Friday, September 12, 2014

Tiling a fireplace surround

HELLO! Sorry for such a late post today – I completely forgot I was supposed to help at my son’s school this morning so my day has been a bit behind. ;) This is a big post but I still wanted to share it with you today because I’m SO thrilled with how it turned out.

I finally finished up the tile around the fireplace and I luurvvvvve it. Yep, I brought out the lurve for this one. I went with the herringbone tile because a.) I loved it and it was the one that had my heart as soon as I saw it b.) I realized that it wasn’t going to be as hard as I thought to install and c.) my husband picked it immediately between that and the regular marble subway tile.

SO. I’ve shown you how I tiled the surround years ago, but this is a refresher with a little more detail. That time I didn’t need to grout so this tutorial includes that step. I started by finding the middle of the actual fireplace – not the surround but the firebox:

how to tile fireplace surround

This was because the two sides beside the box aren’t exactly the same size. So I wanted everything centered on the firebox part.

I borrowed a tile saw from the guys that do work on our house occasionally (they’ve let me borrow it a couple times and it’s a big money saver). I’ve used it before and actually quite love this tool. It looks scary but it’s not hard to use at all. For this marble tile I made my measurements and used a pencil to mark where I needed to cut:

how to use a tile saw

Pencil is the only thing that would leave a decent mark. Before you do any cutting be sure to check your mark against the saw:

how to use a tile saw

Like double and triple check! The saw makes it easy to line everything up – just make sure all the sides are flush against the panel that the tile lays on and then check your line one more time before you start cutting.

The tile saw must have a water source – usually a bucket that the pump sits in underneath that runs the water through the machine. Make sure that water is running through before you start cutting:

cutting tile on tile saw

Now, tile on the mesh is easy to cut because you’re taking care of such a big piece at a time – but there are some tricks to it that I learned along the way. First of all, GO SLOW. The marble is very soft and will easily chip. You’ll want to hold onto the panel that the tile sits on and control it as it goes through – otherwise the saw will want to push it through really fast.

It’s not hard – you just have to be patient. I found that when I was cutting the tile didn’t cut as cleanly on the right side, but the left side was usually a better cut. So I made sure to turn my tile accordingly to get a clean cut each time. Does that make sense? I wanted the “good” side on the left.

Also, because the tile is so soft and the pieces on the mesh are so small, I found it helpful to lay something on top of them as I pushed them through:

cutting herringbone tile

If you can apply a little pressure as it goes through it keeps the tiles from moving around as the saw cuts them. (WATCH where your hands are!) It was really helpful when it came to the first and last piece along the mesh.

Bottom line though – very few of my cuts were perfect. I realized very quickly that it was going to be next to impossible to get perfectly perfect cuts on every one. Which doesn’t bother me – it adds to the “character.”  ;) I have a LOT of character in this house.

I would cut a piece or two and then get them up on the surround – I used this premixed adhesive to do so:

easy tile application

I’ve tiled a few times and the first time I mixed the thinset and grout myself – I didn’t care for it. It’s messy and a pain in the butt, at least to me. Buying it premixed and ready to go costs a little more but was SO worth it.

You’ll want a notched trowel to spread it on. I don’t feel like I’m ever good at this part:

how to tile a wall

I think I use too much – but I’d rather have too much than too little. Spread it as evenly as you can and make sure to get the edges: 

tiling a backsplash

Then just push the tile on there and smoosh it around. I didn’t use spacers at all and I didn’t need to do anything to hold the tile up as I went – the thinset grabs it pretty quick and within a few minutes it starts to set. Just adjust it if it starts to move down at all. Also, if the thinset comes up between the tiles you can just use a toothpick to clean it out. Even with my laying it on thick I didn’t have to do that much.

I had the gas line run to the  front of the surround when we moved the fireplace so I had to work around that spot – you can just unscrew that metal valve so you know what pieces need to be cut:

tiling fireplace surround

I thought that area was going to be a lot harder than it was. If a piece was in the way I just took it off the mesh backing and then cut it by itself. You can also get little nippers that will cut smaller pieces like this easily.

When you’re done you just “butter” the back of that individual piece with the thinset and then stick it on. I had quite a few pieces that didn’t cut great and I would just take them off the mesh and then find/cut a better one for that spot and stick it on. You never know when it’s done. :)

I let it sit for a day or two – I can’t remember how long really but the container will tell you how long. Then it was time to grout – which is usually my least favorite part. It’s MESSY so be prepared for that.

