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How To Build a Glass-Mosaic Tile Fireplace

The available colors and textures of glass-mosaic tiles make them one of the best ways to improve the look of an otherwise boring home feature. Here we strip a fireplace of washed-out ceramic tile and replace it with dark brown glass-mosaic tile.


Figure 1. The ceramic-tiled fireplace prior to remodeling with glass-mosaic tile.

Tools and Materials

Tiling jobs usually require the same kinds of tools and materials, most of which are available at your neighborhood home improvement store. Working with glass-mosaics is a slightly different process, however, with some tool/material differences (e.g., no tile cutting tools, extra cleanup precautions).



  • Type – Despite the staggering number of tile possibilities out there, it is important to check out your options before jumping into a project. We are installing glass-mosaic in this case, but ceramic, porcelain, terra cotta and natural stone tile are other options with varying costs, sizes and colors. Each material brings with it different hardness and durability that may or may not be appropriate for your application.1,2 Instead of getting bogged down in the selection process online, however, I recommend looking up a few different tile suppliers in your area and visiting their showrooms where you can see the choices first-hand, ask questions and obtain samples. If glass-mosaic is your tile of choice, you will need to choose between paper-faced or mesh mounted sheets.3 Both styles work and will be addressed in this article, but the mesh-mounted method has become more popular as its installation is typically more straightforward and convenient.
  • Amount – To estimate the amount of tile to buy, measure the surface area to be covered and add 5% for human error, cut and broken tiles.
  • Supplier – Many glass-mosaic suppliers provide material to tile dealers only, but I found that those dealers are usually very accommodating. You may even be offered a discount for homeowners doing their own work (i.e., not using a contractor).
  • Price4 – Tile price is usually by the square foot and can range anywhere from $5/ft2 to >$30/ft2.5
    In this case, we will install approximately 23ft2 of Bisazza Glass Mosaic Vetricolor 20×20 sheets (color 20.16) at about $12/ft2.6

Thin-set mortar

Thin-set mortar secures the tile to the mounting surface. It is available in various colors at most home improvement stores, usually in 10 lb, 25 lb and/or 50 lb bags. Be sure to check the listing on the back of the mortar bag to ensure it is suitable for use with glass tile. Depending on the application and brand name, a 25 lb bag can cost anywhere from $5 to $15.
Keep in mind the following mortar selection tips while looking:

  • Color – Use gray mortar if you plan to use a dark colored grout and white mortar with light colored grout.
  • Setting speed – Only use fast setting mortar if you have tile installation experience.
  • Latex modification – Latex modified mortar (or non-modified mortar with a latex additive) is usually suitable for glass-mosaic tile installation.
  • Unsanded – Use unsanded mortar for walls, fixtures (e.g., fireplaces) and some countertops.7
  • Coverage – A 25 lb bag will usually install approximately 35ft2 to 50ft2 of tile. (More accurate coverage specifications should be listed on the bag.)
  • Manufacturer’s instructions – Always follow the manufacturer’s instructions when installing their product; the recommended methods may vary.


Grout fills in the gaps between the tiles after they are set. It is available in different colors and makeups, depending on the taste of the user and the application, in 10 lb or 25 lb bags or in one gallon premixed tubs. Ensure the grout purchased is sufficient for the surface area to be covered and that the color is desired.8 The typical grout available at hardware stores will cost from $10 to $30 for a 25 lb bag.
In this case, we will use one gallon of Bisazza Fill Epoxy grout (color 405 – Ocra Bruna) from the same manufacturer as the tile for about $35.9


Figure 2. Mortar (left), grout (right).

Supplemental Materials

  • Spacers – Spacers are small plastic crosses that assist in aligning tiles. The spacer size needed depends on the spread of your mosaics, so take a sample of the mounted tile with you to the store to ensure it will provide the proper spacing. One bag of spacers costs approximately $3 to $5 and will be more than enough for most projects. 1/16" spacers are appropriate for the tile spacing on this job.
  • Cement backerboard – Optional. Cement backerboard is a concrete sheet reinforced with a fiberglass mesh on both sides. It is typically used over plywood floors or sheetrock walls in bathrooms,10 but we will only use it to bring the horizontal tile surface to match the carpet height. One 3′ × 5′ sheet of backerboard is about $9.
  • Fiberglass tape – Optional. Fiberglass tape provides a backing surface for spackling or mortar when patching holes or gaps in the mounting surface. We will use it on the sheetrock-fireplace interface. A small roll of tape will most likely be enough for this job and will run approximately $2 to $4.
  • Spackling – Very optional. Spackling, also called joint compound, patches sheetrock holes and is usually applied over fiberglass tape. If you do not already have spackling available, I suggest using mortar instead. A small, 3 lb tub costs $3 to $4.
  • Sealant – Optional. If you are using water-based mortar, you will need to seal it to prevent staining or mold. Sealant often comes in combination with grout cleaner and runs from about $8 to $20.11

