This is an exciting week for my fireplace remodel, because the fireplace tile is finally going in! You know you’re getting close to the end when you start playing with the pretty stuff. This is my first time installing tile, so it was a little nerve-wracking. I didn’t want to have to chisel it all off and start again if I messed up! Luckily, it was a simple, yet time-consuming process. In case you missed it, you can find all the posts for my fireplace remodel series here.
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If you’re just joining me, you can follow my entire fireplace remodel journey from demolition to now on this page. Last time, I left off with the fireplace looking like this.
The white areas of the fireplace surround will be getting this gorgeous glass and stone mosaic tile, and the hearth will have huge 18″ x 18″ honed marble tiles with quarter round marble trim around the edges.
Hearth Tile Installation
I started with the hearth tiles, since that will determine where I place the bottom row of wall tiles. The entire area only needed four tiles, but this box of six tiles gave me a chance to play around with the placement a bit. I wanted the natural pattern of the marble to flow from one tile to the next, like they were all cut from the same slab.
One of the tiles was noticeably darker than the rest, so I left that one out altogether. Two of them looked like they actually did come from the same slab, with dark striations that looked like tiger stripes. I placed those together in the center, and chose the closest match for the two ends. Each one was labeled with painter’s tape at the top so I would remember how they were arranged, then I cut the end pieces to fit.
To cut the tiles, I used a Ryobi wet tile saw. I could have rented one instead, but I foresee lots more tiling in my future! I was super nervous at first, but it handled those big tiles like a champ. Any little bumps and sharp edges were sanded down with 60 grit sandpaper.
These large-format tiles require special thin-set mortar that prevents sagging. After spending all that time leveling out the hearth, the last thing I wanted was for the tile to set all wonky! They lined up perfectly with the edges of the cement backer board, with 1/16″ spacers for tiny little grout lines.
For the edges, I used these gorgeous honed marble quarter round trim tiles. Instead of thin-set, I decided to use Liquid Nails for marble to adhere them to the backer board. I needed to avoid getting any adhesive on the hardwood floors, and this gave me more control over the application. The quarter round tile will float just a tiny bit above the hardwood floor to allow it to expand and contract with the seasons.
It took a bit of brain power, and a few wrong cuts, to get the mitered corners right. It’s a good thing I had a couple extra tiles! Not too shabby for a first try, right?
Trim will wrap around the corner of the fireplace surround, so I needed to cut a notch in the quarter round to accommodate it. It took quite a few trips back and forth to the tile saw to get it right!
Once I set a piece of quarter round tile into the Liquid Nails, I held it in place with painter’s tape. It set pretty quickly, and now they’re solid as a rock!
Fireplace Surround Tile Installation
Installing the rest of the fireplace tile was pretty straightforward. I started by dry-fitting the mosaic tiles together and switching out a few of the black glass tiles for more neutral stone ones. There’s plenty of black in the gas insert, and I wanted to lighten up the look.
To keep the tile in the middle from sagging before the thin-set hardened, I nailed a 1 x 2 board across the top of the firebox. Make sure the board is perfectly level!
I lined up the bottom of the tile with the very edge of the firebox, resting on top of the board. I decided to leave a gap at the top, rather than cut the top row of tiles in half. The edge of the tiles will be covered with trim.
Once the fireplace tile was set, I used non-sanded grout on both the surround and hearth. Non-sanded grout is best for grout lines up to 1/8″, and won’t scratch glass tile like the sanded variety can.
The small gap where the wall tile meets the hearth will be filled in with tile caulk that matches the grout.
Fireplace Tile Complete
I’m pretty proud of how the fireplace tile came out. I conquered a new tool, and I’m one step closer to finishing this crazy project!
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