Prepare the area
There is a good chance you are covering up brick with ceramic tile, so you have to get the surface ready before you adhere the pieces to the fireplace and hearth. You will want to start with a smooth surface and you can achieve this with a trowel and cement-based thin set mortar. Be sure to fill in the grout between the bricks to create a level surface for placing your ceramic tile. Once you have covered the entire area and smoothed it with the trowel, it needs to dry overnight before you proceed any further.
Prep for tile
Use painter's tape around your mantle so you don't get mortar on it or damage it while you work. Before you begin, it is best to sketch out a design for how you want the pieces to look, especially if you are using embellished or hand painted ceramic tiles. Once you start working, the mortar dries quickly and you won't have the chance to switch pieces around. If you have a mantle that can be removed, this could make installing ceramic tile easier, but if you don't, simply work around it.
After you design the fireplace on paper, measure out the area and your ceramic tiles to see how you will place them. You may end up needing to cut some pieces to fit, especially around the mantle area where the shape of the fireplace can get tricky.
Install the tile
If you are tiling the fireplace as well as the hearth, start up top with the fireplace surround before moving downwards towards the hearth. Begin above the mantle from the center and install ceramic tile outwards on either side of the middle tile. Work with a level to ensure the pieces are straight. Use spacers to make sure the pieces set correctly and evenly. Stagger the joints for the best results. Complete the tiling when you get to the ends and let the area dry overnight.
Measure the ends, or legs, of the fireplace and use a tile saw to cut pieces to fit the area. Install the ceramic pieces using the same process you did for the fireplace surround. Cut tiles to fit any places where a complete piece will not fit. Use spacers as you install the ceramic tile. Allow the remaining pieces to dry overnight before moving on to the next step.
Now you are ready to grout. Start by removing all of the spacers from the ceramic tile. Mix the grout according to the directions and apply it liberally to the fireplace and the hearth using a grout float.
Use the edge of the float to remove any excess grout. Follow up with a damp cloth to remove grout from the surface of the ceramic tiles, but don't remove any from between the pieces.
Once you are done, the grout needs to dry overnight. Then, use a lint-free, soft cloth to remove any dust or debris from the ceramic tiles and buff them a bit. At this point, you should be able to use your fireplace as you normally would.
Have questions about ceramic tiles and installation? Contact Gowdy Flooring at (806) 353-6226 for answers. Browse our website to see all of the products and services we offer. Drop us an email with questions, comments, or concerns. Meet us in person and see all of our flooring options when you stop by our showroom. We are conveniently located at 5205 S. Coulter Street in Amarillo, Texas.