    Figure 3. Spacers (left), backerboard (left-center), fiberglass tape (right-center), spackling (right).


Razor scraper

This tool is specially designed to remove tile mortar (only necessary if removing tile). Alternatively, we will use a hammer and heavy-duty paint scraper, as there is a reasonably small area to clear (the horizontal surface).12 Various shapes and sizes of scrapers are available,13 as well as powered floor scraping units14 (overkill for a small application like a fireplace). A typical razor scraper will run from $20 to $30.

If you choose to use a heavy-duty paint scraper ($5 to $10, as shown in this tutorial), I recommend getting a stainless scraper and as heavy duty as possible.

Notched trowel

Mortar trowels are of varying sizes and come with V or square profile notches, also of varying sizes. We will use a 3/16" x 5/32" V-notched trowel to spread the mortar for the glass-mosaic tiles and a 1/4" square-notched trowel for spreading mortar to attach the cement backerboard. I strongly suggest purchasing a stainless steel trowel (to avoid rusting). Trowels will cost from $3 to $10.

Grout float

A float is a thick, hard-rubber (or sometimes wood) trowel-like tool. We will use it to push grout into the spaces between the set tiles. It usually costs between $7 and $15.


Figure 4. Razor scraper (left), grout float (center), notched trowel (right).

Supplemental Tools

  • Carpenter’s square – Optional. A square helps when cutting backerboard (if used) and may assist in doing the preliminary tile layout. A medium sized rafter square (16" x 24") costs approximately $7 to $10.
  • Sponges – If using water-based grout, a tiling sponge (large with an abrasive material on one side) will work best. We will work with epoxy grout, so small, disposable sponges are more appropriate. Tile sponges run about $4 while a package of disposable sponges is around $1.
  • Bucket – A bucket may be needed to mix mortar (unless premixed mortar is used) and/or to dilute glass tile cleaner.
  • Rubber mallet – A rubber mallet is handy when setting tiles and usually costs around $5.
  • Utility knife – This utilitarian tool helps at a variety of steps in the installation. Basic models run about $5.
  • Drill paddle – To save time and forearm work, you can use a paddle attachment with a 1/2" drill to mix mortar and/or grout. Paddles cost anywhere from $6 to $25.15

Prepare Worksite

Before installing the new tile, you must remove the old tile (or other floor/wall covering) and prepare the surface for mortar application.

Remove Baseboards

If there are any baseboards overlapping the edge of the tile, it is easiest to remove them before tearing up the floor. Using a flat tool and a hammer, pry the baseboard away from the wall and set it aside. It may help to score the paint between the piece to be removed and the adjacent wall or larger baseboard. Also, use as wide of a tool as possible (e.g., a paint scraper instead of a flathead screwdriver) to avoid damaging the baseboard.


Figure 5. Remove any overlapping baseboards by prying them away from the wall prior to removing the tile.

Remove Old Tile

Old tile is easily removed by breaking it up with a sledgehammer. This is a potentially dangerous activity, however, so be sure to wear proper eye protection. Additionally, lay an old towel or T-shirt over the tile to be broken to contain flying shards. Exercise caution and wear gloves when removing the tile pieces, as edges are sharp.16


Figure 6. Break-up the old tile using a sledgehammer and remove the pieces carefully.

Remove Mortar

When tile is broken up, the underlying mortar is usually left behind. You must remove this to uncover a solid, even surface on which to lay the new tile. The process can be arduous and time consuming, particularly if specialized tools are not used. Before beating out the mortar with a razor scraper or paint scraper and hammer, I recommend wetting the mortar prior to soften it slightly and, more importantly, prevent dust formation. (The scraper shown is a heavy duty paint scraper, but was not made specifically for tile/mortar removal. A scraper upgrade could significantly quicken the process.)


