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How to Tile a Fireplace: Tiled Fireplace Tips

A fireplace can be a fabulous feature in your home, and with so many beautiful tiles to choose from, in stunning colours, shapes, and styles, tiling your fireplace can really help to transform the look of a room and mean that you'll have a hearth that fits in with the rest of your interior’s scheme.

A fireplace can be a fabulous feature in your home, and with so many beautiful tiles to choose from, in stunning colours, shapes, and styles, tiling your fireplace can really help to transform the look of a room and mean that you'll have a hearth that fits in with the rest of your interior’s scheme. 

Tiling a fireplace should be a relatively straightforward job for a competent DIYer. All you will need are suitable tiles, the materials to fix them, and the correct tools. 

Now you’re probably thinking, how do I tile my fireplace? What tools and materials do I need? Here is some practical advice and tips to make the job as simple as possible.

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What you need

We’ve created a handy list of tools and materials that you’ll need for your DIY fireplace project:

Tools:

  • Tape measure
  • Spirit Level
  • Tile cutter
  • Trowel
  • Damp rag or sponge
  • Bucket of water
  • Protective eyewear, gloves and clothing

Materials: 

  • Your chosen tiles
  • Tile spacers
  • Backerboard
  • Heat-resistant mortar
  • Unsanded grout
  • Grout float
  • Penetrating sealer

What tiles are best for a tiled fireplace?

Before you begin, it’s important to make sure that you choose tiles that are suitable for a fireplace, and thus, are able to withstand heat. 

Porcelain is the best option, its dense nature means it absorbs heat better, so is perfect in a fireplace with an open fire or a log burner. 

You could also consider using natural stone tiles, which are equally as effective at absorbing heat. 

Ceramic tiles can withstand heat to a certain degree but need to be used more cautiously. 

Whichever tiles you opt for, be mindful that tiles should never be put in direct contact with a heat source, so ensure you leave sufficient space between your tiled hearth and the heat source.

How do I tile a fireplace? 

There are two main types of fireplace hearth that you can tile:

  • A recessed fireplace hearth - a hearth that is level with the floor 
  • A raised fireplace hearth - a hearth that's raised above the floor

Whichever fireplace you have, the tilling process will be almost identical, although the preparation will be a bit different. It's easier to tile a raised fireplace as you don't need to worry about the floor level. 

However, for a recessed hearth, as well as taking up the existing tiles, you may also need to remove some of the existing concrete of the hearth to be able to fit the new tiles if they are thicker, or if the existing hearth was raised. 

If your recessed hearth isn’t level, try using a self-levelling compound, but be aware that this may raise the level slightly. If there is left-over adhesive from the previous tiles, try using a grit rub block to smooth out the surface. Another option is to use backer board as a substrate for your hearth.  

Now you’ve got a levelled hearth, it’s time to start tiling! We’ve created handy step-by-step instructions to guide you through the process.

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1. Measure your fireplace

It is important to use a tape measure to accurately measure your fireplace to make sure you have the correct number of tiles. You also need to find the mid-point where your central tile will sit, to ensure you create a symmetrical look.

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2. Dry fit the tiles and cut tiles to fit around the surround

Laying out your tiles is a crucial first step to see how they will fit, and helps to avoid any potential issues before you start fixing them in place. Work from the central tile outwards, positioning and styling your tiles to create your desired end-look. 

Once you’ve dry fit your tiles, it’s time to start making any necessary cuts to your tiles using a tile cutter, ensuring that they fit the precise dimensions of your fireplace. 

If you plan to use a wet tile cutter, remember to do this outdoors and wear protective eyewear, gloves and clothing, it can get messy!

Apply adhesive for your tiled fireplace | Tile GiantApply adhesive for your tiled fireplace | Tile Giant

3. Apply the adhesive in small quantities

First prepare your heat-resistant adhesive, according to the manufacturer's instructions. Measure a line in the centre of the fireplace and draw a pencil mark at the front and back of the wall and floor, above where the tiles will sit, so that you can see the line whilst you are tiling. 

Apply the adhesive evenly with a trowel, ensuring you create ridges to allow air to escape when you push the tiles down into the adhesive, thus ensuring the tiles stick well. 

Top Tip - It’s best to apply the heat-resistant adhesive in small quantities at a time, so that it doesn’t dry before you’ve had time to fix your tiles in place.

Add spacers to your tiles | Tile GiantAdd spacers to your tiles | Tile Giant

4. Fix the tiles with spacers

Now it’s time to start laying your tiles. Lay the central tile first and work away from this, remembering to do a small area at a time. Lay each tile onto the small area prepared with the heat-resistant adhesive and use tile spacers in-between each tile to ensure a consistent gap between each tile. 

Use a spirit-level to check each of the tiles are level with each other, then push the tiles down firmly into place. Be careful not to push the tiles down too hard, otherwise the adhesive might push up through the gaps. 

Continue applying the tiles following this method, small areas at a time, until the whole area is covered.

Apply grout for your tiled fireplace | Tile GiantApply grout for your tiled fireplace | Tile Giant

5. Apply the grout

Before applying the grout, use a blade to carefully remove any of the adhesive that has crept up into the grout lines. Prepare the grout, according to the manufacturer's instructions. 

Apply the grout using a grout float, start from the back and move forwards, pushing it into the grout lines between each of the tiles and smoothing out with the grout float.

Sponge clean your tiles | Tile GiantSponge clean your tiles | Tile Giant

6. Sponge clean

Once you’ve finished grouting, it's really important to clean the tiles. Use a sponge and a bucket of water to wipe over the tiles and remove any excess grout. This will help to smooth the grout in the gaps and eliminate the white haze from the top of the tiles.

How to seal tiles on a tiled fireplace | Tile GiantHow to seal tiles on a tiled fireplace | Tile Giant

7. Seal your tiles

Some tiles will need sealing after they have been laid. This is particularly important for polished porcelain, natural stone, cracked glaze and quartz tiles. Apply the sealant, according to the manufacturer’s instructions, with a soft-bristled brush immediately after installation of the tiles.

How much does it cost to retile a fireplace?

Tiling a fireplace is not an expensive project as it’s usually only a small area. This does however depend on which tiles you opt for, as tiles vary in price depending on material, style, quality etc. 

You’ll need to calculate the size of the area you are tiling and estimate how many tiles you’ll need to cover it. It’s always best to add in an extra 10% contingency to cover as spares for any small tile cuts you might need to make. 

Can you lay tile over a brick fireplace?

As long as the brick is in good condition, you can transform a brick fireplace by tiling over it. You need to make sure that the bricks are well cleaned, scrubbed and smooth before you lay the tiles onto them. It’s also important to add an extra layer of primer due to the porous surface of bricks.

Get started with your tiled fireplace

Tiling a fireplace is a relatively straightforward and inexpensive way to revamp a room. Whatever tiles you choose for your new fireplace, you’ll be guaranteed to transform the look and feel of your room. Take a look at the tile finder below to help you to decide on the perfect tiles to suit your fireplace project. Happy tiling!

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