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DIY Fireplace Transformation

Our fireplace transformation is COMPLETE!

If you missed update 1 and update 2 in the process of the transformation, you can still read them by clicking on the links.

In this blog post, I'll take you through a brief overview of the process and outline the steps involved. I will also list all of the materials that we used for our renovation. It's important to note that the steps and materials involved in our renovation may be different from yours. Everyone has different materials to start with and structure of the fireplace, mantle, surround, etc., so it's important to keep that in mind if you are thinking about taking on this project.

To start, I always like to be up front and honest. My husband and I have not had any experience with tiling, removal and adding. YouTube and the Google will become your best friends. It's really not rocket science, but you have to be sure to do your research before taking on these kinds of projects. Part of the fun is figuring out your own techniques, in addition to tips that have been provided. And I'm excited to share with you these techniques and tips we found were helpful along the way.

First, materials you will need:

  • Level

  • Goggles

  • Carpenter's Square

  • Sponge

  • Grout Float

  • 5 gallon bucket

  • Wet tile saw (if you don't own one you can rent one from Home Depot)

  • Tape Measure

  • Notched Trowel

  • 1/16" and 1/8" Tile Spacers (depends on the tile you are using- for the mosaic surround we used 1/16 and the floor tile was 1/8)

  • Cement Board (if you need to add backing to the structure)

  • Dust pan (There will be LOTS of dust involved. Be prepared and get your trash bags and dust pans ready)

  • Tile (I give tips for choosing your material in update 2 blog post).

  • Thinset mortar

  • Non Sanded Grout (we used white, but you can choose other colors as well)

  • Grout Sealer (optional)

  • Dust mask

Here are some tips for the process:

Removing the current material

Our fireplace surround material was tile. We were able to hammer away at the tile, removing large pieces at a time. Highly recommend wearing goggles/glasses for this step as dust and pieces of material will be going everywhere. Some people have asked me if you can add material on top of the material that is already surrounding the fireplace. I'm sure this is definitely a possibility depending on the type of material you are using. I would suggest researching this further to ensure the material you will be using will adhere to what is currently there.

Ensuring a smooth surface

Once the material is removed, you may have to add cement board if it was taken away when you removed the other material. In this step, you will want to be sure to make sure all pieces are removed and it's as flat of a surface as possible. Sometimes there will be gaps in the backing so in this case you will want to add some putty and smooth out the surface. .

Choosing and adding tile to the surround

TIP: When choosing your material, I suggest picking out a few different options to bring home and hold up to your fireplace. This was probably what took us so long to complete this project was deciding on which pattern we liked better. So to make this easier, choose 2-3 options, hold them up, take photos and determine pros and cons of each. Here's are questions we asked that helped us make the best decision:

  • What style/pattern is classic and will not go out of style? (I love some of these trendy styles, but when we go to sell our house one day I want to make sure it appeals to someone else's taste as well).

  • What material will be easy to maintain, clean, and be durable?

  • What will make the most impact on a budget (biggest bang for our buck)?

When you have your measurements, you will want to cut these exact sizes. For tile, you will want to use a wet tile saw. When you have all of your pieces cut, lay them out on the ground in front of your fireplace.

Now it's time to add the material to the surround. You will need to mix your thinset mortar in a bucket (this should have instructions on the back of the box). Apply the mortar to the back of the tiles, putting firm pressure on the tile when applying to the surround. The key here is to work in sections. One challenge we found was getting our tiles to stay up on the surround. Our tiles were a bit heavier, so we had to come up with a way to make sure they stayed in place. We used painters tape and taped the material to the mantle to ensure they would stay in place while it dried. Sometimes you have to figure out what works best for you at that time, and this was it for us. Not sure if this has been done before, but it worked for us!

Be sure you allow at least 48 hours to dry. Once it's dry, it's time to grout. You can choose different colors for grout, but we chose white that would match well with our tile. When applying the grout, be sure to apply at an angle and use a CLEAN wet sponge to remove the excess. Be sure to work in sections here as well. Once each section is grouted and excess is removed, make sure to wipe down well again with a clean sponge. Let dry for at least 24 hours. Once dry, you will want to go over it again with a wet clean sponge. There's some product you can use to seal the tile and make it shinier as well.

Here's the before and after of our surround:

Other fireplace areas

Removing brass: I wasn't a huge fan of the brass surrounding the fireplace door. Instead of removing, I painted over this area with high-heat resistant black paint. The Rustoleum brand is the one I used. This comes in a can of paint and spray paint, but I used a can of paint and a sponge paint brush. You can find this at Home Depot, Lowes, and even Amazon (linked here).

Hope this guide is helpful for you as you take on this project! There was definitely lots of effort and learnings with this project, but it was so worth it in the end. Here's the full before and after so you can see the difference.

Please free to reach out to me with any questions!



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