Figure 7. One way to slowly, but surely, remove the old mortar is to wet it then knock it out using a scraper and a hammer.


Figure 8. While removing the old mortar using the above described method, hair or anything else in the area will most likely get covered with mortar sludge.


Removing tile is a messy ordeal, but the worksite will need to be clean before proceeding to the constructive half of the installation. Gather or wipe-up all removed mortar and ensure the mounting surface is reasonably smooth. Although small holes or scrapes will be filled in with mortar and not impact the installation, ridges or bumps of any significance will interfere with laying the tile and should be removed or flattened.
This is also a good time to patch any holes in the drywall or gaps between the fireplace fixture and the adjacent wallboard using fiberglass tape and spackling.17 Once complete, you must let the spackling dry before proceeding. If you elect to use mortar instead of spackling, as I did, the patching can be done during the tile laying process.


Figure 9. After removing the old tile and cleaning up, the fireplace is ready for its new look.

Prepare Tile Segments

When doing a typical tile project, laying out the tile involves many steps and options to ensure optimal results. When tiling a bathroom floor, for example, you should arranging tiles so that as many as possible are whole to minimize the number of cuts and improve the overall look. Additionally, a level surface is critical to promote floor longevity in areas with high traffic. With a fireplace, however, these are non-issues. The tiled area is small, the tiles are glass and will not be cut, and the fireplace is decorative and will have only very light traffic, if any.18

Thus, to plan the layout, simply measure the area to be covered and then piece together segments of the tile sheets to fit. Cut the mounting paper or mesh with a utility knife where necessary. Use the cuttings in combination to cover surface area as well. Lay out all of the cut segments together with spacers and measure the overall dimensions to double check your plan.

Mount New Tile

Usually, different surfaces require different methods of tile mounting,19 but once again the fact that the tile installed will be decorative only will allow us to mount the tile to almost any surface using the same method. In this case, the glass tile is mounted to sheetrock (walls), cement (floor or backerboard) and metal (fireplace) using the same thin-set mortar.

Prepare Backerboard

Glass mosaic tile is thinner than ceramic tile, so you may need to make some accommodations if switching from one to the other. In the pictured case, I lay a segment of cement backerboard underneath the horizontal tile to raise the finished product to about the same level as the previous ceramic tile and maintain a reasonably even surface with the adjoining carpet.

Measure the areas you will cover and mark the cuts on the board, using a square if needed. One edge at a time and using a straight edge or square, cut the fiberglass mesh on one side and then snap the board by bending away from the cut. Cut the mesh on the other side to finish.


Figure 10. Cut cement backerboard by slicing the reinforcing fiberglass on one side, snapping the board, then cutting the reinforcement on the other side.

Apply Mortar

After laying out the tile, cleaning the area, and cutting the backerboard (if necessary), mix the mortar per the manufacturer’s instructions on the bag. I suggest mixing only a small amount on the first run to avoid potential waste and to allow yourself to become familiar with the process. A small batch will also allow you to mix without purchasing a mixing paddle. If you do use a paddle, however, do so at low speeds (less than 300rpm).

If using backerboard, you can install it one of two ways; Install the backerboard onto the floor and then install the tile onto it, or install the tile onto the backerboard first and then install the whole assembly. Regardless of the order, however, you apply the mortar in the same manner.

After mixing the mortar per the manufacturer’s instructions, ‘key’ it onto the wall or floor surface using the flat edge of the trowel and then ‘comb’ it using the notched end.20 To comb the mortar, drag either notched edge of the trowel over the surface keeping the trowel at a 45º angle to the plane. Use a 1/4" square-notched trowel for the backerboard-to-floor interface and a 3/16" x 5/32" V-notched trowel for the tile-wall/floor/backerboard interface. Good spreading technique will ensure consistent and correct mortar thickness to produce flat and secure tiling.


Figure 11. Mix a small batch of mortar in a bucket (left). Spread the mortar on the surface to be covered with a notched trowel (right).

If you didn’t patch gaps or holes in the surface on which you are spreading the mortar previously, do so as you apply the mortar. Press fiberglass tape over the gap and then spread mortar over the tape, pushing it through the holes to create a flat surface. Allow it to set for five to ten minutes or until the surface is sturdy enough to support the application of combed mortar.