I taped off the wood around the surround:

grouting tile

And then covered the actual fireplace with some tape and a trash bag:

grouting tile

I let the trash bag come out to the floor so it caught most of the grout that fell in that area – it made for quick clean up too.

Again, I used premixed grout:

gray grout for tile

I picked a color called Delorean Gray – you get more color options when you mix it yourself but I was going for this anyway.

So usually if your grout lines are more than 1/8 inch you’ll want to use sanded grout. If they are less you can use unsanded. Most of mine were 1/8 – but some were less, some were more so I used sanded grout.

The only thing is, as I mentioned, marble is SOFT. So there are some issues with the sanded grout that I’ll touch on in a minute.

You use a float tool to apply the grout – I found it easier to get it out with my little scraper: 

how to grout tile

And then apply it to the float:

how to grout

In my opinion there’s no right or wrong way to do this part – just do what you need to do to get it all in there:

tips for grouting marble tiles

Just smoosh (lots of smooshing) it in there as much as you can, making sure to get the edges. I had a gap between the fireplace and the tile that I grouted too (that’s why there’s painters tape there).

Then as soon as you can start wiping it all down with a big sponge and a bucket of water. This part always freaks me out because it feels like the grout isn’t going to come off. But just keep at it – wet sponge, wipe, rinse the sponge, repeat:

grouting tile

So here’s where the problems with sanded grout come in with this tile – first of all because the tile is so soft the sand kind of wears down the sides of the tile a bit. There’s not much you can do about it though – and honestly between the float and the sponge I think you’d get some of that anyway, even with nonsanded grout. I actually like the “worn” look it gives them. Again with that character. ;)

And then the grout kind of etches into the tile as you can see here:

getting grout off tiles

It didn’t do it on all of them, but I did have to wipe down a bunch individually. I just used a wet rag:

getting grout off tiles

After that if any had some left I used a (very clean) razor to get any other residue off:

cleaning tiles after grout

If you were using this on a backsplash where it would be seen closer I’d probably use the non sanded grout – but because I had some bigger areas to fill I’m glad I used the sanded on the surround.

After the grout dried I ran a bead of grout around the edges (it comes in a tube, same color) to make all of my not perfect cuts (mostly) disappear. Character! :)

And we now have a gorgeous fireplace surround that I’m obsessed with:

herringbone gray tile

I went back and forth between gray and white grout and I’m so glad I went gray – it really makes the design pop even more. I LOVE IT.

I love all the colors in the marble too – white, gray and a lot of a tans as well – they tie in perfectly with the new wall color in this room and those tan colors keep it from feeling too cold:

herringbone tile design

I love how the the tile looks with the gray paint and the metal doors on the built ins. And I love that they catch the light and almost shimmer:

herringbone marble tile

Next up – tackling the wall above the fireplace! It will be the same gray color and will get a treatment. I hope to get that started and maybe done this weekend. And then everything will get one more coat of paint.

But for now I’m thrilled with the progress so far!!:

herringbone tile gray fireplace

I hope I made some sense of the tiling process – if you have any questions let me know! It’s not hard at all, it just takes some patience.

Have you attempted a tiling job? Did you find it hard? A small spot like a fireplace surround is a great place to start! Have a great weekend!

67 comments:

  1. It looks soooooo pretty! I want to put up a glass tile backsplash but am terrified about not being able to figure out the cutting!

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  2. Oh! This is turning out so pretty! I love the colors and the herringbone!

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  3. It looks ahhhmaaazing! Anyone who can tile totally impresses me. ;)

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  4. It's beautiful! I am seriously considering that tile for my bathroom. I wish you had said more about cutting the small pieces, was it really easy?

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    1. I just cut them on the big saw, but if that scares you those nipper tools are easy to use -- you just nip little pieces off until you get the size you want. Marble especially is pretty easy to cut. :)

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  5. We just tiled the floors in our huge basement bathroom. We didn't get some of the grout off the first time but figured it out: http://createbakecelebrate.com/2014/09/bathroom-floors.html

    Now Im thinking of white tile for the tub surround & the shower, but I can't choose! I want it to feel cohesive and love the herringbone but think it might be too small.. at least for the gigantic shower (the guy who built this house apparently wanted the largest bathroom ever). I was thinking maybe subway in a herringbone pattern? And now this is the longest comment ever- great job!

