How to Install a Marble Fireplace Surround

a fireplace with a marble surround, near a display of dry twigs and pinecones
What You'll Need
Tape measure
Carpenters level
Thinset compound
Marble saw
Marble saw blades
Concrete chisels
2x4-inch board
Hammer and nails
Assorted cloths
Eye protection
Face mask
Stress crack membrane

Thanks to today’s home improvement centers, almost anyone install marble as a fireplace surround. Whether it is time to dress up an old one or add a new fireplace in the house, you can choose from exquisite marble to add elegance, style and comfort to your home. If you can’t decide whether or not you want a fireplace, consider cool evenings, a glass of hot chocolate or your favorite wine and music streaming from a nearby stereo. Follow the instructions below to successfully install your own marble fireplace surround.

Step 1 - Plan and Measure

Take careful measurements of the area where the marble fireplace surround will be installed. Equally important, draw precise diagrams using graph paper to show height and width dimensions, placement of marble and overall pattern desired. Carefully calculate the exact quantity of marble required to complete the job. More is not better in this instance.

Step 2 - Prepare Surfaces for Marble

Check all areas of construction to insure that they are flat and level. Fill in any hollow spots or areas that are not level with a thin coat of thinset compound. Also apply stress crack material where dissimilar materials meet. Stress crack material will allow for the different rates of expansion of dissimilar materials and prevent cracks when heat is applied to these areas. Additionally, make sure all surfaces are clean and free from blemishes when applying thinset compound.

Thinset compound and the stress crack membrane work excellently together to provide a firm foundation for laying marble to the fireplace surround. These two elements combine to shore up worn or weak masonry or subflooring. They provide a strong adhering element for the marble and will reinforce most existing fireplace structures. Before proceeding further, make sure the thinset and stress crack membrane are sufficiently dried.

Step 3 - Dry Fit Design

Begin by installing a temporary strip of wood at the top of the marble fireplace surround. From here work down and across. Using double sided masking tape, dry fit marble into place and see if any pieces need to be trimmed by cutting them. This can be done through the use of the marble cutting saw. Once a satisfactory design is attained, it is time to firmly lay the marble in place. Use cardboard spaces between the marble to get it even.

Step 4 - Apply Thinset and Marble

Apply a coating of thinset using the trowel to adhere the marble to the stress crack membrane. Pieces of marble can be coaxed into position through the gentle use of a rubber mallet. Marble pieces can be secured with pieces of wood wedged against them, with heavy duty masking tape or with heavy pieces of furniture positioned to hold them in place. Allow 24 hours for the marble to completely adhere to the fireplace surround structure.

Step 5 - Seal and Grout

Seal marble with manufacture’s sealing compound and apply grout. When grout is dry, clean with a dry cloth, spray with water several times, and then clean thoroughly for a finished look.