Figure 12. Use fiberglass tape and mortar to patch any surface gaps.

Set Sheets

Once you prepare a small area with combed mortar, set the tile into it. If you are using paper-faced sheets, lay them tile-side-down into the mortar; if using mesh-backed sheets, lay them tile-side-up. Use the grout float (or block of wood) and a rubber mallet to beat the tile sheets evenly into place and ensure mortar coverage on the set-side of the tile. Orient the sheets after setting them to maintain proper spacing. Place spacers either in-plane with the tile sheets, which will align four tile pairs, or normal to the sheets, which will only align one tile pair. The advantage to the normal spacing method, however, is that you will be able to easily remove the spacer after the mortar is set. You will only have to remove in-plane spacers if they will not be covered by the grout, but removal will be difficult.

Lay vertical sheets in the same way, starting from the bottom to provide a foundation on which to stack the next sheets. Be sure to use spacers to maintain an even spread.


Figure 13. Lay mesh sheets into the mortar and then space with normally-set spacers.


Figure 14. Separate sheets of paper-faced tile using in-plane spacers laid on mortared cement backerboard.


Figure 15. Lay tile on the vertical surfaces in much the same method as the horizontal ones.


Figure 16. Set and level the laid tiles using a grout float (or board) to distribute the setting force from a rubber mallet.

In the shown example, I install the tile onto a segment of cement backerboard that is not already laid, and install the entire assembly (tile laid on backerboard with mortar) directly onto the floor. Exercise caution when installing the large (and heavy) assembly to avoid dislodging the laid tiles.


Figure 17. One way to install backerboard is to first install the tile onto it and then to install the whole assembly.

Remove Paper-Facing

If using paper-faced tile, remove the paper after the mortar has set (about 15-20 minutes after laying the tile). Wet the paper with a water-soaked sponge and then allow the paper adhesive to soften. Test a corner of the paper to see if it will come up easily and reapply water if necessary. Remove the paper by starting at a corner and pulling the paper facing diagonally back along the tile (as opposed to pulling normal to the tiled surface). You may also want to prop up the carpet around the tile to avoid stains or soaking.


Figure 18. Remove the paper facing by wetting it and then pulling diagonally from a corner after the adhesive is sufficiently softened.


Figure 19. Prop up the edge of any surrounding carpet to keep it clean of mortar, grout and water.

Adjust and Clean-up

After removing the paper (or after laying the mesh-sheets), check the alignment of the tiles and make any necessary adjustments before the mortar hardens. Remove any protruding mortar or spacers from between the tiles using a flathead screwdriver or a utility knife; anything not later covered by the grout will make for a serious eyesore on the finished product. Replace any tiles that are pulled up or knocked loose using a small dab of mortar applied to the back.


Figure 20. Remove protruding mortar from between the tiles before it hardens.

After the mortar has completely dried (24-48 hours), remove any glue residue from the tiles using a nylon brush and warm water. After or while cleaning, inspect the tile alignment once more for any crooked or skewed tiles, as well as any mortar or spacers that might protrude through the grout. Knock out and re-cement tiles needing adjustment.21 Gently tapping a flathead screwdriver under the tile to be removed with a hammer works decently, but be careful not to chip it or the surrounding tiles. After removing the tiles, scrape the dried mortar off of the back side and clean out the tile location reasonably well using a utility knife or flathead screwdriver. After removing and cleaning all tiles needing correction, mix a small batch of mortar and replace the tiles using a dab on the back of each. Let the repaired tiles dry completely (24 hours) before moving on to the grout application.


Figure 21. Instead of thinking about how much easier it would have been to straighten the tiles while the mortar was still soft, think of how much harder it would be if you waited until the grout was applied.

Apply Grout

Grout preparation depends on the grout selected. Many grouts mix with water, but those used with glass mosaic tiles are often epoxy-based. Epoxy grouts usually come in two parts, such as the Bisazza Fill used here. Although a general construct for grout application follows, adhere to the directions included on your specific grout selection, as methods and requirements may vary.


Figure 22. I used Bisazza Fill, an epoxy grout that came in two parts: a pre-mixed solid and the liquid epoxy additive.