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  6. Gorgeous, gorgeous, gorgeous! Such a striking contrast against the gray - perfection! Makes me love the gray even more!!

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  7. It looks soooo good! I can't wait to see the whole room! I am trying to put all the little pieces you've shown together in my head, but I am so excited for the big reveal! Then it will be time to see you decorate it all for fall! Yay!

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  8. It's GORGEOUS! I can see why you like the dark grout! Great design and color choices! xox

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  9. Have you tried grout haze and film remover? It's amazing at making the "OMG this isn't coming off" feeling go away. It takes that cloudiness away. Just wanted to suggest it :)

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    1. I have heard of it but haven't tried it yet -- I read that you can't use that stuff on marble but I'm not sure of that. I will definitely use it for future projects though!

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  10. Gorgeous. I think you did a great job!

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  11. It is absolutely beautiful Sarah!! I LOVE the grey grout! The perfect choice!! The grey cabinetry, all of it looks amazing!!

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  12. Wow!! It looks amazing!! I love the color of the mantle and built ins too! :)

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  13. This is beautiful - you should be very proud of your accomplishment!

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  14. Looks AWESOME! Love that you went with a gray mantle instead of the typical white, so bold and beautiful! Can I ask out of curiosity why you had the gas run out the front of the tile?

    -Sarah

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    1. Thank you Sarah! There wasn't a good spot for it to go anywhere else with the built ins next to the fireplace. I wanted to have easy access to it but if you have your walls opened up it could go almost anywhere!

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  15. So fabulous! Now I want to see the whole living room and what it looks like completed. No close ups, just zoomed out and the whole picture. I'd love to see how you arranged furniture, etc. Pretty please?!

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    1. Sarah I will share the whole room soon! I have a lot left to do in here yet but it's getting close!

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  16. I love the herringbone tile! I recently tiled my fireplace too and used the same grout! http://www.wifeinprogressblog.com/fireplace-makeover/

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  17. That is beautiful! You did an amazing job and I absolutely love it!

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  18. Absolutely lovely! Now, don't you want to come tile my shower? Nancy

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  19. Love love LOVE it! You did an amazing job! I tiled my kitchen backsplash with marble and I hated that the tiles separated easily from the mesh while bringing them from the backyard to the kitchen. Other than that no problem, I love marble.

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  20. WOW! This is gorgeous! Tiling kind of terrifies me since I've never done it. But you did a great job!!

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  21. Love it! Sarah, all of it looks very beautiful! :D

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  22. Looks amazing!! But I think you *might* have a typo--I thought it was 1/8 plus inch that require sanded grout, not 1/18th.

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  23. whoops, i was looking at this on my reader, and the 1/8th looks like 1/18th, whereas here it is obviously 1/8th. my apologies :). and still looks great!

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    1. No you were right, I changed it after I published. :) It should be 1/8th.

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  24. Beautiful! I want to tile our brick fireplace with herringbone pattern. Maybe with bluestone hearth. I'm looking for a larger herringbone tile because our fireplace is floor to ceiling, tall ceiling. But this mesh looks like a great way to tile neatly!

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  25. Longtime reader, but almost never comment. (sorry!) but had to weigh in on this: HOORAY FOR YOU for doing such a great job! it's seriously gorgeous. Am loving this whole built-in unit, especially the metal mesh on the cabinets. Wouldn't have thought that and herringbone marble would work together, but it's turned out lovely. Pat yourself on the back!

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  26. WOW. that looks SO Nice! do you lay down in bed at night with a giant smile on your face with satisfaction? You totally should. Thanks for the tips...would you suggest marble for something that gets a little more use like a back splash in a kitchen?

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    1. I think it would be fine in a kitchen but you would have to seal it for sure. And I'd seal it before and after grout -- my grout says not to seal and I'm going to call them to see why. I'd still like to seal the surround but I don't want the color of the grout to run. You'll want to be able to wipe a backsplash down and marble will etch and soak up stains easily so sealing would be important.

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  27. After finishing my house and building 20 apartment units with ALL tile, I have literally laid thousands of square feet of this stuff. It is indeed a doable DIY project as long as you know the tricks and tips and have the proper tools. You did a FABULOUS job on the tile AND the tutorial! Kudos! Just a little tile can make a huge statement as you have shown!

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  28. Wow. I think this may be one of my most favorites of all of your projects. Fantastic job - thanks for sharing! Brenda M.

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  29. The fireplace is absolutely gorgeous! Thank you showing us how to put on the adhesive and grout. I love the gray grout with the gray on the fireplace trim.

