I’ve talked before about updating our house and painting our trim from stained to white. When we were painting our trim in our family room, the one thing that stuck out was our fireplace. It had a brick hearth, but then it was just stained wood and a mantel. The surround wasn’t as wide as the hearth and the unevenness drove my type A personality crazy. So we decided as part of painting the trim, the fireplace would get an upgrade, new tile on the brick, new tile surround and a bigger, more substantial mantel.
To get an idea of what we wanted, we looked online and in-store at several mantel kits. We quickly realized after taking some measurements, that we would need an odd size mantel, $$$, or have to customize a kit, if that was possible, $$. In the end, the Hubs decided he could build a mantel in the style we wanted and size we needed.
The first thing we did was tape out the size. This gave us a good idea of just how big the new fireplace would be. Our family room isn’t that large, so we wanted to make sure that the fireplace would have presence, but not be a show stopper in the room. We also had to think about how much tile we wanted as part of the surround and working with the existing hearth. Once we had the size determined, we looked at tile. We both have more traditional styles and lean toward blue and gray colors. I also knew I wanted 12×12 tiles on the hearth, but wanted to do something different on the surround, maybe a subway tile or mosaic. We found the perfect slate mosaic and slate tiles at Home Depot. Unfortunately I can’t find the tile we used online anymore (we did this project back in 2010). A tip, when using a natural stone tile, make sure you find complimentary tiles. We ended up laying out all the tiles in the aisle at the store to get ones that were similar.
Once we had all our materials, the Hubs and my Dad actually handled demo. We decided to start this project the weekend after Thanksgiving so my Mom and I went shopping while the guys worked on the fireplace. This is a method I highly recommend. The Hubs first took off the mantel to study how it was built and attached to the wall and then worked from there.
Since the hearth was brick, it was a bit uneven. To prep and even it for tile application, we did a layer of thin-set on the brick. Then after it had dried, it was time to tile. We determined the tile pattern and where each tile would go to account for the variations in the slate. Then we laid the tile doing a 1/8″ grout joint, same as the mosaic. It was a messy process and our first tiling experience, but we were successful. We did learn quickly that not only are slate tiles not uniform in color, but also in size and thickness, so we did make a few cuts with the wetsaw.
Then the Hubs installed the two columns for the surround and the backer board so we could add the mosaic tile. Again, we did a dry fit with the mosaic first. Then we started at the top of the fireplace and moved down the sides. Now it was starting to look like a fireplace again!
We decided to finish putting the fireplace “together” before grouting and sealing the tile. I think either order would be fine, honestly it was probably more of a time thing for us. It’s easier for the Hubs to work on pieces during the week after work and then we work the together parts on the weekends.
So then the Hubs began the process of assembling the rest of the fireplace. He added a cap piece along the top of the tile, then installed a 2×4 on top of the columns and added the crown molding. And then the Hubs asked me how wide I wanted the top mantel piece, I told him and we both realized once it was up, it was too short! Whoops! Thankfully the Hubs and his design skills decided we would do a 2-step mantel and he would just get another top piece, router it and make it the top. Perfect! So thankful for a smart Husband!
Now grout and paint! Grouting wasn’t a fun job with the mosaic, but a tip we used was filling a pastry bag with the grout, cut the tip of the bag and then fill in the lines. We did the same process with the hearth tiles. A week later we went back and applied sealer to the tiles and grout. Since we have a gas fireplace, I’m not worried about smoke stains, but the sealer also gives the slate a bit of a sheen. After that, I applied 2 coats of semi-gloss paint, same as our trim, to all of the pieces.
The fireplace is definitely a focal point in the room now. And even better, we know that we did all of the construction and design ourselves.
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