Read the grout mixing and application directions carefully, being sure to note any time restrictions. Make any possible preparations you can prior to mixing to allow you the full allotted time to apply the grout. After mixing per the manufacturers instructions (and rinsing any mixing tools used that you don’t want coated with dried grout), apply the grout to the tiled surface using a rubber float. Position the float at a 45º angle to the surface and the tile orientation and push the grout into the spaces betwen the tiles by dragging it over the surface. At least 20 minutes after application, wipe off the excess grout using first a dry, lint-free cloth and then a sponge and warm water.22 When the tile looks reasonably clean, let it dry for 15 minutes and then wipe away any revealed grout ‘haze’ using a moist sponge or cloth.26 Repeat as necessary.


Figure 23. Apply grout diagonally over the tiled surface with a rubber float.


Figure 24. Use the appropriate sponge to wipe up the excess grout.

Clean and Seal

After the grout has fully dried (24-48 hours after application23), wash the surface using a tile cleaner and a sponge or scrubbing pad. In this case, Bisazza provided a concentrated tile cleaner, called Shine, which instructed at least two cleaning sessions separated by 24 hours. Once completely dry and cleaned, a tile sealant can be applied to prevent mold or staining.24

Finish Up

Finally, complete the tile interfaces by pushing the carpet back onto the tacking strips, nailing the baseboards back on, and touching up the paint.25 Be sure to allow at least 16 hours for the grout to completely set before walking on the tile.


Figure 25. Nail the baseboards back in place and secure the carpet interfaces.


Figure 26. Behold the finished glass-mosaic fireplace, in all of its glory.

The Old and the New

With a glass-mosaic pit ’o fire instead of a bland ceramic tile fireplace, you will be ready to take on the world one log at a time.


Figure 27. The before and after “comparison” can hardly be called one.


1 What to Expect from a Tile Floor. Swiff-Train.com. URL accessed on January 23, 2006. Information on ceramic tile makeup, durability, glaze, and much more.

2 Choosing a Ceramic Tile – Walls & Floors. FloorsTransformed.com. URL accessed on January 23, 2006. A list of general rules for deciding what size of tile to use.

3 Sheets are recommended, but it is possible to do the job with individual tiles. This method is not considered here.

4 Prices listed here and throughout the article are approximations only. Actual prices may vary depending on purchasing situation.

5 Tips on Tile. TileResource.com. URL accessed on January 23, 2006. Tile prices vary greatly from under $5/ft2 to over $30/ft2.

6 Bisazza. Bisazza.com. URL Accessed January 23, 2006. Select About the Company for company information. Select Products and an interactive selection window will open. Select Mosaics, Vetricolor 20×20 then color 20.16(2) to view the tile and grout combination used in this example.

7 Sanded mortar is used for floors and some countertops.

8 Proper Grout Selection. FloorBiz.com. URL accessed January 23, 2006. Acid resistance, polymer modification, chemical enhanced curing and a stain warranty are listed as essential to a high-quality grout.

9 Bisazza. Bisazza.com_. URL Accessed January 23, 2006. Follow the same instructions given above (_ProductsMosaicsVetricolor 20×2020.16(2)) to view the tile and grout combination used in this example.

10 For details on installing backerboard, select Know How, Floors and then Installing Cement Backerboard on the Home Depot website.

11 Tile Perfect Inc. Recall of Stand ’n Seal Grout Sealer Due to Respiratory Problems. News from U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission. URL accessed January 30, 2006. Choose your sealant wisely and be sure to properly ventilate the area.

12 Mortar attached to sheetrock or metal surfaces is easily removed along with the tile.

13 Floor Care. Unger Global. URL accessed January 24, 2006. Unger provides a variety of floor scrapers. Similar scrapers are available at home improvement stores in the tile section.

14 Cutting, Shaping and Scraping: Tile Scraper. DIYNetwork.com. URL accessed January 24, 2006. This is an example of a powered floor scraping unit. It would only necessary for large jobs and can be rented.

15 Marshalltown Quick Mix Drill Attachment. Axminster Power Tool Center. URL accessed January 30, 2006. One example of a mixing-paddle drill attachment.

16 Tile Floor Removal. TheTileDoctor.com. URL accessed January 23, 2006. More detailed tile floor removal instruction.

17 For details on patching sheetrock, select Know How, Walls and then Patching Small Holes in Wallboard or Patching Large Holes in Wallboard from the Home Depot homepage.

