How to Tile a Fireplace Wall

Tiling a fireplace wall will completely change the tone of a room. The process of upgrading to a tiled focal point is relatively easy. With so many choices in patterns and colors, any homeowner can find the perfect tile.

Things You Will Need

  • Tiles
  • Thinset mortar
  • Acrylic additive
  • Tile spacers
  • Chalk line
  • Level
  • Lumber
  • Tile saw
  • Drop cloths
  • Craft paper
  • Grinder
  • Wire brush
  • Circular saw with Diamond blade
  • Measuring tape
  • Drill with paddle mixer attachment
  • Notched Trowel
  • Trowel
  • Grout
  • Grout float
  • White vinegar
  • Sponge
  • Rags


Step 1 - Prepare Area

First of all, be certain to use fire-rated materials. Move any furniture or other objects or cover with drop cloth. Protect the floor with craft paper.  Remove any surrounding wood (trim, mantle, baseboards, etc.). Using grinder and wire brush, remove any paint and roughen the existing brick to allow mortar to attach. Using the circular saw with a Diamond blade, remove the lip of the fireplace stoop. Using a clean rag, remove all soot from the bricks with white vinegar.

Step 2 - Repair/Stain Wood

Make any repairs to wood elements removed in Step 1. As you are waiting for mortar to cure throughout the project, complete the desired finish of wood with varnish, polyurethane or paint. The finish carpentry will then be ready for installation.

Step 3 - Prepare Fireplace

Attach the paddle mixer to the drill, and mix thin-set mortar with acrylic additive for ten (10) minutes. The mortar should be the consistency of mayonnaise. Starting on the section above the firebox, using the standard trowel (not notched), fill brick joints with mortar, coat entire fireplace surface with mortar. Allow mortar to cure one (1) day. If required, fill in any depressions. The final effect of this step is for the fireplace to have a finish comparable to backer board. Allow every coat to dry at least twenty-four (24) hours.

Step 4 - Determine Tile Layout

With measuring tape, find the exact center of the opening. Determine whether tiles look better with the joint centered or with the tile centered. Consider the number of required cuts for each scenario.

Step 5 - Set Tiles

Using lumber, create a shelf with the top equal to the top of the firebox (opening of fireplace). Check that this shelf is level. Mix mortar as in Step 3. Starting from the shelf, add mortar to fireplace wall with the notched trowel. Score the surface with the notched side of the trowel. Cover the back of each tile, one at a time, scoring the surface. Carefully place each tile on the wall. Complete tiling row-by-row, moving up from the level shelf. Use spacers on each side of the tiles to guarantee uniform spacing. Check the level as you complete each row. After thin-set begins to cure, remove the shelf and work tiles down each side of the firebox. Finally, tile the stoop. Save cut pieces for last. Please note that the first row of tiles above the firebox should be set first as this is the visual focal point of a fireplace.

Step 6 - Grout Tile

Mix grout per package directions. Using the grout float, force grout into tile joints. Remove excess with the float in a diagonal motion. Wash grout ‘haze’ from tiles with clear water and a sponge.