Create a decorative fireplace makeover of ceramic tile as the true focal point of the living room, covering the unattractive painted brick fireplace surround and stoop. Rough up and clean the painted surface and apply quick drying thinset to hold the new tiles. Purchase and stain a ready-made wooden mantel and pilasters to install over the finished tile.
Relocate furniture temporarily and use craft paper to protect the floor. Pry wooden trim away from the surround, scoring paint and caulking with a utility knife and then levering with a small pry bar against a putty knife.
Use a side grinder and wire brush to remove loose paint and roughen the surface of the bricks to hold mortar and fireplace tile. Catch the paint and brick dust with a vacuum.
Use a circular saw equipped with a diamond blade to saw the brick overhang off the edge of the stoop. Build a temporary chute from the open chimney to the doorway and place a fan to channel the dust outside.
Apply stain to the wooden mantel components with disposable foam brushes, working from the top the bottom of each piece. Work outside, away from the brick dust, and keep the chemical fumes of the stain out of the house.
Create a temporary ledge to hold a row of tiles. Find the center of the fireplace opening and first center a tile, and then center the grout joint to see which looks best and will require the fewest tile cuts.
Use a paddle mixer on a power driver to mix quick-drying thin-set with an acrylic additive rather than water to make a stronger bond. Let the mortar slake for 10 minutes which the chemicals react with each other.
Fill brick joints with a parging trowel on the section above the fireplace opening. Butter the whole tile backs with mortar and run the notched edge of a trowel over each to make uniform ridges.
Cut tiles when required with a scoring cutter or a wet tile saw, respectively, depending on the thickness of the tile or number of tiles to be resized, and then set them with vinyl spacers to ensure uniform joint spacing.
Apply polyurethane to the mantel components and allow them to dry. Mix grout and force it into the tile joints with a grout float. Rake off the excess in a diagonal motion. Clean up the haze with a damp sponge.
Position cleats for each mantel component and attach to the wall. Secure the pilasters first with a nail gun. Install the cleat for the mantel skirt and shelf, adding a bead of adhesive before setting it in place. Add trim.