18 If a very level surface is required (or desired), apply self-leveling primer and self-leveling underlayment per the manufacturer’s instructions.

19 Floors & Walls. TheTileDoctor.com. URLs accessed January 24, 2006. Detailed information on the various methods of preparing floors and walls for different tiling applications.

20 A technique called ‘back-buttering’ is often used when installing tile, but it is not necessary in this application.

21 This is more difficult than it is to fix them while the mortar is wet, but easier than fixing them after the grout is applied (or looking at them for the foreseeable future).

22 You may need to discard sponges and cloths dirtied with epoxy grout, as it is not easily removed. If using water-based grout, simply rise the sponge and reused.

23 Note that the grout may change color slightly while drying.

24 Sealant application may change the grout color slightly.

25 You may need to touch up the paint on the fireplace fixture in addition to the surrounding walls.

26 Although a tile sponge is shown on the left of Figure 24, I recommend using disposable sponges (as shown on the right) if working with epoxy grout.

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-1 Vote  - +
??? by Anonymous

Are you still living in the 70’s? Why would you do such a thing to a beautiful tile fireplace, other than to write an article for OmniNerd?

1 Vote  - +
3 thoughts by romanizzo

I have three comments that I would like to throw out that are potentially more constructive than "you live in the 70s."

1. It looks sharp, no doubt about that.
2. Although it looks sharp, it looks like an awful lot of relatively tedious work – clearly you feel that it was worth it, and good for you. (I’ve laid linoleum tile before, and while thats probably more like swinging a cleaver compared to your scalpel work, I didn’t enjoy it.)
3. If anybody is going to be doing this any where near me, I volunteer to help on the smashing of tiles bit. That seems very therapeutic.


Thank you for this thorough and informative "how-to". I have installed ceramic tile before, but will be installing my first glass tile project soon. In preparation, I have searched both online and in bookstores and libraries for detailed installation instruction. To date, yours is the most clear and detailed I have encountered. Thank you for your time in posting this information. A printout of your article will be by my side during the entire process.

Best Regards,


1 Vote  - +
Great Job! by Anonymous

I agree with "Anon". It is the most comprehensive article I have seen and the pictures were great. I am getting ready to install Bisazza glass in a shower using epoxy and had not seen an article so well detailed as yours.

I had two questions:
First, I thought that after "combing" the thinset to the desired thickness, with glass tile, I heard I should then run the flat part over so there are no lines visible. Your tile was dark enough that it may not need this, just wondered what your thoughts were.

Also, I have heard about pre-grouting the paper faced tiles since they are beveled on the underside. It just seems odd to do it this way since your thinset would be wet and your grout curing at the same time, but yet I understand that the only effective way to get grout under the tile would be to "back butter". Again, your opinion.

Great project for showcasing how to work with glass tile. Ignore the other comments that are less than constructive. The "after" picture is a much warmer look and the light playing on the glass from the fire will be much nicer than the old ceramic.

0 Votes  - +
Very Nice by Anonymous

I too hate my floor tile running up the fireplace wall so..
I am about to attempt glass mosaic on a double sided fireplace ( so it will wrap around 3 sides of my firplace ). It is a daunting task since I have never tiled but I am handy.
Thanks for the great detail.

0 Votes  - +
Thorough email by Brandon

I received the following comments in a (very thorough) email:

I just wanted to say thank you so much for your detailed step-by-step instructions on how to tile a fireplace with glass tiles. I have been looking for detailed information and nothing else came close to yours. Your project looks great! My husband and I are closing on our first house on Dec. 29th, it is a new build but we came across the house too late in the game to be able to pick out anything. They were going to be putting tile like your “before” photo around our fireplace (and back splash in the kitchen) but we caught them just in time and asked them to keep it off. Fortunately we don’t have to go through the steps of removing the tile, that doesn’t look fun at all!

We did the same thing with our kitchen backsplash when we moved into our current house last year. (They were actually going to try and charge us not to put the tile in, but we put a stop to that.) It made it much easier to install our own tile later. (Keep your eyes out for an article on that job soon. This time it was marble mosaic tile.)

I am trying to convince my husband that we are perfectly capable of taking on this project ourselves. We just got married last month and apparently doesn’t yet know the extent of my OCD and determination when it comes to projects (even though I have never tiled before!).

