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Covering a brick fireplace with decorative tile.

Putting a new face on an old brick fireplace gave a fresh look to this Eugene, Oregon, living room. For owners Julia Follansbee and Robert Ackerman, Seattle ceramic artist Vicki Halper designed Off-white tiles, including a wisteria-decorated accent row, to lighten the dark room and help the fireplace harmonize with rugs and furniture.

With care and advance planning, even a beginner can tile a brick fireplace. Use custom-made tiles, tiles brought home from your travels, or undecorated tiles you buy, glaze, and have fired. Commercial suppliers carry a surprisingly wide selection of domestic and imported tiles.

Measure and draw your fireplace surround and hearth to scale, using graph paper if you wish. The area to be covered, size of tiles, and width of grout line determine the number of tiles you'll need.

Tile stores and some home improvement stores can supply tools, adhesives, spacers (nails, toothpicks, blocks of wood, or commercial spacers), and grout. Some even offer instruction in tile setting.

You'll also need a level, a steel or folding rule, a putty knife, and clean rags. Plan to buy or rent a notched trowel for spreading adhesive, a tile cutter, and a rubber-faced float for grouting. Select the adhesive before you get a trowel: different adhesives call for different notch sizes.

Clean the brick by washing with a 10 percent solution to TSP (trisodium phosphate and water). Remove any paint to ensure good adhesion.

Tile the fireplace surround first, then the hearth. Begin at the base of the fireplace and use a level and rule to establish vertical and horizontal lines as guides for setting the first course of tiles.

With tiles, spacers, properly mixed adhesive, and notched trowel at hand, spread a portion of the adhesive and comb it into ridges with the trowel. Then place the first course of tiles along the bottom line, with spacers at bottom, sides, and top. Scrape away excess adhesive with a putty knife. Precision and accuracy are crucial, but today's quick-set adhesives give you enough time to place half a dozen tiles between adhesive trowelings. Continue the same way with upper courses.

Allow 24 hours for curing, then remove spacers and apply the grout according to package directions. Use clean, soft rags to wipe away excess grout from tiles.

For more help, consult Sunset's Remodeling with Tile (Lane Publishing Co., Menlo Park, Calif., 1978; $5.95). The book presents numerous design ideas and step-by-step sketches of the tile-setting process.
COPYRIGHT 1985 Sunset Publishing Corp.
No portion of this article can be reproduced without the express written permission from the copyright holder.
Copyright 1985 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Date:May 1, 1985
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