Of course I'm going to tell you how I tackled tiling the surround, but I am not going to advertise this as a how-to. Why? Because it was my first time tiling and it was more trial and error than how-to. I do suggest researching some expert tutorials and asking the pros questions before you just dive in head first. I used this DIY tile forum and it really helped boost my confidence and the finished project. My only words of advice for tiling - make sure the first row of tiles is level. I got off easy on this since I was starting from the concrete floor.
Let's get started with the tiling project. First, the needed
- Tile cutter
- Tile spacers
- Thinset mortar adhesive - I used the premix
- Notched trowel
- Tape measure and level
- Rags or paper towels
The first step in tiling is to get the right amount of thinset mortar onto the wall. To do this, use the flat end of the trowel to spread some thinset around on a section of the wall, trying to maintain an even coat. Then place the notched side of the trowel at a 45 degree angle to the wall. Using a little bit of pressure, go back over the thinet to make ridges.
Once the thinset is on the wall, press the tile into the thinset making sure it is level and flush with any surrounding tile. Add spacers to make sure the neighboring tiles don't crowd each other. Now you can rock-and-roll up the wall, continuing the thinset, tile, spacer system.
If you notice extra thinset squeezing up between the tile, try using less thinset. The more grout lines (mosaic tile), the less thinset you will need to use. If you still notice the oozing thinset, clean it up as you go along with a paper towel or rag. Trust me, it is much easier to clean it before it dries. If you wait until it dries, you will have to use a grout cleaning tool to remove it from the grout lines before you can grout.
I also found out that it was much easier to cut the mosaic tile with a manual tile cutter instead of a tile saw. The tile cutter is really simple to use and dummy proof. To cut tiles, line up your cut line on the tile with the lines on the tile cutter. Press down on the handle and then move it forward and back a few times to make the little wheel score a line on the tile - listen for the screeching noise to know if the tile is being scored. Then apply a little pressure with the pad thingy to snap the tile cleanly in two. Easy.
After a few hours of work, I have tiled the new fireplace surround and added another project to my know-how list. I don't know why I was a little leery to begin with because with the right tools and a little research, tiling is easy! The fireplace is now ready for grout and then a new mantle. Oh, and don't worry about the uneven edges of the tile on the outside of the surround because the mantle will cover those.
If you are thinking of tiling your fireplace surround, I say go for it! It was not hard and now I can tell everyone - I did that!
Be sure to check the built-in demo post and the fireplace demo post to see the before pics.