DIY Project: Porcelain Tile Fireplace

Home Reno You Can Do Yourself

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Installing porcelain tile on a wall is an intermediate level task. However, if treated with time and delicately, it can be done by anyone. Transform your rec room into a modern hangout with this sleek look. This DIY project takes about three to four days to do correctly, and the cost can be anywhere from $500 to $1,000.

What you will need:

  • Quarter-inch notched trowel
  • Tile adhesive
  • Porcelain tile (12×24)
  • Grout (Custom Lite is a good choice)
  • Grout sealer
  • Silicone caulking
  • Level and square
  • Sandpaper/sanding block
  • Tile spacers
  • Plastic putting knife

Items that are not needed, but recommended:

  • Painters splash mat
  • Chalk line

Once a trip to Lowe’s or Home Depot is made, you are ready to start your DIY project. Make sure to wear old clothes because this job can be messy. Above all else, have fun and get your hands dirty.

Get Crackin’ on This DIY Project

First, you will need to design your space. Measure the area you wish to utilize and mark it either with a chalk line or simply place a tile and mark it with a pencil. Design the pattern however you want to place your tiles. Then make sure the area is smooth and level and if the area is painted, lightly sand it. Working in small sections at a time, take your notched trowel and start spreading the adhesive at a 40-degree angle.

Protractor, 40 Degrees | ClipArt ETC
40-degree angle

Once this step is done, take the trowel and, in one direction, make lines through the adhesive. Then take your first piece of tile and place it on the adhesive. Adjust and wiggle the tile as much as you need to fit it in place. Make sure the piece is level and square. If your adhesive is good quality, then you can repeat the previous step with your next piece of tile. Be sure to place two tile spacers between these pieces, one near the top and one at the bottom.

Construction notched trowel mortar shape on big tile — Stock Photo ...
Your adhesive pattern should look like this before placing your tiles

Repeat until your first row is complete, then start above on the next row. Keep in mind if your tile is heavy, you may need to wait for the adhesive to dry. However, with a suitable adhesive, you may not need to worry about this. With this step, you will need to utilize more spacers, two between the tiles horizontally and vertically. Simply keep repeating this step until all of your tiles are in place. Let the adhesive dry for 24 to 48 hours.

Step 1: Using tile spacers for uniformity

Next Step

Step 2: Tiles set; ready for cleaning and grout

Now it is time to grout between the tiles. First, remove the tile spacers as you may need to wiggle them with some force to remove them from tighter areas. Take a damp sponge and clean the tiles before applying the grout. Mix the grout until prepared properly; it should not be too runny or too thick. It should have an even consistency, and have a small amount of sandy texture.

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Taking a plastic putting knife, so not to damage the delicate porcelain,) apply the grout between the pieces of tile in the open cracks. Apply on an angle and be sure a healthy amount is in between the cracks, not just on the surface. Taking your damp sponge, run it over the grout gently. Be sure it is only damp and not “wet,” as this will compromise the grout. Once all the cracks are filled, you are done. Over the next 24 hours, monitor for cracking in the grout. Do not panic if there are any that appear, just apply more grout in those spots.

Next, you will need to run something over the dried grout with grout sealer. I recommend a sponge paintbrush. Make sure to cover thoroughly, but be slightly conservative with it. In about an hour, repeat this step with the sealer. Repaint some spots that may have been damaged in the process of this renovation. After that and once you tie up some ends such as running around the edge with silicone caulking and cleaning up, you are done.

Some Do Not Panic Tips

If you run into chipping, if small and particularly on corners, do not panic. You will be able to fix this with grout. While it may not be ideal, it will be hardly noticeable, trust me. To equate for fully broken pieces, just buy a few more slabs at the time of purchase. Also, if you are working around electricity, even if not puncturing the wall, it may be a safe bet to turn off the power to that area.

For this DIY project, I did not need a tile cutter as I purposefully designed it so I would not need to. However, if you need to cut tile either purposefully or otherwise purchase or borrow one. Do NOT use a laminate floor cutter; it has to be a ceramic tile or porcelain cutter. Some say a marble cutter also does the job, while others claim it is too strong. If you do not feel confident or you attempted and failed, take the piece to a hardware store (call ahead to see if it is offered) or a capable contractor to have this done.

I hope these instructions, as well as my tips, are helpful. In the end, hopefully, the result is a clean and modern design. It is a great DIY project to tackle indoors on a summer day, deemed, “too hot.” Just in time for Netflix and chillin’ in the cooler autumn months, and of course, winter. It will, unfortunately, be here before you know it.

Brendon Stitt
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