Essential kit

Before you start to tile, make sure you have the right tools. You’ll need:

  • Your chosen tiles (see below)
  • A self-levelling compound
  • Primer
  • Tile cutter
  • Adhesive
  • Trowel
  • Tiler’s trowel
  • Grout
  • Soft grouting float
  • Long spirit level
  • Short spirit level
  • Blade
  • Tile spacers, if needed
  • Sponge
  • Clean water
  • Protective eyewear
  • Vacuum cleaner
  • Tape measure
  • Piece of cardboard

Related articles: How to create a working fireplace | The ultimate guide to choosing a woodburner


1. Measure your space

Before choosing tiles, you need to know how many you’ll need to cover your hearth. Measure from front to back and the longest part and side to side at the widest part to work out the square metres required.

You can subtract the area of any corners or non-tiled parts, but if these are small, it’s a good idea to buy a few extra tiles as if this were to be tiled, so you have spare – great for if a tile cracks or you accidentally cut it to the wrong size.

2. Choose your tiles

With many tiles on the market, it’s essential to find a style to suit your space, style and needs. When tiling a fireplace, bear in mind that the tiles will have to withstand significant heat when a stove or fire is on, so always choose floor tiles and check that the design can cope with high heat with the supplier before buying.

Consider porcelain floor tiles, encaustic styles, patterned, shaped or plain designs for a modern look. Mixing and matching a modern tile with a more classic stove can result in a stylish finish.

3. Make a cardboard template

Cut a piece of cardboard to the same size and shape as the hearth, so that you can lay out your tiles onto this before applying them to the fireplace setting. This allows you to see what the tiles will look like in situ and you can play around with the pattern until you’re happy with how it looks.

4. Don’t forget borders

Once you’ve placed your tile design and are pleased with the layout, measure and cut the sections for the upstands and skirting at the front and back of the fireplace using a tile cutter. Add these to the template, so that when you’re ready to tile, all fixtures are ready.

how-to-cut-tiles

5. Get rid of dust

Brush your hearth to get rid of any dust, which could create a build up and prevent a smooth finish.

6. Prime the surface

Apply a tiling primer to improve adhesion between the surface and tile adhesive. Wait for this to dry.

priming-before-tiling

7. Get ready to tile

Prepare your adhesive first, according to the manufacturer instructions. Measure a centre line in the fireplace and use a pencil to draw a mark at the front and back of the wall and floor, ensuring the line comes above where the tiles will sit, so you can see it throughout the tiling process.

Start applying the adhesive at the back of the area using a trowel to transfer it from the bucket and spread evenly using a tiler’s trowel to around 2-3cms thick. Use the grooved edge of the tiler’s trowel to make ridges in the adhesive, which will help the tiles to stick.

8. Begin tiling

Lay the central tile first and work away from it. Do a small area at a time to ensure accuracy. Place each tile onto the small area prepared with the adhesive, placing tile spacers in between each if the tiles are not already on a mesh background.

Use your spirit levels to continuously check that each tile is level with the next and gently push each tile into the adhesive, being careful not to push the adhesive up through the gaps too much.

9. Clean the area

Use a sponge and clean water to gently wash each tiled area as you finish it, waiting a few minutes until the tiles have begun to stick, to remove any adhesive on the tile surface. It’s good practice to change the water regularly to ensure it is clean.

10. Continue tiling

Carry on applying the tiles, checking levels and cleaning the surface until the whole area is covered and apply the upstands and skirting tiles last.

laying-tiles

11. Check grout lines

When tiling, the adhesive ill creep up the grout lines, which can create a speckled finish once the grout is applied. Use a blade to gently prize away any adhesive in the gaps. Wipe down the surface with a sponge and clean water.

checking-grout-lines

12. Leave adhesive to dry

Check the instructions to see how long you should leave the adhesive to completely set.

13. Check grout lines again

Once dried, you may spot more adhesive in the grout lines. Use a blade to remove excess and vacuum any dust away.

14. Finish with grout

Use a soft float to transfer a small amount of grout from the tub to the surface. You can use a pre-mixed solution or mix a dried form with water, both available at DIY stores.

Press the grout into the gaps between the tiles and spread evenly, ensuring you get in all the gaps and there are no air pockets. Do a small section at a time and clean with a sponge and water. Leave to dry and clean the surface once more to ensure no grout or adhesive is present on the surface.

15. Admire your newly tiled fireplace

Stand back and take pride in your handiwork.

tiled-fireplace

For more advice videos, watch the latest Real Homes videos on YouTube.

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