First of all, I want to thank everyone that has joined since my last post! Welcome! And thank you for your support!
Tiling is one of my all time favorite projects!! It’s one that you get to get dirty, it progresses quickly, and the end result makes such a huge difference!! Anyone can tile!! And everyone can make it look good! If you’ve wanted to try it, DO IT!! 🙂 I haven’t done one in a while, but the fire place at the chalet begged for a beautiful tile hearth! It’s not all done yet, but the beginning stages are complete and I can show you how I did it.
If you have followed my instagram or facebook page you have seen the ‘before’ fireplace photo at the ski chalet. If you haven’t seen it, here it is (also, you should follow my Facebook and Instagram for updates and other photos!):
The beautiful fireplace is sitting on a little pre-made hearth that was placed over the top of the carpet (yes, over the top). Obviously, this is not the way that it is supposed to be done. So, the fireplace was removed, and the hearth as well, so that I could rip up the old nasty carpet.
I built a new hearth with 2x4s, being sure that the cross supports were directly beneath where the fireplace legs were going to be (it is SOOOO heavy! And if I work this hard, it better hold up). The frame was then covered in 1/2 inch plywood and then the entire thing was covered with cement board. This is what the project looks like when it’s ready to tile:
Supplies Needed (Some that I just recommend):
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- Cuticle oil and Lotion (both the mortar and grout are really drying to your skin-I just use the cheap Sally Hansen and it works well)
- Knee pads recommended if you’re doing something on the floor-I have these gel ones and they are amazing!! They have gel padding on the inside and the front is flat which helps with stability (nice if you have a project that is going to take a while).
- Rosin Paper (this is the red paper on the floor that you see above. It is a thick paper that comes in a roll and I recommend it if you have a surface that you need to protect near your project).
- Cement board if your project may get wet (like kitchens or baths or anything outside)-this is what I placed on my frame above. There are a couple versions. This one is HardieBacker Board. It’s thin and easy to cut with a circular saw (it will dull your blade over time, but that’s how I cut mine)
- Two buckets with flat bottoms
- Mixing attachment for your drill-this isn’t required but is super handy for mixing mortar and grout!
- Drill-just for mixing if you have the above attachment
- Large sponge for grouting
- Mortar trowel with notched edge
- Grout trowel with rubber bottom
- Mortar-this comes in two different forms, a powder that you mix ($15-$25 for a 50# bag) or a premixed version ($25-ish per gallon).
- I used to pay double the money for the premixed version because I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to mix it to a consistency that the tiles would stick to. Don’t do this. It’s not necessary. It’s easy to get a good consistency.
- Grout-it comes in powdered and premixed as well. Save yourself the money and get the powder. It’s easy to mix. Pick a color that accents your tile. I prefer dark grout so it doesn’t show dirt. I also think it looks nicer most of the time.
- Spacers-these come in different sizes. Choose these depending on what you want your grout/tile ratio to look like. If you want small spaces, choose smaller spacers. Mine are 1/4 inch. These are reusable. I have the same ones from my first tile project several years ago.
- Tile Saw-This is the one that I have and I love it!! It’s only $89 and it has lasted several years and a couple of BIG tile projects! I have only replaced the blade once.
- Tile of choice!
- Make sure you get a little bit extra to account for broken tiles (I learned to open the boxes and look in them before taking them to pay, since you can pay per tile or per box at Home Depot or Lowes.)
Preparing to tile:
Gather all of your supplies.
I start by laying out my tiles in the pattern that I want. This way I might be able to cut them ahead of time if any need cut. Some of the tiles I was able to cut ahead of time and some I cut as I went. You’ll have to be the judge of this.
I set up my tile saw nearby. It needs to be plugged into electricity and you’ll need a water source as well. The saw has a reservoir underneath that holds water. The blade turns through the water which keeps it wet and cool while cutting the tile. This prevents sparks. It is also a little bit messy. Don’t wear nice clothes-you will get splashed. I prefer to do this outside (obviously), but I have set it up inside with tarps when I was completing a project during the winter month. It wasn’t ideal, but it worked. Stubbornness=productivity. 🙂
My tiles laid out-I was able to measure and pre-cut some of the tiles that are going around the edge of the hearth. The HardieBacker Board has the grid pattern on it, which will help you cut straight lines and keep your tiling straight and even. Not all cement board has this.
If you haven’t used a tile saw before, make a couple of practice cuts to get a feel for it. Turn the saw on and allow it to get up to full speed before pushing the tile into the blade. Then, slow and steady, advance the tile. Rushing the cut may jam the blade or break your tile. I used the fence (long bar to the left of the blade) for cutting the tiles lengthwise so they were all the same. Any of the tiles that I was cutting after this, I marked with a straightedge and a marker and removed the fence and guided the tile through free hand. It’s really easy to handle.
Mixing the mortar:
Like I said earlier, don’t waste money on premixed mortar. It is way more expensive and completely unnecessary. I start by pouring some mortar into a bucket. I guess at how much I will use. And then I start adding a little water at a time while I am mixing. The goal consistency is one that is sticky but keeps its shape when you stir it.
