How to tile a fireplace hearth – perfect for woodburning stoves

Learn how to lay your own fireplace hearth tiles using our step-by-step guide and videos

Learn how to lay your own tiled fireplace hearth
(Image credit: ACR Stoves)

Want to revamp a tired-looking fireplace? Tiling a fireplace hearth is an achievable task for most competent DIYers. Whether you're restoring an original fireplace or creating the perfect base to install a woodburning stove, floor tiles are the idea material for a hearth as they're durable enough to protect the floor from heat damage. Make sure you buy floor tiles and always check with the manufacturer that the tiles you choose are durable enough for use on a hearth.

Follow this advice from experienced renovator Sian Astley on how to tile a fireplace successfully. From measuring up to levelling the surface, here you'll find all the steps to make decorating your fireplace with tiles an easy project. We also filmed Sian tiling her fireplace, so you'll find three step-by-step videos to help you, too.

Find more decorating advice and tips on our dedicated hub page. You'll find plenty of inspiration with our traditional fireplace design ideas, too. 

You will need:

1. Ensure you've picked the right tiles

Before you begin tiling a fireplace, it's important to ensure that the tiles you have chosen are suitable. Whether you opt for a patterned encaustic tile, a shaped tile – hexagons are popular at the moment – or something textured, ensure that they are floor tiles able to withstand heat. 

2. Measure your fireplace

Accurately measure your fireplace, making note of the halfway point, where your central tile will sit. 

3. Lay out your tiles

Working from the central tile, outwards, position and style your tiles to ensure that you achieve the desired finish (this will make it easier to lay them eventually) think about the composition of different shades and patterns. 

Also take this opportunity to make any necessary cuts to your tiles using a tile cutter, ensuring that they fit the exact measurements of your fireplace.

4. Use an acrylic primer to seal dusty surfaces

After dusting your fireplace, seal with a layer of acrylic primer. This increases the adhesion between the surface and adhesive ensuring that you achieve a high quality finish. Wait for it to dry before using a pencil to mark your central line. 

5. Spread the adhesive evenly

Prepare your adhesive first, according to the manufacturer instructions. Measure a centre line in the fireplace and use a pencil to draw a mark at the front and back of the wall and floor, ensuring the line comes above where the tiles will sit, so you can see it throughout the tiling process.

Start applying the adhesive at the back of the area using a trowel to transfer it from the bucket and spread evenly using a tiler’s trowel to around 2-3cm thick. Use the grooved edge of the tiler’s trowel to make ridges in the adhesive, which will help the tiles to stick.

8. Begin tiling

Lay the central tile first and work away from it. Do a small area at a time to ensure accuracy. Place each tile onto the small area prepared with the adhesive, placing tile spacers in between each if the tiles are not already on a mesh background.

Use your spirit levels to continuously check that each tile is level with the next and gently push each tile into the adhesive, being careful not to push the adhesive up through the gaps too much.

9. Clean the area

Use a sponge and clean water to gently wash each tiled area as you finish it, waiting a few minutes until the tiles have begun to stick, to remove any adhesive on the tile surface. It’s good practice to change the water regularly to ensure it is clean.

10. Continue tiling

Carry on applying the tiles, checking levels and cleaning the surface until the whole area is covered and apply the upstands and skirting tiles last.

11. Check grout lines

When tiling, the adhesive will creep up the grout lines, which can create a speckled finish once the grout is applied. Use a blade to gently prize away any adhesive in the gaps. Wipe down the surface with a sponge and clean water.

12. Prepare for grouting

Once the adhesive has completely dried, remove any left over residue from the grout lines with a Stanley knife. Vacuum the area thoroughly before you begin grouting. 

13. Begin grouting

Prepare your grout (whether it's pre-made or powdered) and keep your grouting float at hand – a soft float is essential as it prevents tiles from becoming scratched.

Make sure you press your grout in between the grout lines, starting from the back and moving forwards. Apply liberally, working the grout into a small section at a time. Clean off each section before moving onto the next, but be careful not to over wet as this will cause the dye to bleed.

14. Finishing touches

Once you've finished grouting, add an up-stand or skirting, if it suits.

Laura Crombie
Laura Crombie

Laura is Brand Development Editor for Real Homes, focusing on video and events. She has written about homes and interiors for the last 12 years and was Deputy Editor and Editor of Real Homes before taking on her current position. She's currently deciding whether to extend the kitchen of her family home in Worcestershire or relocate for a renovation project and bigger garden.