Seeking Guidance on Refacing Fireplace Wall

ronnykMay 20, 2009

We are remodeling our family room which has a 15' brick wall with a fireplace (with a gas stove insert) approximately in the middle. We would like to tile 12" or so around the fireplace opening (we are thinking slate tile) and have the rest of the wall be covered with drywall. We also intend to put in a floating shelf mantle above the fireplace.

I intend to use furring strips for the drywall-covered areas (leaning towards using 3/4" ply), but do not know what exactly to do with the areas that will be tiled. I could attach the tile directly to the brick with thinset, but with 1/2" sheetrock and 1/4" tile, that will leave about a 1" level difference between the drywall and the tile. If I use backer board for the tiled areas, I can get the difference down to 1/2", but that still seems like it would look funny.

How is a layout like this typically handled? Is it possible for the thinset used on the backer board and the tile to be laid with enough thickness to bring the two surfaces level?

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There's a few ways of doing it. You could use two layers of backer board (I assume by backer board you mean cement board as it must be non-combustible) remembering to take into account the thickness of the thinset (typically 1/8" to 1/4") which means at least one of the layers would be 3/8" rather than 1/2". You could also do it with one 1/2" layer and a thicker layer of thinset - it's a little tricky to do on a vertical surface, but can be done if you make the thinset mix a little thicker (less water). In any event make sure you use fortified thinset. Or, if you have experience using regular mortar you could make a mortar bed directly over the brick to the correct thickness. You are correct in that it won't look right if the tile is recessed from the dry wall, although I've seen installations where the tile is applied on top of cement board which matches the face of the drywall so that the tile face sticks further out - this looks okay. Of course, another way to do this is to build a vertical surround on each side in which case, since the tile is separated from the drywall by the surround, it doesn't matter if it matches. In addition, don't forget that you will have to trim (either with tile or mortar) the edges around the firebox opening since you won't want to see the edges of the cement board behind the tile facing.

    Bookmark   May 26, 2009 at 2:12PM
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