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Old 10-22-2017, 10:27 AM   #1
Hay Chihuahua!
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Cement tile around fireplace

Hello all,

The wife and I are in the planning stages of a new tile project. We aren't complete novices, having remodeled two bathrooms, kitchen, etc in a previous house. We used a lot of the info on this site to help with those projects. That said, it's been a few years and we're a bit rusty. Also, every new project comes with its own set of challenges...

Planning to tile the wall around this fireplace. The wall measures roughly 74"W x 10'H. The adjoining walls are oriented at a 45 degree angle.


We've purchased some 8" hexagonal cement tile, that's approximately 5/8" thick.


Have already demo'd the mantle and the brick on either side, and setup a ledger board with the intention of using this to set the first course and go up from there. The ledger is positioned so that the tile will overlap the top of the metal fireplace by 1". Once the majority of the tile above the ledger is set, we'd remove the ledger and tile up from the baseboard.


Questions:
1. The wall surface is not 100% flat. It flares out at the ends, making it a bit concave (as to be expected.) Can we work around this with thinset and/or back-buttering, or are we asking for trouble? Should we do something to prep the surface?


2. What type of thinset would be recommended for installing cement tile of this size directly over drywall?

3. What size notch trowel?

4. We're debating about whether or not to use some metal edging on the outside edges vs using grout. I don't know if a straight edge would make the (likely) uneven corners "pop" visually.

Any and all suggestions are welcome.

Thanks!
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Old 10-22-2017, 10:54 AM   #2
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5/8" tile landing on top of base will look odd, won't it? I'd remove base, tile to floor and either dead end base with returns or step it out around tile. Also rather than tiling up to already set tile, might be better to tile down from it, ensuring no surprises where they meet.

1. If you flatten the wall above fireplace, it would leave a varying gap where tile overlaps fireplace, no? I'd probably try to fudge it half of that distance with mortar and let it go at that. I doubt it would be noticeable without close inspection.

2. Scuff the wall, modified thinset. Non-sagging might be helpful below ledger.

3. Probably 1/4 x 3/8. Gonna need to float that center some.

4. Personally, I really dislike ending field tile then applying fillet of caulk or grout to finish. In your case, you could back bevel the tile and have a crisp line where tile meets wall at 45. I might cut dryall tape at corners and get rid of as much corner rounding as possible on the tiled portion. If that's too fussy, metal profile held back from corner 1/2" or so.
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Old 10-23-2017, 09:59 AM   #3
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Hi Mark,

I just want to say I think Peter has given excellent advice.
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Old 10-23-2017, 10:12 AM   #4
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Thanks Peter,

I like the suggestion about taking out the baseboard and tiling to the floor. I don't know if I have the skill/patience to back-bevel the tile on the edges, but agree that a fillet of grout/caulk is not ideal. We'll see what the wife thinks...
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Old 10-24-2017, 12:16 PM   #5
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I've started making some progress on the tile install today:

(A couple of those half tiles are just there as place holders.)

I'm afraid I may be over my head with the attempt to back-bevel. Are there any suggestions to prevent chip-out(?) when completing the cut? I'm using the ubiquitous el-cheapo wet table saw. I've tried pushing the tile across the saw with a scrap piece of tile, but that doesn't seem to help.




I may have to realize my limits and revert to using a metal profile.
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Old 10-24-2017, 12:27 PM   #6
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Welcome, Mark.

If you don't want to back-bevel your tiles to finish those corners you might consider some wood trim to run vertically in the corners. The trim could be rabbitted or beveled to cover the tile edge and the baseboards killed into the other side of the trim. Just a thought.
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Old 10-24-2017, 12:32 PM   #7
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That's not a bad idea, CX. I appreciate the suggestion.
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Old 10-26-2017, 03:17 PM   #8
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We decided to go with metal edging, and the tile has gone up faster than I had expected.


I'm running into trouble at the ceiling, however. Two of the thin strips I've cut have cracked in half. If anyone has any tips/tricks to prevent this, I'm all ears.


I'm a bit concerned about tiling down from the start point, on either side of the fireplace. Even with non-sagging thinset, I'm afraid the weight of the tile is going to pull it down, and we're going to wind up with an I Love Lucy-esque scene with my wife and I scurrying-around, trying to hold the tile in place. Any tips here?


(Hopefully) last question: We'd planned on going with a white grout, but it looks interesting as it sits. Would a black/gray grout look better than white?

Thanks.
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Old 10-26-2017, 10:38 PM   #9
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Mark

Looks really nice. I know you are nervous about tiling down so try this. Set a leger board on each side just a little bit loose for 2 rows of tile.Tile those and shim up the last row to make all spacers snug and even. With those concrete tiles they will probably set fairly quick.Just guessing but after2 hours I think you could remove boards and repeat the process.Ideally you will have the last cut in rows to do by themselves(rows above set) so you can measure ,cut and install without trying to hold up freshly set tiles.

Try cutting those small ceiling pieces with a sacrafishal board like durarock or even drywall under it and go VERY slow. You may need to cut from both ends also.

I do not do color but you should know by now that Mrs. Mark is the one you need to make happy or at least choose even tho if it is wrong it wil be your fault.
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Old 10-27-2017, 07:26 AM   #10
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I'll try that ledger idea and the sacrificial board.

Mrs. Mark is already a bit miffed that we got to the tile store 15 minutes late on the day of their big sale. Someone else had already snagged the particular shade of grey that she was after.
I think we're leaning toward white grout. I'm afraid that a dark color is going to highlight all the areas where my grout lines are a bit wider.

Thanks for the tips!
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Old 10-27-2017, 08:20 AM   #11
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white gout will probably also make any imperperfections stand out somewhat.Maybe look at a color that that closely matches the tile. Also please send a finish pic. We love to see them.
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Old 10-27-2017, 08:59 AM   #12
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Hi again Mark.

Concerning tiling down. Masking tape will be your friend, brown not blue. (sticky-er). Set tile, pull up with strip or two of tape going up onto yesterday's tile. Might take two sessions depending on your speed and tile weight. I've tiled down several courses with this method. Sometimes long strips to get to yesterday's tile. I've also stabbed nails into wall to support. Obviously must be thinner than grout line.

On grout. If you want to highlight pattern on tile, grout close to tile color. If you want the hexagons to stand out, use contrasting grout.
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Old 10-27-2017, 11:14 AM   #13
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I thought about using masking tape, but (per the info on another website) I've been soaking the tiles in water for a few seconds prior to installation. The theory being that dry cement tile could suck the moisture out of the thinset prematurely. I don't think tape would stick to wet tile. Is soaking an unnecessary step? I like the nail idea too.

Thanks!
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Last edited by Hay Chihuahua!; 10-27-2017 at 11:21 AM.
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Old 12-05-2017, 03:07 PM   #14
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Life's been busy as of late, but I finally made time to finish installing the rest of the tile on this project.



To keep the tiles from sliding while tiling down from the starting point, I used a few finish nails under each tile. When cutting the small strips along the top, I wrapped them with masking tape, which seemed to help keep the tiles from cracking. Still need to clean, seal and grout, but I'm happy to have this step done!
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Old 12-05-2017, 06:37 PM   #15
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Nice job !
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