Make Over an Unattractive Painted Brick Fireplace with a Ceramic Tile Surround and a New Mantel

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.

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prying wooden trim
Step 1

Move Furniture, Protect Floors, and Remove Wooden Trim

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.

removing loose paint from bricks
Step 2

Remove Loose Paint and Roughen Surface to Hold the Mortar

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.

sawing brick overhang
Step 3

Saw the Lip off the Brick Stoop

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.

applying stain to mantel
Step 4

Stain the Purchased Wooden Mantel, Pilasters, and Trim

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.

placing tiles temporarily
Step 5

Determine the Best Layout for the Tiles and Minimize Cuts

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.

adding acrylic additive to mortar
Step 6

Mix Thin-set Mortar with Acrylic Additive for a Stronger Bond

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.

placing tiles above fireplace opening
Step 7

Mortar and Tile the Section above the Fireplace Opening

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.

cutting tiles with wet tile saw
Step 8

Use a Wet Saw to Cut the End Tiles

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.

raking off excess mortar
Step 9

Varnish the Mantel Components and Grout the Tile Joints

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.

securing cleats to wall
Step 10

Secure Cleats to on the Wall to Hold Mantel Components

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.


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