How to Install a Fireplace Surround Using Tile or Stone Veneer

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You can create a new look for your home by updating the surround of your fireplace. Installing stone veneer, marble, or tile can create a modern or casual look for your room in just one weekend. All of the materials and tools needed can be purchased or re

Creating a new look for an old fireplace is easier than you think. Installing ceramic tile, marble, or stone veneer around your fireplace can quickly update the look of a room and create a new focal point. It is important to determine the clearances required around your fireplace so that you maintain or increase the distance to combustible materials. You may need to contact your local building official to reference the current building codes in your town. You can install a new fireplace surround in a weekend with the help of a tile cutter or wet saw.

Tools and Materials

Measuring tape



Tile cutter or wet saw

Tile, marble, or stone veneer

Tile spacers

Notched trowel


Buckets for water and mortar and grout


Grout float




Rubber gloves

Drop cloth and plastic

Painter’s tape

Caulk gun and Heat resistant caulk


Select a tile, marble, or stone veneer that compliments the look of your room. Try not to select units that are too large or too small for the fireplace opening. You may want to cut pieces out of cardboard and tape them onto the fireplace to get a feel for the final look. You can also special order cut pieces of stone or granite that can cover large sections with fewer seems or joints.

The size of the opening may impact the size of the tile. You will want to try to make the sides as close to a full tile as possible. Sometimes you can cut a tile and place it in the center and keep the other tiles full. If you have a mantle, the distance between the fire box opening and the legs of the mantle will probably be the size of your tile. For stone surrounds you will not have to worry about symmetry, but focus more on color, texture, and shape.

For larger fireplaces, you may need to install the tile in stages and let them set overnight before completing the job.


Marble fireplace surround

Ceramic tile fireplace surround

Tile Installation

1. Measure and layout the tile design before you start. You may want to make a template by placing painter’s tape on the floor and set the tiles in place. You can make all of your cuts first and to help you space out the tiles evenly and the cuts are correct.

2. Clean the fireplace surround. Make sure it is free of dirt, dust, or other particle debris.


3. Smooth the surface of the fireplace surround. If you are replacing the mantle remove it at this time. If you decide to tile over bricks, apply a coat of thinset mortar over the surface to fill in the mortar joints. If your bricks are painted, you may need to remove the paint first with a wire brush or some other mechanical removal method.В  Don’t use chemicals to remove the paint as it can affect the bond between the mortar and the brick.

4. Install a piece of 1x3 В or 2x4 below the top edge of the fireplace opening to provide support for the new tiles as they set above it. It is vital that this board be as level as possible. Remember to cut the board about 1-inch shorter than the opening so you can slide the tile into


Leave a space between the support board and the edge of the opening so the top inside tile can be installed.

5. Mix the thinset according to the directions on the bag. Use a notched trowel to apply a coat of thinset above the support ledge on the fireplace.

6. Starting in the middle of the fireplace surround, install the tiles just above the support ledge and work your way to the far edges and the top, cutting the tiles as necessary on the ends. Be sure to press each tile in place to ensure a firm set and use tile spacers to support the weight of the tiles. Use a damp sponge to remove extra thinset or tile haze and then let the tile set overnight.

If you have room, you can install the tile on the sides of the fireplace surround and tile it from the bottom up. Use a damp sponge to remove extra thinset or haze and then let it set for at least 4 hours.

7. Remove the support board from the fireplace.

8. Remove any tile spacers. Mix the grout by following the manufacturer's directions and apply it with grout float. Let the grout dry overnight. Wipe the tiles with a cloth to remove any grout haze.

9. Reinstall the fireplace mantel and caulk the edges with heat resistant caulk. Allow the fireplace surround tile to cure for at least five days before building a fire.

Stone Veneer Installation

You will need a few different tools for stone veneer, most notably an angle grinder to cut the stone, metal lath, builder’s felt (tar paper), a grout bag, stiff brush, a trowel, and spray bottle.

1. Cover the fireplace surround with builder's felt. Work from the bottom up and overlap pieces by 2 inches. If you are installing the stone over an existing brick fireplace, you can omit the felt paper.

2. Nail metal lath over the felt.

3. Cover the area with Ð’Ð… inch of veneer mortar. After 20 minutes, comb the mortar with a notched trowel. Let the mortar dry overnight.

4. Layout the stone on the floor by staggering shapes and sizes. Depending on the size of the stones and the surround, leave finger-width joints between stones.

5. Cut corner pieces by scoring the cut line with a grinder then striking them with a brick hammer.

6. Install the first pieces on the header above the fireplace opening. Then move to the sides of the fireplace opening, the sides of the surround, and finally the field. Work from the top down.

7. Spray the back of each stone with water and apply a thin layer of mortar. Draw a furrow in the mortar with the tip of the trowel.

8. Press the piece in place and wiggle it to seal it to the scratch coat.

9. With all the pieces in place, clean the joints with a striking tool and a whisk broom. Let the mortar cure overnight.

10. Grout the joints with veneer mortar applied with a grout bag. Let the grout cure for an hour, then shape the joints with a small piece of wood cut to fit between the stones. Sand down the wood to round the point so it resembles a finger. After shaping the joints, brush them with a whisk broom or stiff brush for a natural look.



If you get any mortar on the surface of the stone, allow it to dry and then brush it off. Wiping it while it is wet will push it into the surface of the stone and stain it permanently.В 


Abdel-moniem El-Shorbagy
Posted on Feb 29, 2012
Judith Barton
Posted on Feb 28, 2012
Roberta Baxter
Posted on Feb 28, 2012