How to Remodel a Fireplace Hearth

What You'll Need
Tile or slate
Tile border
Tile-cutting wet saw
Tile nippers
Grout float
Notched trowel
Large sponge

The fireplace hearth in most old homes is the most likely fixture that needs renovating. Those roaring flames that are so relaxing take their toll on the firebox and surface surrounding it. Crackling fires spit hot ash onto the hearth, leaving it stained and pitted. What’s more, as new fads arrive and rooms are redecorated, the fireplace too often stands as a bastion of the past. Your fireplace may still be timely; the mantle is functional. But time has taken its toll on the hearth. It’s time for a new look. Tile or slate would be fine. Find a color to complement the flooring and get to work.

Step 1: Choose a Design

You’ve decided to give the hearth of your fireplace a new look. The mantle is inlaid with colored tile, but the original hearth was plain concrete. You’ve decided ceramic tile would be a good choice for the remodeling project. Should you carry the tile into the firebox or stop in line with the mantle? You decide to cover the firebox also. You will run a border around the edges of tile as a transition to your hardwood floors.

Step 2: Plan the Pattern

Square tile can be laid in several ways. It can be placed in rows or in a diamond pattern, depending on its orientation within the hearth. A diamond pattern will require more difficult cuts, but you’ve decided that would fit better with your décor. Mark the center of the hearth and place an “X” as a guide for the corners of the first four pieces of tile. Before spreading thinset, lay the tiles out in the desired pattern and mark cuts you will need. The borders should make edges and the floor transition easier.

Step 3: Prepare the Surface

Clean any dust and grime from the hearth. If you use cleaners or water, you must allow it to completely dry before attempting to lay the tile. Over concrete, you need no special sealant.

Step 4: Install the Tile

Mix the thinset adhesive according to directions on the package. Apply a coat of thinset over the entire surface of the hearth. Find the “X” at the center and begin laying the tile from the center toward front and back of the fireplace. Use spacers between the tiles to keep grout lines consistent. Use a tile saw and nippers to trim the edges as necessary. Tap high spots down with a level and work the tiles back and forth to nestle them into the thinset. Ensure the surface is level. Let the tiles dry for 24 hours before adding grout. Mix the grout according to instructions to a texture of coarse peanut butter. Remove the spacers and begin working the grout into crevices between the tiles with a grout float. Clean the tile with a large damp sponge. When the tile has seasoned for a week, add grout sealer. Your room looks more up-to-date with a tiled fireplace hearth.