April 1, 2013

Tiling the Fireplace

The tricky part of a reno is doing everything in the right order.  After demo we had to work on the ceilings first, so that any mess or paint that fell wouldn't ruin the room.  Then we framed out our new fireplace, and worked on a bunch of little things inside the walls like insulation, duct work and electrical before we closed it up with Durock. 

We were super excited to tile our beautiful new heat box, but we had to wait until the room was painted, so we wouldn't risk splattering paint on our new stone. And we couldn't paint until we had installed our board and batten. Once that was up we had weeks of painting trim, doors, cabinets and walls, before it was finally time to take it to tile town.  

The most important thing about tiling a fireplace is to start in the middle, directly above the opening to your fireplace.  If you start from the bottom up, when you get to the opening of your fireplace the stone won't have anything to rest on, and gravity will be your enemy.  (Don't fight physics my friends, she always wins.)  So we began by screwing a 1x3 to our fireplace wall, creating a level line where the stone above the fireplace opening should sit.  Our stone was really heavy, so just in case we propped another board under our 1x3 to keep it from sagging in the middle.

Just look at that beautiful white stone.  I'm in love. This stone tile is easier to install than you would think, just apply the mortar to the wall with a notched trowel just like you would floor or wall tile. 

And press the tile firmly into the mortar.  Our tiles are cut to fit together in what looks to be a random and seamless way.  We just started in the center and worked our way out to make sure it was even.  We also made sure to stagger our rows so there wouldn't be any noticeable seams. When you get to the top, you start from the bottom up.  By the time you need to remove your 1x3 board to tile there, the mortar above the fireplace opening should be nice and dry, so you no longer have to worry about your tiles shifting.

The trickiest part was the corners.  This particular tile came with corner pieces, but they were $12 each for a piece that was 4" high. We would have spent $300 alone on corner pieces!  But the super helpful guys at The Tile Shop suggested that we miter our corners instead, which was a little tricky, but worth it.  In order to cut a 45 degree angle on my wet saw, I needed to adjust the saw table like this.

And then very carefully run the tile across the angled saw without letting it slide down, like this:

And yes, if you didn't notice, that's snow in the background, which means I was using a wet saw, outside in below freezing temperatures.  In fact my water kept freezing on the table top of my saw, and I kept needing to get warm pitchers of water to fill it back up.  My fingers were numb, but it was totally worth it.

It took us an entire Sunday, but only because we had to squeeze it in around our boy's schedules.  Luckily we had a big 3.5 hour nap (both of them together!) to get a lot of it done.  Other times we split up and the Hubs soldiered on while I played with the kiddos or vice versa.  By the end of the day there were 7 tiles left and it was all we could muster to finish it up.  We crashed hard when we were done, but not until after we did a little party dance for our beautiful new box of fire.

I mean, how's this for a before and after?

Can you believe we ever agonized over the decision whether or not to take that old fireplace and mantle out?  This look is so much more our vibe.  The stacked stone gives it the rustic/lodge feel we were going for, but the fact that it's mostly white, floor to ceiling in a clean line and surrounding that cool linear fireplace gives it a very modern feel.  I am getting so excited to put this room back together!  Up next- those built in cabinets!


  1. Erin, it's beautiful! Congrats!

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  3. Where did you get this stone? What is it called and what color is it? Thanks!