5 Tips For Dressing Up Your Fireplace Hearth With Ceramic Tiles

A traditional fireplace offers both decorative value to tie the living room together and functional use as a heating source when your power goes out. If you're adding a brand new addition to an existing home or just updated an outdated hearth, ceramic tile is the best option because it's affordable and heat resistant at the same time. Get creative with your new ceramic tile hearth by using these handy design tips.

Use Cement Board

If you've got a wood stove insert or a fireplace that already comes with plenty of insulating material around the appliance, you may think that you can use plywood as the backing board for your tile due to the reduced heat. However, plywood flexes far too much to properly support ceramic tiles so they don't break. Stick with the cement backing board recommended to diffuse the heat since it's also stiffer for preventing grout and tiles from cracking. The extra protection is always smart since a house fire only takes a single spark to start.

Try Unusual Shapes

Don't just ask your tile installer to grab the first box of square tiles they find in your favorite color. Think outside the box to add more visual interest with interlocking shapes. Interesting options include:

  • Tiny round pieces, commonly known as penny tiles
  • Diamonds and trapezoids, which fit together in a number of different configurations
  • Curvy Moroccan-inspired options, in a range of color palettes
  • Scalloped tiles, mimicking the natural beauty of shells or leaves
  • Irregularly cut mosaic pieces, providing a more eclectic look
  • Long and thin rectangles, reminiscent of the style of stacked stone

You can use more than one type of tile shape on the hearth to highlight the transitions between horizontal and vertical lines or frame the fireplace opening. For example, using rows of smaller and smaller tiles towards the curved edge trim pieces creates a far more exciting look than just the same old blocks of square tiles.

Customize Accent Tiles

While you probably want to go with commercially manufactured tiles recommended by the installer, adding a few custom-made decorative tiles adds a sweet and homey touch. Get the entire family together and head to a pottery painting store together or buy a tile painting kit that cures in your home oven. Ask everyone to paint their own unique design that fits the overall color scheme of the hearth, then ask the installer to mount these tiles in the corners or in a row under the mantle.

Go with Floor Tiles

Suppliers sell both floor and wall tiles because materials mounted vertically don't need to hold up as much weight. However, the tiny difference in thickness between the two can be very visible when you're sitting near the hearth and soaking up the heat of a fire. The most uniform look comes from using the same type of tile over the entire structure. Since even the tiles on the walls around the hearth are at risk from being hit by a rogue log of wood or a swinging fire poker, stick with tougher floor tiles for the entire project.

Mimic Stone

Finally, try getting the look of slate or marble without the high price tag by going with tiles textured and colored to resemble stone. There are even tiles with uneven shapes and edges to mimic the stylishness of river stone slabs. There's no need for extra support to handle the weight of heavy stone pieces when you pick ceramic instead.

Putting in a new hearth or covering an old one with new tiles only takes a few days. Even if you only occasionally light up the fireplace to give your living room a cozy feeling, a new set of attractive tiles adds beauty to the room all year round.


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