The only potentially sticky spot in doing this as your first tile project is the epoxy grout. Working with something that’s not water soluble is a gigantic pain. That being said, being careful and paying attention to detail go a long way.

I showed my husband your project and he was very impressed, not only with the finished work, but the attention to detail that you put into every step. I even used my very limited photoshop skills and used your “after” photo to take it a step further to show him what I want to do with our living room using dark brown and bronze glass tiles (I have attached the photo). Because we have no fireplace surround, I wasn’t sure if it would look funny if the small tiles just started out of nowhere. I thought that I would build a 3D frame that would extend about 8 inches around all sides of the fireplace (about the distance from the floor to the bottom of the fireplace) and 4 inches or so out from the wall on all sides with the [tile] extending to the outer edges and inner edges of the frame. The only problem I see is that it is a gas fireplace and since we don’t have the horizontal area on the floor in front, the carpet will extend right up to the wall.

I have a plan that works in my head and I have no idea if it will actually work in real life. I think that I should tile the frame prior to attaching it to the wall, that way, I can just nail 2X4s around the fireplace and slide the tiled box over it, attaching it with strong adhesive where it will sit on the 2×4 at the top and sides. This will cause the box to sit on top of the carpet about 4 inches from the wall. We will then be building a mantle that will sit even with the top of the box.

I have a picture in my mind of what you described, but I’m not sure it’s correct. In any case, it shouldn’t be too difficult to build a frame like you described. I suggest laying the tile out on the wood for the box before you decide on the actual dimensions, though. You don’t want to end up with a half-tile length to cover along one of the sides.

Tiling the box before you install it is a great idea, though. It’s much easier to tile on a horizontal surface, you’ll have more room to work, and you won’t have to worry about making a mess on your carpet.

(Oh, and sorry your photo isn’t included here. You can’t attach photos to comments on OmniNerd.)

Just based on the amount of work that it took to apply 12×12 sheets, I imagine that this project I have concocted in my head, with different size, alternating stripes of tile will be very interesting. I just threw the stripes on the photo so I don’t think it will look just like it, there will probably be fewer and larger stripes. The look I am going for in the room is traditional/transitional with a few slightly modern twists.

It shouldn’t be too difficult to make stripes. Just keep a large number of spacers handy and apply them liberally to any tiles that look unevenly spaced – before the mortar starts to dry.

Question for you…if I build the frame/box out of MDF, can I tile directly on to that or do I need to prep/cover it with something that will hold the tile/mortar better? Also, if I do decide that the stripes will be too difficult, I will probably take on the same project as above but with just one color. I have seen DIY shows where they use the 12×12 sheets and you can see exactly where one sheet ends and the other begins…is this just because they didn’t take enough time to use the spacers correctly? It does not appear as though that is the case with your project, since you spent the time to correct it.

Yeah, like I said above, you have to be pretty anal with the spacers. I did an okay job of using them, but (as I explained in the article) I ended up chipping some out (before applying the grout) and re-applying them to fix oddly spaced portions. Not fun, but worth it to get rid of an eyesore, in my opinion.

0 Votes  - +
Its Still Ugly by Anonymous

Your craftsmanship and journaling are excellent, but having grown up with the beautiful wooden mantels and ceramic tile hearths of the old south,your end product is about as interesting as the drive in window of the local bank.

John from Atlanta

I have been searching for several wks for a perfect “how to” instructional to replace my ceramic tiling around our fireplace. Your instruction and illustrations are fantastic. Very detailed and seems fairly reasonable to attempt (coming from someone without a whole lot of this type of experience). Thank you for sharing – Im excited to make the attempt!

0 Votes  - +
question by Anonymous

I am wanting to put glass tile around 4 sides of my gas fire place just lie you did, but currently more of the black gas box is showing than I would like (the bottom is not currently tiled at all). Can I put tile on the black part of the box?

Hi…..would the glass mosaic tile sheets stick to a brick fireplace using only the mortar? Thanks, FC

So I have an Arts and Craftsman Bungalow here in Atlanta, and was wondering if I should attempt to re-tile the fireplace as the existing tile looks awful. Your article seemed very clear and the pictures helpful. I signed up for a tile class too, and look forward to starting my own project. There are so many tile options that I know I will enjoy picking out something that makes my fireplace pop! I am going home tonight and will get out the sledgehammer to see how hard is is to get the tile off!


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