How to install marble around fireplace

Ancient fireplace image by Sergey Galushko from

Enhance a room's ambience with a marble fireplace. Installing marble to an existing fireplace surround adds an elegant touch within a free weekend. Marble is a natural stone available in large, whole slabs or smaller tile pieces. Using marble tile for the fireplace surround is an easier, less expensive choice for homeowners and do-it-yourselfers. While this project remains simple to complete, some care is needed when handling marble since it is a light, more fragile stone.

Place a dust sheet on the floor, surrounding the fireplace to protect the floor from any falling debris or thinset accidents.

Spread another dust sheet on the floor. Lay the marble tiles on the dust sheet to create a dry layout. A dry layout will allow you to determine the placement of the marble tiles on the fireplace surround. Marble tiles are interspersed with lighter and darker-coloured veins that you can put together in a design that is pleasing to the eye.

Hammer galvanised nails, spaced evenly apart, into the backerboard, attaching it to the fireplace surround. Score the backerboard with a utility knife, and break off the excess so it correctly covers the area where you are installing the marble tile.

Cover the mantle and fireplace insert edges with painter's tape.

Create a support ledge for the first row of marble tile, at the top of the fireplace insert. Measure the width at the top of the fireplace insert with measuring tape, and use a handsaw to cut to size a piece of 1-by-3 lumber.

Screw the support ledge in place with two masonry screws and the power drill.

Measure the precise width of the top edge of the fireplace insert. Use a pencil to mark the exact centre-line on the backerboard, extending from the top of the support ledge, to the top of the backerboard.

Pour thinset with latex additive into a bucket, and mix with water per the stated package directions. Mix the thinset with a power drill affixed with a paddle attachment to ensure no lumps.

Spread a wide layer of thinset on the backerboard above the support ledge with a notched trowel, working from side to side.

Push the first piece of marble tile into the thinset, directly over the marked centre-line. Wiggle the piece of marble tile to ensure a strong attachment. Continue to set more marble tiles into place on the thinset, alternating from right to left. Use a level to check for tile levelness, and tile spacers to space out the marble tile edges.

Cut marble tiles to size to fit in place on the fireplace surround with a tile cutter.

Continue applying the thinset with the notched trowel and setting the marble tiles into place upon the backerboard surround, working your way up and out as you go. Allow the thinset to dry for 24 hours, or according to the package directions.

Remove the support ledge and tile spacers. Use a putty knife to scrape away any excess thinset that has adhered to the marble tile's face.

Mix tile grout as stated on package directions. Apply the grout to the entire surface of the marble fireplace with a grout float. Spread the grout across the marble tiles, while holding the grout float at an angle.

Hold the grout float and drag it diagonally over the entire surface of the marble fireplace to scrape away excess grout on the marble tile's face.

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