use the fireplace all the time and the white hearth paint got so beat up. A painted hearth for a fireplace that is used frequently is just NOT a good idea! The black hearth functioned better but since it is raised, it was such an eyesore and I constantly thought about sledgehammering the whole thing.Our fireplace before the makeover

While I was daydreaming about restyling the fireplace, Mark was dreaming of hanging the tv here. We have 2 windows and 3 doorways into this room and no matter where we put the tv it was awkward. Long story short, we both agreed the best place for it was on the fireplace wall (I’ll go into more detail about figuring out if a fireplace is a viable option for a tv, and how we hung ours, in a later post.)  On a whim right before we hosted Thanksgiving, we decided to rip out the mantle, and thus ensued the HUGE fireplace makeover project that spanned across the entire holiday season! We’re awesome planners like that! Despite the fact that our house was torn apart for weeks on end and there was a lot of grunt labor involved, this project really changed the feel of our family room and we are so glad we tackled it!!

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Today I wanted to fill you in on tiling over the existing brick surround and next week I’ll talk about the boxed and tiled hearth – my favorite parts of the project!

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I have only tiled once before, with my brother many years ago, and then I was more the assistant and the person who went to pick up subs while he did all the actual work. 🙂  This time I did it all myself, with the advice of some experts, so I wanted to share my experience in case you are thinking about tackling something like this for the first time too.

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CHOOSING THE MATERIAL

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Mark and I had decided that since we were DIYing the demo and carpentry parts of this project, we would invest in something we really loved for the surround and hearth. I visited stone yards and countertop companies and priced out granite, soapstone and Vermont slate slabs, and saw some gorgeous options, but I kept thinking about our future kitchen renovation and the materials I want to use in there. The family room is right off the kitchen and the materials in the two rooms need to live harmoniously with each other. When I looked at my kitchen boards on Pinterest it was crazy how many kitchens I had pinned that had marble tile. So I took a peek at marble tile just for fun, and once  I brought it home and saw it with the fireplace I was head over heels!!

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I went with these 2″x4″ Venatino marble tiles. They come on mesh sheets that are about 10″x12″. There is such a HUGE color variation even in the same marble family. The first sheet of tile I bought was exactly what I wanted – a creamy white with grey and beige veining and swooshes. When I went back to the store to get more I discovered that most of the stock was VERY grey, so I took down every single sheet off the shelves (probably 50 or so, it was a good upper-body workout!) and laid them out in the aisle, making a “keep” pile as I went along. I estimated that I needed seven sheets, with an extra just in case, and I did end up using all 8.

After seeing how varied the marble can be, if you are using marble I would strongly suggest that you pick it out yourself as opposed to buying it online!

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This was the keep pile that I kept adding and deleting from as I found better options.

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You will probably notice that some of my photos present the tiles as being really grey, and other times they almost look white. The lighting and time of day has a lot to do with that, but in real life the surround as a whole reads mostly creamy white with grey and beige. We love the color variations and overall composition that we ended up with.

 

INSTALLING THE TILE

There are so many great tutorials online for step-by-step tile installation that I’m not going to recreate the wheel;  this one at Thrifty Decor Chick was super helpful, particularly Sarah’s recommendation to buy premixed adhesive for a small job like this instead of mixing together Thinset.

I installed the tile after we had the base of our surround done, but before the final trim. Before I installed the tile I used chalk to mark the surround measurements on my kitchen floor, and then cut up the mesh sheets to fit the tiles together like a puzzle. A few of the sheets had really dark tiles that I cut out, or too much white in one area, but overall I tried to keep the tiles on the sheets so that it would be easier to place them.

Fireplace Makeover Tiling Over Brick | www.shineyourlightblog.com

I rented a wet saw for the tiles that needed to be cut. I had never used a wet saw before and was freaked out! but I regularly use a compound miter saw and a jigsaw, I drive a car, and I am raising kids 🙂 , and if I can do those things LIKE A BOSS then I figured a wet saw would not be that big of a deal – and it wasn’t!!! Mark had used one before, so he showed me how to push the tile through slowly and make sure that water was always running onto it.

[Looking back on this project a few years and tile projects later, I wish I had just bought an inexpensive wet saw for my first project – it would have been way more cost effective than renting one repeatedly. After doing this surround, tiling the hearth, and tiling a bathroom floor I finally bought this wet saw to tile my kitchen backsplash and it’s great for small jobs like these.]

Marble is pretty soft and is known for chipping, but I didn’t encounter a big problem with that.

