Few household projects are easier than laying fireplace tile. You need a plan, the right tools, and a little creativity. Not to over-simplify the process, there is work involved and it is more than just adhesive, tile, grout, and repeat. There are a few tricks to laying fireplace tile that help the job be easy.
Planning and Measuring
Plan and plot your layout first. Nothing is worse than putting down tile and realizing that the pieces don’t fit properly at the end. You can plot your outline by either dry-fitting the tiles on the hearth, by using a chalk line to mark out your grid pattern, or by using a story stick.
A story stick is a stick cut to the length of the hearth’s longest dimension. Mark at one end of the stick with a pencil the width of a grout-joint (usually 1/8th inch), mark the width of a tile beside this, and then mark another 1/8th inch for grout. Repeat this process until you reach the end of the stick.
Now, use the stick as a measurement to mark the hearth and determine the number of tiles needed. These marks will help you figure out what cuts may be needed for the tiles to fit.
Preparation to Laying
When laying fireplace tile, it is best to pre-cut the tiles ahead of time because you may not have that luxury after the adhesive goes down. Base the cuts on the measurements done from the grid you created.
Smaller tiles are better to maneuver and organize but they are also more expensive. What you’re willing to invest in tiles is up to you. After you’ve cut out the tiles, lay them in the grid again to be certain no re-cuts are necessary.
Now that you have the cuts done, you can mix the thin-set mortar according to the instructions on the package. Use a trowel angled at 45 degrees to apply the thin-set mortar, but only lay as much of the mortar as you can tile in less than fifteen minutes. Any longer and it will start to dry.
Use the notched end of the trowel to create the proper height and thickness in the mortar. You may now begin laying the fireplace tile according to the grid you had marked off.
Place and Tap
Place and lightly tap the tiles in place with a rubber mallet. The tiles will still move while the thin-set is wet, so take care not to put your weight on them until they are dry.
As you go along laying fireplace tile, if a tile appears lower than the others, lift it up and apply extra thin-set until it is even with the rest. If, on the other hand, it is too high, tap it down with the mallet. Continue this until all the tile has been laid. Allow this to dry for at least twenty-four hours before grouting.
Grouting the Gaps
When a day has passed after laying the fireplace tile, spread the grout across the tiles using a grout float until all the gaps are filled. Let this dry for about fifteen minutes then sponge the excess grout clean. Wait another day for the grout to set and you’ll be enjoying your newly tiled fireplace.