Sunday, April 3, 2011

Fireplace Makeover #2 It's Finally Finished

FINALLY finished the fireplace.  This is the second part of the fireplace makeover.  To see the tile removal and drywall repair click here.  This was part of a larger project, my family room makeover.

Here is the Before.
No mantle and the builder put the floor tile around the fireplace.  See how the larger tile at the top makes the fireplace look like it's falling forward?  I've never liked my fireplace.  I painted the picture above it when we first moved in ten years ago to draw the eye away from the black hole below.

Here is the After.
 I removed the old tile, repaired the drywall, painted the walls and the concrete floor, made a new mantle, and added a new tile surround.

My dad was the Foreman on the mantle making part of the project.  I'm lucky to have my parents live about ten minutes from my house.  My dad has all the cool tools, saws, and expertise for woodworking like this. 

We started with the table saw.  We used this to make the MDF boxes for the mantle and legs.

We used this 12" compound miter saw to cut the molding.  I made the cuts, but there is no way I could have figured this out without my dad showing me what to do.  I just haven't done it enough yet, but I'm learning.

I glued all the joints with wood glue.

I used a staple gun to make the boxes and attach the molding.  More cool dad tools.

My mom brought us lunch.  Cutting wood makes me hungry. Yum! 
Thanks Mom.

We made these guide boxes to cut the big molding.  It makes cutting the angles much easier.  Make them the width of your largest piece of molding.

Here is the box with the the first piece of molding attached.

We attached the horizontal mantle to a 2x4 attached to the wall.  I diagrammed where the studs were when I was repairing the drywall.  This made it easier to secure the 2x4 soundly to the wall.

The 2x4 was a hair too long and I had to hammer the left side of the mantle down on to get it level.  The fit was a little too snug, but I fixed it.  Here it is before leveling.

Next we added the legs.  I used liquid nails to secure the legs to the wall.

Here is a detailed picture of the molding I used to create the mantle.  It's hard to see where the molding begins and ends once it's painted out.  It looks like all one piece.  This was a work in progress.  I didn't add the last the bottom piece of chair rail until after the mantle and legs were attached to the wall. 
All these moldings were under $2 a foot so everything was very economical.  They were all purchased at Home Depot. 

Once the mantle was attached I filled all the staple gun holes with wood filler and sanded it smooth.  I had to repeat this step several times to get the flawless finish I wanted. 
I wish this technique worked on my wrinkles.

I added some skinny picture rail molding to the legs.  I just glued it on with Liquid Nails.  Then I primed it with Zinnser water base primer.

I painted it with two coats of Frazee, White Shadow.  All the trim, doors, molding, and base boards in my house are painted this color.

Close up of the molding detail.

On to tile.  I borrowed a wet tile saw from my cousin Margaret's husband Andy.  He's an amazing contractor.  To see some of his work click here

I was a little intimidated to use one of these.  BUT IT IS SO EASY!  Really,  it's easier than operating a sewing machine.  My daughter Casey took to it right away and wanted to help.  Wear ear protection, it's very loud. 

I set it up in the SCARY, MESSY garage.  We don't have basements in San Diego.  Basements don't hold up to well in earthquakes.  We have earthquakes. 


Here's the first cut.

It took me a Sunday afternoon to complete the tiling.  Just apply Thin Set to the wall with a notched trowel and set the cut tile.  

I haven't been in a tile store in a while.  It's pretty incredible the choices and options out there.  I chose a natural stone mosaic rhomboid tile because it's timeless, classic, neutral, in-stock, and under $10 a square foot.  The lady that helped me at Encinita's Tile gave me the contractors discount for being nice.  Well I am the contractor at this job site.  I guess some of the people that she works with are not nice?  I don't know, but it made my day!

Here's where I started.

Here it is ready to grout. 

I used sanded grout and the color I used was Haystack.  Mix it with water and follow the box directions.

Use a rubber trowel to grout and mush it between the tiles.

Wear gloves, it's messy, but fun.

Sponge off all the excess grout.  Rinse and squeeze out your sponge often.  Change your bucket water often.  Make sure your sponge isn't to wet.  You don't want to clean your new grout out from between the tiles.

After two hours wipe your tile down again to remove any grout residue
I added a small quarter round piece of molding to the inside edge of the mantle.  The tile grout wasn't as clean as I wanted it to look on the edges.  I painted the molding to coordinate with the tile with the same paint I used to create the concrete floor stripes.

I still need to seal the grout.  I also need to figure out how to decorate a mantel?  I haven't had a mantle in my house since I lived with my parents back in 1989. 

I'll wait to build a fire until after I seal the tile or the smoke might stain the grout.

I'll put candles in it for the summer.

Thanks for checking it out.


  1. Ahhh! It looks SO good! GREAT job, girl!! And um, I'll take some of that yummy lunch too :)

  2. Your fireplace looks amazing! I have a dumb/ugly modern fireplace too. I can't do much about it's ridiculous location, but you've given me hope that I might be able to do something to make it pretty.

  3. Wow, that is amazing. You fear no project! I have been wanting to retile in my house for years but keep chickening out. I would love to get rid of some crappy builder tile.


  4. absolutely beautiful! I tried my hand at putting crown molding in my room....well we ended up hiring someone to finish it! I quickly learned it wasn't as easy as I thought it would be!

  5. Wow that is awesome!

    Where did you find that tile?

    My fireplace is the same in that it has an elevated Firebox with no hearth. Currently it's just painted white brick with a big ugly mantle that has no legs.

    Really like what you've done!

  6. I love it!! I have the same fireplace, just plain tile no mantle. What size did you make your boxes? Also, what width of MDF did you use?

  7. Amazing!!!! Another one of your projects I must attempt. I have a fireplace in the master bedroom waiting to be finished. Thanks so much for the inspiration!!!


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