DIY: Fireplace Surround Transformation

With the second week of the new decade upon us, I have lots of tile projects brewing in my head.  So far for 2011, I’ve accomplished three (of many) projects that have been on my mind since we moved into our home almost a year ago.  My latest project has been re-tiling the surround of the fireplace. 

Here is a preview of the completed fireplace:

The first step of the transformation took place last year and that step alone was {HUGE}!  We updated the mantel by painting it a dark brown from the original oak finish.  There were decorative faux-appliques on the flat surface that we also removed to create a more transitional look.  Here are picture of the before, middle, and after!
This is a ‘pic’ from when we moved into the house….
fireplace = in need of some MAJOR LOVE!
We painted it a dark brown color, but left the tile.
It just didn’t go with our decor, so we…..
…transformed it to THIS! Voila….The new fireplace surround!
I’ve previously posted a tile project {click here} that I’ve worked on and provided a step-by-step tutorial, but here it is again!
{Step By Step to install TILE}
Tiling seems like a difficult process, but honestly, it really isn’t.  Just take your time…that’s the KEY! To start off, make sure the area/surface you are working is completely clean.  I also want to add that I DID NOT remove the old tile…we tiled right on top of the OLD tile.  Some may say this is a mistake, BUT, I did not want to deal with removing the old tile and it isn’t a surface that will be walked on…what the HAaaaaY…let’s go for it :)
Before using any adhesive, do a DRY RUN.  Layout your tile pattern to make sure it will work how you want it. Once you put adhesive down ~ YOU ARE COMMITTED!  Mark off where you want the tile to be cut. THEN….
…Use a WET SAW to cut your pieces!  This is my BEST ADVICE for the whole project….Did you hear me??  Definitely USE a Wet Saw!!!   In previous tile projects, we used a manual tile cutter…BIG MISTAKE.  You will waste sooo much tile and the project will take double the time.  Invest in a Wet Saw….we bought ours for $45 from Home Depot….it’s worth it!
Once the tiles are cut to size, it’s time to put on the adhesive. (Keep on reading for my recommendations on adhesive & grout).  Throw a glob of adhesive on the back of your tile OR on the surface you are tiling.  Because we were tiling a small area versus an entire floor, putting the adhesive on the back of the tile was MUCH easier!  Then using a V-grooved trowel, evenly coat the back of the tile (holding the trowel at a 45 degree angle) and adhere it to the surface. Set the first tile in place, pressing it firmly into the mortar.
For this project and my last tile project, I used a pre-mix adhesive and grout.  What a great product…no need to bother with mixing the grout powder and water.  BUT, this product is costly and is really best when tiling small areas.  For larger tiling projects, I would recommend a separate adhesive and grout mixture (only because of the cost factor).  For this project it worked perfectly.  Forgot to add…it is available in a variety of colors…I used alabaster.
We installed the tile at the top first and due to the laws of gravity, the tile started to fall…GGGrrreat!  SO… we used our son’s skateboard ramp to hold them in place….it worked perfectly, YAY (I knew that darn thing would come in handy)!!  NOTE: If tiling a vertical surface, you may need to use supports to keep the tile in place.
Then we started on the sides of the surround…
Then the floor…
 Because of the area I was working in, I didn’t want the fireplace mantel to get ruined, so using painters tape, I taped the surrounding surfaces.
 Tile is INSTALLED and now it’s time to GROUT!

This is the second time I grouted using a Ziploc bag and it made the process SO easy.  Usually the task of grouting is quite laborious, but NOT with a Ziploc bag!  Just like you would frost a cake, put your grout mixture into a Ziploc bag and grout-away!  

Squeeze out the grout and fill each joint with more than enough of the mixture ~ THEN…
….Once all the joints are filled with enough grout, start to wipe it away with a damp sponge (wring dripless) to remove grout residue.  Use a sponge that is specific for tile ~ one side is a typical sponge and the other side has a rough, abrasive surface.  The rough side is important to remove the grout off the tile surface, but DON’T scrub the joints!
Remove the haze immediately; If the tile starts to look like this, wipe the haze with a damp cloth again.  Then buff the tiles with a clean, dry cloth.  This may happen several times. Then…

I am SO happy to have finally completed this project.  It’s been on my to-do-list for a long time and I’m very happy with the results.
Do you have any tile projects planned around your house?

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  1. Beth@The Stories of A2Z says

    Jenna, It looks beautiful! Tiling isn't a simple task and you've done a gorgeous job! Thanks so much for linking up.

  2. Sandy says

    Jenna,, the brown color just changed the entire look of your fireplace and if I see the color right the grey tiles are so perfect.. wonderful job!

  3. electric fireplaces says

    So wonderful. I really impress. I like most last one. I think that I also refurbish my fireplace as same as You have shown here.

  4. HuNnY aNd PoPpA LeWiS says

    That is an amazing transformation. Love the updated classical look. Thanks for the how-to help, this is exactly what I have been looking for to update a bedroom fireplace. :)

  5. Lisa says

    I’d also love to know the color paint you used, I painted mine brown but I’m not happy with the color I chose. Thanks!

  6. Tamer says

    Looks great. I am doing the same project but was told paint would not show any of the wood grain. Your pictures look like you still see some wood grain so please let me know how you were able to acheive it with paint type and what prepwork did you do.


    • Jenna says

      Thanks for the kind comment. Depending on the paint color and the depth of the wood grain, it definitely might show throw. On my fireplace, you really don’t see the grain too much because the color is so dark. Yet on my kitchen cabinets that I just painted a taupe color, the wood grain is very noticeable even thought they are painted. Prepwork is still the same – sand a little (if needed) and then use a primer before painting. I find Benjamin Moore Aura paint to be best! Let me know how you make out with your project! xo Jenna

    • Jenna says

      Thanks Scott. If you are retiling a space that is a vertical surface or doesn’t get alot of foot traffic, why not tile right over the existing! Any tile projects that you’re working on? Jenna

  7. Ann says

    I have a question when you tiled over the hearth, Im guessing it was recessed alot so you don’t see the edges of the tile ? I have hardwood floors so the edge of the tiles might show. How did you do yours without showing the unfinished tile edges? Its a beautiful transformation !

    • Jenna says

      Because the tile butted against carpet, there was a little more play with the heights, but with hardwood you may have a few issues. If you lay new tile on top of the existing it will be slightly higher than the wood, so my suggestion would be to use a threshold at the transition (similar to a door) or remove the existing hearth to lay the new floor.

  8. Loree says

    Looks terrific! I did something similar and my fireplace doors are exactly the same. I don’t like the outdated brass trim so I spray painted the trim as well as the wood knobs in black paint and I love it!

    • Jenna says

      Spray painting the trim and knobs are definitely on my to-do list. Hopefully this Spring I’ll FINALLY get to it! -Jenna

  9. says

    Jenna, I know this is an old project, but I’ve been wanting to do the same to my fireplace. We have a shiny tile surface, do you think this trick would work for that? I painted my mantel white, but would like to change the tile. You can see what my fireplace currently looks like on my Project gallery tab. Any tips will be appreciated. I’ve been holding off on this forever just b/c I don’t want to deal with the whole tile removing process. Oh has your tile stayed n place since you completed this project? Thanks in advance.

    • Jenna says

      Thanks Sandy. I actually don’t recall the paint color of the fireplace surround because it was painted over 5 years ago and it’s been painted a few different colors since. Sorry.