Where a love for beauty, style, and home collide

Where a love for beauty, style, and home collide

How to tile when you have no idea what you’re doing

This weekend I went a little home improvement crazy… but I got so much done! Something I have been wanting to do forever was tile the fireplace surround in our bedroom, and I finally did it. No, I had never tried tiling, but I watched dozens of YouTube videos about it and got the confidence up to try.

We planted boxwoods and sodded our front yard this weekend too, but that’s another story…

Below I will share my process and the tips I learned through the experience. It might be a pain, but you can do it!

Choose your tile

I purchased mine at Lowe’s, but you can buy tile at any home improvement center. Make sure you know what form of tile you want when you go in- do you want uniform, square tiles that you have to individually place? Or do you want tiles arranged in a pattern on a mesh backing? I opted for the second kind, because I wanted a subway tile that has a stacked look.

Knowing what style or color you’re going for before you go to buy will make it so much easier!

tile, fireplace

Plan out your tiling area

The best advice I can give you is what my mom told me: Buy a big piece of cardboard and draw out the area you are planning to tile. Use the exact measurements and outline your area with sharpie, so you can see the edges while you’re laying out your pieces.

Now, lay down your tile! Figure out what pieces need to go where and which ones are going to have to be cut (if any). If you have to cut a few pieces, get a ruler and mark the spot that needs to be cut. I used pencil, but you can use sharpie on the back of the tile too.

While this part is the most tedious of the entire tiling process, I swear to you it’s worth it. You can play around and work out the kinks before it becomes a disaster.

TIP: If you buy your tile at Lowe’s, they will cut it for 25 cents a piece. All together, I got everything I needed cut for under $4, and I had to cut quite a bit. If you have to cut it yourself, you’ll need a wet saw or a tile cutter—- you need a wet saw, which is more expensive, if your tiles are natural stones like marble or granite, otherwise the tile cutter should be fine.

Lay the tile

Clean your surface, clean your surface, clean your surface! I used a vinegar mixture, but any sort of degreaser works fine. Now you’re ready to go!

Now, you can use mortar to lay the tile, but I found that to be a overkill for the small area I was working on. I used adhesive mats by Musselbound- I cut the shape I needed and stuck it to my surface, and then peeled the label off the front to stick my tile. It was the easiest part of the whole process. The sheets come in different sizes and can be cut to fit any area. I highly recommend it!

Now comes the tile. Make sure you know what pieces go where (thanks to your handy layout!) and start placing on the sticky mat (or mortar if you choose to go that route). Lay your tile from the bottom up and start every section from the bottom! A Lowe’s employee told me that, and it made a world of difference. Tiling is different for everyone because of your space, but I think that’s a pretty good rule of thumb.

My tiles were on a mesh backing, which was helpful because I could lay a sheet of 5 or so but also pull off one if I didn’t have space for it.



If you used your new BFF adhesive mats, then you don’t have to wait to begin the grouting process. This is unfortunately much messier than I imagined, forewarning.

When you purchase grout, you can buy the separate products to mix together or you can buy it premixed. While premixed came out to be a little pricier, I went with that so I didn’t have to buy an electric mixer and go through the headache of mixing. The premixed comes in different colors, too- I bought white. You’ll also need a few sponges, something to spread with (I used a plastic putty knife) and a grout float.

Here we go! As scary as it is, you just kind of have to do it. I used my putty knife to spread grout on the end of my flout, and started rubbing it across the tiles diagonally, pushing it into the spaces between tiles. Safe bet that this will take longer than you planned for.

After each section, wipe down the tiles with a wet sponge. Try not to wait more than 10 minutes before wiping down an area, or the grout gets stuck on like glue. I learned that the hard way.

Once you’re finished, feel free to give it another wipe down with a clean, damp sponge. (I got the grout all over my fireplace cover, but I am planning to paint it anyway so I wasn’t too concerned.)

You’re finished!

Ah! While it’s a time consuming and labor intensive process, tiling was definitely not the hardest thing I’ve ever done. I bought my tile and planned it out on Thursday, cut it and laid it on Friday, and grouted Saturday. It’s the perfect weekend project, and won’t break your bank! For an idea, here is an approximate value of what the project cost me. It was SO worth it for me, because the fireplace is something I see every day and the tile makes me feel like my home is so much more put together.

$80 tile, $4 cutting, $49 premixed grout, $6 float= about $140



Happy tiling!  

This post is not sponsored; all opinions are my own


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