Here is the mixing attachment that I was talking about earlier:
Get yourself ready:
Coat your cuticles with cuticle oil. Believe me, you will want to do this before and every time you wash your hands. You will also be doing it for the following couple of days. If you can wear gloves, you might be able to skip this step, but I can’t wear rubber gloves for that long, so cuticle oil it is. 🙂
Get your awesome gel knee pads on!! Like I said before, amazing!! If you are doing a project on the floor or near the floor, these will make all the difference!!
Also, quite the fashion statement: 😉
In all seriousness though, check these out:
Applying the mortar and tiles:
Using your mortar trowel, scoop out some mortar with the smooth edge of the trowel.
Using the smooth edge of your mortar trowel, apply the mortar on the hardiebacker board in a thick, smooth coat about 1/4 inch thick. Having a nice even coat is what will help make your tiles lay evenly.
Then, turn the trowel around. Hold it at a 45 degree angle to the mortar you just applied. Using the notched end or edge, drag it along the mortar giving it a nice raked pattern. This may take a couple practices to get the thickness correct and the lines looking nice. If you don’t like how it turned out, scrape it off and try again. No big deal. 🙂
Next, I apply mortar to the tile in the same manner, but opposite direction than the raking on the board.
Then press your tile into the mortar on the board. Place spacers between your tiles as you add tiles. Try to make sure you press the tiles deep into the mortar, but also make sure your tile surfaces are about even (having an even coating of mortar before you start adding tiles is what makes this part easy). If you are using something like slate, where the tiles are different thicknesses, you have to adjust the depth of your mortar if you want the tiles to be even, which can be challenging.
After your tiles are where you want them, clean up any mortar that is sticking up between the tiles or that you may have accidentally gotten on the front of the tiles. You just want to make sure that none of it is sticking up higher than the tiles or it will stick through your grout. I usually just use my finger or one of the spacers to wipe the extra mortar from between the tiles. I used little match sticks to keep my bottom row of tile just a tiny bit off the floor (probably not necessary, but you can see them in the photo).
Keeping adding mortar and tiles.
And adding more…
And adding more until you’re all done!
Just a warning: On every tiling project I have done, at this stage, it looks terrible. The mortar always looks messy. I always think “what have I done?” Don’t do this!! Don’t beat yourself up. Walk away and come back when it’s time to grout. It will look 100x better once you are done with the grout!!!
Allow this to dry completely. Follow the instructions on your mortar. Mine dried for 24 hours before grout application.
This is the best stage because the whole project starts to come together!!
Step 1: More cuticle oil. Seriously.
This is the grout that I used. I chose a dark grey color to accent my grey tiles. It’s a powder that mixes with water. This can also come in a premixed bucket, but isn’t worth the money. It’s easy to mix. Also note that it has the dimensions of the tile spacers on the bag.
Mix the grout similar to the mortar, looking for a texture that is sticky and holds its shape when you stir it. I use the same mixing tool and the same bucket.
You’ll also need a bucket with water (and a water source-I change out my water several times throughout a project).
You’ll need your grout trowel:
And a large sponge:
To get started, I scoop up a good amount of grout onto the trowel.
I hold it at a 45 degree angle (ish) to the tile and then run it across the top of the tiles, filling the cracks with grout. I run the trowel across the cracks (rather than in the same direction, or you’ll pull the grout out). This may take a few tries to get a feel for it and to be successful at filling the cracks.
I start in one area or corner and start filling cracks (and I’m kind of messy about it, but that’s ok!)
Once I have a small area done, I soak my sponge and ring it most of the way out. You want it wet enough to wipe the grout off of the tiles, but if it’s too wet it will make the grout in the cracks soggy and it won’t stick. Use the wet sponge to start wiping off the tiles. I rinse it between most ‘swipes’. Run the sponge at an angle to the cracks. If you run it the same direction as the cracks, you run the risk of wiping your grout out of the cracks. This might be something that takes a few tries to get the feel for how wet you want the sponge and what direction to wipe, and that’s ok. If you wipe too much grout out on accident, get your trowel and add more. No harm done!
Keep rinsing and wiping until you have the tiles cleaned off, but the grout is still where you want it. It helps me to get clean water frequently. During this small project, I refreshed my bucket 3 times. Don’t do this in your sink-there will be a lot of grout and sand at the bottom of the bucket that you don’t want in your drain.
I just keep working my way across
Until I am completely done!
It looks way better after the grout is done! The grout does a nice job of hiding any little imperfections (not that you’ll have any! 😉 )
Last step: More cuticle oil and lotion.
As I mentioned at the very beginning of this post, the project isn’t completed yet. Here is a sneak preview of what is coming. Anyone who has seen my other house knows I like the fireplace to be a statement in the room. 🙂 I also think it’s weird that the fireplace was in the middle of the room, and this small wall behind the wood stove makes it safer as well as separates the entryway from the living room without really closing in the room.
Stay tuned for a final fireplace photo!!