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  30. Awesome! It looks great. I just picked out very similar tile to use on my fireplace, but I'm not there yet with my family room. At first I was thinking about doing herringbone tile on the floor, but then I couldn't use this tile. (And trying to herringbone with 12x24 tiles would be super hard!) Thanks for the inspiration!

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  31. Wow! I would have broken out "lurve", too! Your fireplace is gorgeous. Now, come to NC and do mine :)

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  32. This is freaking gorgeous! I must of miss the details about the tile...where is it from?

    Thanks!
    Christine

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    1. I forgot to mention that, sorry! It's from Lowe's -- $12-something a square foot.

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    2. We picked out this tile a while back and just picked up today for our kitchen. It's on sale! $7 something now (at least in my area). It's called Winter Sky by Allen + Roth. Seeing your project made me excited...hoping ours turns out as well.

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  33. You have inspired me to update my fireplace. I have been intimidated but now will say bye bye 1980's builder boring fireplace! I can only hope mine turns out as beautiful as yours.

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  34. Absolutely stunning!!!! This looks so beautiful : ) thank you so much for sharing with us!
    Have a fantastic weekend,
    Shell

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  35. Your fireplace surround looks wonderful. Kudos to you for tackling it and doing such a good job. Your tutorial and photos on how you accomplished this task were superb, and very helpful to anyone wanting to tackle this DIY project.

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  36. It's stunningly gorgeous, Sarah! Great job! I must say I lurrrvve it too! I really think tiling is so much easier than it seems. I use to be intimidated by it too but watched/ helped a friend with hers and since have tilled in my kitchen and a bathroom. I also have a tutorial in my DIY section on my blog and added some videos from YouTube on there. Sometimes watching someone do it first helps ease the fears! Every thing is looking amazing with your family room reno, Sarah!!

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  37. It looks great! One question: What is the gas thing for? I have a gas fireplace, but no hole like that in front. There is a dial inside to turn it on.

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    1. Jenny we have a dial we use to turn the gas on and off -- the switch for the pilot light is inside the fireplace and then we have another wall switch that turns it all on. Sounds like they can be done differently though!

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  38. This post came up just at the right time! I have to re tile this week and I've been absolutely dreading it. I've recently started to renovate my house after moving in to it and your blog is seriously inspiring, thank you! ♡

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  39. It looks fantastic, and I mean this as a compliment...it looks old. I feel as if I could walk into an original Victorian and see that fireplace with built-ins. You've layered SO much character into what could be a 'cookie cutter' home. Love your blog!

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    1. I totally get it -- that's why I liked the "worn" look of the marble even more! :) Thank you!

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  40. Beautiful! I think this is my favorite all-time fireplace redo!

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  41. It looks so pretty!!! I love the color you picked!!!!!

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  42. Sarah, there are no words for how much I love your fireplace! The built ins, the color, the tile--perfection! Can't wait to see how the rest of the big open space turns out!

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  43. Love it all! Great job! Do you have the exact paint color you used for the fireplace?

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  44. Question for you. What was the actual tile size. We have looked at 1.5" x 6" for our fireplace and it feels too chunky. The wife and I like the tight, compressed pattern of your fireplace and would like to emulate it as best as possible.

    1" x 3" or roundabout?

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    1. Yes, around that size. It comes on a 12 by 12 sheet but the individual tiles are that size. Good luck!

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  45. Thanks for this post!! This is exactly the step by step I needed to get the confidence to tackle my project!! This DIY girl can't wait to give it a go.

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  46. Hi. We saw this blog and ended up doing the same thing with the same tile. A few tips: if you are going to do all of this- get a new diamond blade for the saw. Also- if you run 3m painters tape along the tile's cut line, it will be easier to get a strait cut and the tile will not chip. Between the blade and painters tape, I don't think I had any chips. Also...start tiling in the center of the horizontal piece. Put two tiles together (sheets) and center them. You can't just make a line and start one at that line because they over-lock. Also, many of these have edging tiles. The tiles (pencil's) were not deep enough so I bought marble thresholds and bought long strips and it looks great. Also (sorry) if the store allows returns, (most do) buy a lot more tile than you need. Select the best and return the unused. Often I have seen different boxes of tiles be a little off in thickness or color. Its better to find out before you start. Another tip- screw a board below the horizontal tiles to tile on and get a straight line. The after the adhesive has cured, take the board off.

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