How to Tile a Faux Fireplace Mantel

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DIY Subway Tile Mantle

Tiling the faux mantle in our living room was a small job that made a big impact. It was a project that took only a weekend and about $60 in supplies to complete (less if you already have some of the tools already)!

Before Image DIY Subway Tile Mantle

I regret not taking better before photos but the mantle was so ugly I just wanted to update it ASAP!

You can see a little bit from this listing photo from when we bought the house that the tiles on the mantle were messy.
Badly Tiled Mantle

Close up it looked more like someone used concrete and their fingers to put the tiles on! This was after we’d covered everything in white primer to hide the pink walls – we decided to paint over the tiles on the mantle as well since we knew that their days were numbered!

Materials for Tiling a Faux Mantel:

  • tile (and spacers if your tile isn’t sold on mesh sheets)
  • thinset mortar
  • putty knife or notched trowel
  • grout
  • rubber float
  • 2 buckets
  • sponge
  • tile cutter, nippers, or a diamond cutting wheel for your dremel

How to Tile a Faux Fireplace:

Start with a clean surface

My first step was pulling the old tiles and any remaining bits of concrete off of the mantle with a small chisel. You’ll need to patch any holes or tears in the wall – the most important part of tiling is starting off with a clean, level surface.

How to tile a mantle

Decide on your tile pattern

If you like a closer grout or don’t want to deal with spacers (they can be kind of a headache – especially for bigger projects) you can also purchase lugged, or self-spacing tiles – these tiles have a little nub on the sides so no spacers are needed.

Apply thinset using the notched trowel

Place tiles onto thinset and gently press into place

Once I’d come up with an idea on where the tiles would be so that they’d be centered, I began applying the thinset with a notched trowel and placing the tiles, using the spacers to make sure that they were evenly spaced.

Let thinset dry for 24 hours

DIY Subway Tile Mantle

Apply your grout

You should use non-sanded grout if the space between your tiles is less than 1/8″ and a sanded grout if the space is larger than 1/8″.
Load up your float with spread it over the tiles, making sure you get into all of the spaces. You can clear off excess grout by running your float at a 45 degree angle.

Remove excess grout

Once all of the groutlines are filled you can use a damp (but not too wet – you don’t want water getting into the grout) sponge to remove more of the grout from the tops of the tile.

DIY Subway Tile Mantle

Let grout dry for 24 hours

Buff off haze

Let your grout dry for 24 hours, then buff off any remaining haze on the tile with a cheesecloth or lint-free towel.

Apply colorant/sealant (optional)

If your grout didn’t dry to the right color or you want to use a sealant now’s the time!

All in all it was a little update that made a great difference – although I’m considering whether or not to stain the grout black to add a little more contrast – and it’s a perfect project for a DIY beginner!

Modern Interior Decor DIY Subway Tile Mantle


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