In a standard home fireplace, the fire box and surrounding structure rests on a stone base known as a hearth. Many fireplace hearths consist of either concrete or a pre-manufactured hearth pad. By covering this area with hearth tiles, homeowners can give a fireplace a whole new look. Hearth tiles come in many different shapes and finishes to match any décor, and can be installed in just a few hours by the average homeowner.
When choosing hearth tiles, consumers must consider a number of factors. The tiles must be designed to withstand the extreme heat of the average fireplace, and should also be able to resist cracks and chips from a dropped log. Hearth tiles should also be easy to clean, as they are subject to high levels of soot and debris. Finally, the tiles must be capable of bonding well with the concrete or stone base of the hearth, and should stay bonded over time and at high temperatures.
These tiles may be made of porcelain or ceramic, as well as terra cotta and various stone materials. Slate, granite, and marble also serve as popular hearth tile options. Buyers should choose a material that complements the existing room décor, and also serves as a transitional finish between the fireplace and the surrounding floor.
One of the most difficult parts of installing hearth tiles is maintaining the same elevation from the hearth to the surface of the surrounding floor finish. This issue can be resolved with careful planning and layout, particularly when choosing the correct tile thickness. If elevation is still a concern, installers should consider creating a raised hearth that intentionally rises a few inches above the floor to create a cohesive, finished look.
Before installing hearth tiles, the floor and hearth must be cleaned of all dirt and debris. A layer of cement board fastened to the surface with mortar can even out dips or bumps in the floor and lead to a long-lasting finish. The tiles should be dry fit around the hearth to create the desired pattern, and to ensure the tiles fit. A wet saw with a diamond blade is needed to cut most stone tiles, and this work is best done outdoors to minimize cleanup.
Hearth tiles can be laid into a bed of thinset mortar, with spacers used to maintain equal joints between each row. Once the tiles have dried completely, installers can add grout and clean the surface of the tiles. The hearth should be given time to dry before a fire is lit in the fireplace.