John's Fireplace Project [Archive] - Ceramic Tile Advice Forums - John Bridge Ceramic Tile


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John R
06-04-2007, 12:05 PM
After doing some reading and thinking, and a successful entryway project, I'm ready to do my fireplace. Brick, 5' wide, floor to ceiling.

Initial photos of old wall prior to cleaning. Next step will be Versabond skim coat.

Photos on Mac are new to me, I'll see if this attaches.


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John R
06-04-2007, 12:24 PM
So, TSP substitute and a wire brush did a good job of cleaning the soot off of the bricks.

Question: My understanding is that it is helpful to maoisten the bricks prior to doing the skimcoat, to avoid the brick/mortar sucking the moisture out of the thinset. So, how damp/how much time should be spent wetting the brick prior to skim coating?



06-04-2007, 01:28 PM
do you need to skimcoat that application. Looks to be a smooth brick surface. Thought you could just tile over it.

06-04-2007, 02:50 PM
Hi John

2-3 washes with a wet sponge (almost dripping) and you should
be able to put enough water into the brick. I dont think there
is an exact science to wetting the brick, you just want to slow
down your cure time of the thinset so it doenst dry too fast.

John R
06-04-2007, 06:39 PM
After cleaning, I kept the brick and mortar moist. I mixed up a bunch of Versabond for skim coat. Wen on real well, but then I had to deal with the thinset wanting to sag out of the mortar lines.

Would this be mortar mixed too thin (but I thought it was pretty thick), joints a bit too deep and too much thinset, or just normal for vertical work with thinset?

As a result of working the joints, the surface isn't as smooth as when it first went on and as flat as wanted. Possibly another thin coat tomorrow.


John R
06-05-2007, 05:02 PM
I went to pick up my tile order today.

Unfortunately, the chair rail I am using for a frame is backordered and will prbably be another week. Also, my 16 x 16's were supposed to be unfilled and tumbled, but I received honed and filled. That's being taken care of.

The upshot is, I can't do any dry layout on the floor and determine grout line width to make sure everything fits right. Bummer, I'm off work for the next two days.


John R
06-10-2007, 05:25 AM
Got a second skim coat on, now it's looking better.

Tile "should" be in in a day or so.

Planning for a tile over wood mantel shelf. After bolting 2x's to brick and attaching plywood shelf, would you go hardibacker or Ditra as a base for the tile on the mantel (top, sides, and underneath)?


John R
06-18-2007, 10:58 AM
I'm going to start a new thread on this--old one died. Pictures below.

Project is putting unfilled, tumbled travertine over brick fireplace. At this point, brick is cleaned and skimcoated.

Project delayed since original order for unfilled travertine came in as honed, filled travertine. The next week, they filled the order with honed, unfilled travertine. Last week they got the right tile, but the wrong amount. I've got enough to start, but need to get the final two 16x16 pieces, and cigar tiles tomorrow.

The tile is the Emser Fontane, Classic Ivory and Walnut, various sizes.

Next step is to build wood frame for tiled mantle.

First question: When using the five-spot method of putting tile on wall, should the entire back of the tile be skimcoated? If so, is the reason for color bleed through, or something else?

Before, and then with skimcoat. Last picture has my helper, Zoe.

06-18-2007, 11:19 AM
Hey John,

That old thread is right here ( . They never die.

John R
06-18-2007, 09:33 PM
I'll stay with this thread.

Question--if 5 spotting unfilled tumbled travertine, is there any value to backbuttering, since it's only the 5 (or 9 for big tile) that will be making contact and adhering the tile to the wall.


06-19-2007, 07:10 PM
"Burning" on a skim coat of mortar with the flat side of the trowel will always improve bond performance John. No need to flat trowel the entire back side of course. Just those areas where the "spots" will go. :)

John R
06-20-2007, 10:38 AM
The following pictures show progres thus far.

1) built a frame for the mantle. 4x4 cut to 3x4 (needed vertical room) with a 6.5 deep pice of plywood on top. 3x4 covered in Bardibacker and the plywood covered with Noble CIS.

2) put uncut 6x6's as frame to hold the diagonals from sliding. Left 24 hours.

3) This AM, put in themiddle fiagonal field.

Outside 6x6's--Emser Fontane walnut travertine (tumbled unfilled)

Inside 16x16's--Fontane Classic ivory.

There is still room on the outside of 6x6's for chair rail that will cover front and side pieces.

John R
06-20-2007, 10:39 AM
Bad cropping--getting used to free program to size photos for Mac.


John R
06-21-2007, 10:39 AM
Moving on rest of front today. Next two questions:

1) Best approach to back-mitering tiles on fixed blade saw. Can't move blade, so what's the best way to get a good 45?

2) Will small tiles on vertical face or underside of mantle neet support to keep them from moving, or is marble/granite med. bed thinset enough?