Step 5: Tile the Legs

photo of tile being set around the corner of a fireplace leg
Photo: Kolin Smith
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Remove the support ledge. Taking into account the height of each tile plus a grout line, estimate the size of the final cut tile that will sit at the bottom of each leg. Using a circular saw, rip a 1x3—long enough to fit across the surround—to that height. Position it across the bottom of both legs and check it for level. Screw the strip in place. If you plan to tile the inner edges of the firebox, rip two more 1x3 support pieces to fit those spaces and screw them in place.

Starting on one leg, apply thinset above the 1x3 and notch it with the trowel. Set the field tiles along the leg, working from the bottom up and staggering the joints, as you did with the upper field. Tile the other leg in the same manner.

Wait a few hours until all the tiles are firmly set.

TOH Tip: As you work, periodically clean the tiles and joints with a damp cloth to remove excess thinset before it hardens.
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    Tools List

    • drill
      Drill/driver with mortar mixing paddle
    • flat finishing trowel
      ½-inch notched trowel
    • two-foot level
      2-foot level
    • circular saw
      Circular saw
    • wet saw
      Wet-cutting tile saw (rents for about $40 per day)
    • 1 1/2-inch angled sash brush
    • putty knife
      Putty knife
    • Painter's Tape
      Painter's tape
    • rubber float
      Rubber grout float
    • grout bag
      Grout bag
    • grout sponge
      Grout sponge
    • caulk gun
      Caulk gun

    Shopping List

    1. Tile Available through manufacturers, specialty shops, or home centers in a wide variety of materials. For most basic tile or stone, you can calculate the square footage of your surround and buy 10 percent more tile than needed, to account for cuts and mistakes. If you’re working with art tile, many manufacturers will create a custom pattern and materials list for you if you send them a measured drawing of your surround.

    2. Thinset mortar Look for a product that’s good for wall applications, such as Laticrete Mega Bond. A 50-pound bag will cover up to 100 square feet.

    3. Latex additive to improve the flexibility of the thinset and create a stronger bond.

    4. 1x3 lumber to create support ledges for the upper field of tiles and the bottom edges of the legs.

    5. 2-inch masonry screws to attach the support ledges to the bricks.

    6. Tile spacers to separate the tiles evenly and keep them from sliding down while the thinset cures. The size of your joints can vary, based on the tile; a sharp-edged material, such as granite, can be spaced as little as 1⁄8 inch, but more rustic art tile can have 3/16- to 3/8-inch spacing. Buy plastic spacers or make your own from cardboard.

    7. Grout If the space between your tiles will be greater than 1⁄8 inch, you’ll need sanded grout; less space calls for unsanded grout.

    8. Sanded acrylic caulk is usually available from the grout manufacturer in a complementary color.