Install a Ceramic Tile Fireplace Surround in 5 Steps

What You'll Need
Tile of your choice, cut into appropriate squares
Tile cutter
Trowel and grout
Grout mixing equipment
Damp sponge and clean cloths
Thinset adhesive
Measuring tape
Caulk that is resistant to heat

If your fireplace is simple or outdated, one of the best ways to deal with that problem is to convert it into a ceramic tile fireplace. This can be done by installing ceramic tiles over the existing fireplace surround as is much easier and less expansive than fully replacing your fireplace fixture. Ceramic tiles are hearty and, when treated properly, can stand up to the heat generated by a fireplace. Additionally, the fact that fireplace tiles come in a wide variety of designs and colors means that you'll be able to customize the fireplace design to suit the look of your space.

Step 1 -- Create a Template

One of the best ways to determine how the tiles will fit over your fireplace surround is to create a model of it beforehand. Use a piece of cardboard to create a template. Trace the tiles over the template to see their size, then fit the template over portions of the surround to help you measure it out. Design the layout of your tiles accordingly, and make marks on the surround to indicate critical areas where the tiles should fit.

Step 2 -- Prepare the Area

Clean up the fireplace and the fireplace surround. The adhesive and grout will not stick to soot covered surfaces, so make sure that there is no dirt over the surround. If you wish, lay out a drop cloth below the fireplace to prevent any spillage of debris or grout. Remove the mantel, if there is one, and get rid of any loose brick or molding from the surround.

Step 3 -- Apply the Tiles with Adhesive

Mix the thinset adhesive in a bowl separately. Using the adhesive applicator, apply it in thin strips to the center of the fireplace surround. Prepare to lay the tiles, and have an assistant double check that they are level before you set them on the surround. It's helpful if you begin at the base of the surround and work your way up. You can also apply the adhesive with the trowel.

Step 4 -- Install Grout Between the Tiles

To support the tiles, install layers of grout in between them. Do this in alternation with the laying of the basic tiles as you work your way up the surround according to your template. Use the damp cloth to help keep the grout and the adhesive moist, and wipe up any spills or messy areas with a clean cloth.

Step 5 -- Install Caulk

After allowing the grout and the adhesive to dry completely, you'll need to go back in and install heat resistant caulk to the mantel and around the edges of the tile layout. Apply a thin layer of grout to ensure that it doesn't stick out. Allow the entire system to set up and continue to dry for about a week before you use your fireplace again.