I applied just enough adhesive to install one sheet at a time, and since the tiles were on the mesh they were already spaced evenly. If I replaced a tile on a sheet because it was too light or dark, I would cut the mesh around it with a utility blade, install the sheet, then “butter” a replacement tile and wiggle it into place. (See how grey the tiles look in this light??? Crazy.)
Fireplace Makeover Grouting The Tile

I let the tile set for a couple of days while I worked on the hearth, and then I grouted the surround with premixed unsanded white grout. Overall I think it came out great but if I could do one thing over again it would be to use spacers even though the tiles were on the mesh sheets. Some of my grout lines are a teeny bit wider than others, not really noticeable unless you study them, but as the installer I’m aware and annoyed with myself. I bought the wrong spaces but now I know I could have used pennies. The fact that the grout is similar in color to the tile disguises the grout lines a little but if you are using a contrasting grout I would suggest the spacers.

Fireplace Makeover Nonsanded White Grouted Tile

I love the variations in the colors and how it adds some texture to the room without taking over!

The surround tile and supplies cost around $120 (tile, adhesive, grout and tools) which in comparison to the other options we were looking at is very inexpensive, and I think it’s a lot of bang for the buck!

Here’s one more way back-before and after…….

Shine Your Light Blog Fireplace Makeover

Next up on these fireplace makeover chronicles I’ll show you how I tiled over the ugly brick hearth, sealing all this marble goodness to prevent smoke discoloration, and painting the interior of the fireplace box.

Visit this post for the makeover of the fireplace and built-ins from start to finish! 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend lovelies!

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Ashley

Tuesday 4th of October 2016

What did you use on the inside where the marble meets the inside of fireplace? I can't enlarge the picture and am about to do this as well! Does it just stop?

Lisa

Tuesday 4th of October 2016

Hi Ashley, I bought beveled marble tiles for the inside edge but after installing them I hated the affect, so I took them off and painted that section of bricks white until I came up with another solution, and after living with it we've decided to leave it as is.....that part is not very noticeable especially with the fire place screen on. Without the screen the painted white brick doesn't really call attention to itself. It's not close enough to the fire to burn off but it will probably have to be repainted every few years thanks to smoke discoloration.

Cristina

Saturday 26th of March 2016

Oh my goodness, what a transformation! It looks like a totally different space. The built-ins and fireplace are awesome! I love, love marble. I think you can't never go wrong with marble. I used it to tile the kitchen backsplash almost five years ago and I'm still loving it! You're making me re-think my fireplace! :)

Lisa

Monday 28th of March 2016

I'm thinking of using the marble as a kitchen backsplash when we eventually renovate that space. It is a classic beauty!

Kris {Driven by Decor}

Tuesday 15th of March 2016

You seriously amaze me! My daughter and I were looking through this post together and were ooohhing and ahhing over your transformation - so awesome!

Lisa

Wednesday 16th of March 2016

Thank you my friend! I wish I did it 5 years ago instead of my typical hemming & hawing :)

nancy

Tuesday 15th of March 2016

Hey Lisa! i am having this done next week after it being on our to do list for YEARS. I used the same tile from Lowes (i saw your reply to my comment on instagram :) i also bought subway tile in marble like you to play around with a border...still on the fence about that one but I think I'm just going to use what I have because like you it took forever (and three separate trips to different Lowes) to find the right coloring. ha! love love love yours! i'll send you a picture when its complete. just gotta make it through spring break from school and then its back to projects :)

Lisa

Tuesday 15th of March 2016

Nancy I am going to post about the hearth tomorrow but I am really loving the marble threshold I used on the border. It is thicker than tile and gives the top of the hearth a nice chunky appearance. The threshold pieces are 2"x36" and are >$8 per piece. I cut them to fit on the wet saw and they are the perfect finishing touch. I'll email you the link to the one I used! Thank you for the kind words on this project! I am excited to see yours!

Denise

Saturday 12th of March 2016

So beautiful and so impressive Lisa! The overall transformation is amazing! I had no idea you could tile over brick - never thought about it actually! You know no one will notice the grout lines - I have looked at so many "professional" tile jobs, and none of them are perfect either! I get it though - when we tiled our shower I noticed all the little imperfections! It really is amazing Lisa - a whole new room!

Lisa

Saturday 12th of March 2016

Denise thanks so much for your sweet words! The grout lines really aren't noticeable at all except to me! Now that I did this I'd love to do a shower - you are amazing the you tackled that one! That's a LOT of tiling and grouting!!