DIY Fireplace Part 4 – The Finished Brick Fire Box And Mosaic Tile Surround

I’m starting to feel like building this fireplace is the never ending project.  But I’m at least starting to see a light at the end of this tunnel.  Here’s how it looked Wednesday night when I finished sanding the “bricks.”

fireplace 27

And here’s how it looks right now.

fireplace 35

If you’ve missed the previous posts about this project, you can them here:  Part 1 (construction of the main structure), Part 2 (construction of the fire box insert), and Part 3 (adding faux bricks made with joint compound).

Here’s what I got accomplished yesterday:

  • Painted the fire box and surround black,
  • Attached the fire box inset to the rest of the fireplace structure by nailing it from the back into the frame made of 1″ x 2″ lumber that surrounds the largest opening in the main structure,
  • Sponged the bricks with two other colors to give them some subtle color variation, and
  • Installed the mosaic tiles around the outside of the fire box inset.

It’s definitely starting to look more and more like my inspiration fireplace, right?


So let me back up and show you the details of how it got from the freshly sanded drywall compound “bricks” that I showed you yesterday, to the point where it is currently.

First, I took the fire box inset outside and filled the nail holes wood filler and sanded everything smooth.  Then I gave it a coat of primer (oil-based Zinsser Cover Stain), and then two coats of paint (Behr Black Suede in an eggshell finish).

When everything was dry I brought it inside, and attached the fire box insert to the main structure of the fireplace.  It had to be inserted from the back of the main structure, and then nailed into place using 1.5-inch 16 gauge finishing nails in my nail gun.  And then, of course, I added the electric insert because I was anxious to see what it looked like.  😀

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Then I cut my mosaic tiles for the surround.  I found these tiles at Home Depot, and they were $9.99 for a square foot.  I ended up using five of them.

fireplace tile

FYI, the tile saw that I have is the absolute cheapest saw that I could find at Home Depot a few years back.  It’s a bit difficult to work with (you definitely get what you pay for), but it gets the job done, and has seen me through several projects, including the backsplash in the kitchen condo, John & Alice’s bathroom makeover, and now this project, with a few smaller projects along the way.

Home Depot no longer has the one I have, but it would be comparable to this $89 tile saw.  If you’ve only got a couple of small jobs to do, I’d recommend it.  If you’re tackling a whole house remodel and hope to do quite a bit of tiling, I’d spring for something a little better.

Because this was such a small area to tile, I decided to use this Simple Mat to adhere the tiles to the fireplace.  The package was about $20 and comes with 9 sheets.  I think I used four sheets.

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I just placed my cut tiles onto the sheet, marked where I needed to cut, and then used a pair of scissors to cut the sticky sheets.

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Then I peeled off the white paper from the back, and placed the sticky sheets onto the fireplace where I wanted the tiles.

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Then I peeled off the plastic from the front, and stuck my tiles onto the sticky sheets, and pressed firmly so that they were really secure.

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At that point, I was pretty pleased with how things were coming along, but I was a bit disappointed that my “bricks” were kind of getting lost.  I didn’t want them to be front and center, and compete with the tiles for attention.  But I did want them to show up in a subtle way.

So using a small sea sponge from Michael’s (I bought them in a package with about four or five small sea sponges), I sponged two lighter colors of paint onto the bricks.  I used Evening Hush and Dark Ash, both from Behr.  And then I used a small craft paint brush to go back over my mortar lines in the original Black Suede color that I had used just to give some definition.  It was just the subtle definition I was hoping for.

fireplace 35

And yes, I kept my “fire” going the entire time I was working because I’m a bit obsessed with it.  😀  But here’s what it looks like with the electric insert turned off.

fireplace 36

It’s getting there!  I still have to grout the tile, and then I have some small trim that I’ll add around the inside edges of the tile just to give it a clean, finished look and hide the cut edges of the tiles.  And then I can finally start adding trim, primer, and paint to the main structure of the fireplace.  And finally…I’ll build a mantel.

Several of you have asked if I’ll add a hearth just to make it look more like a wood burning fireplace, and I do think I’ll add one.  I think it’ll be just the finishing touch that this fireplace needs.  I’m just not sure if I’ll use the small mosaic tile or find a coordinating larger tile.  What do you think?

I’m determined to finish this fireplace this weekend!!!



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  1. It looks amazing! Once painted, you don’t notice the bottom isn’t brick at all (okay, I was wrong about that being an eye catching issue, it’s not at all). I would use the larger tile I think for the hearth. It looks beautiful:)

  2. I think you’re doing a fantastic job! The “bricks” look great, adding those two colors to them really show them off but in a subtle way. The tile surround looks great also. Can’t wait to see the finished product!

  3. I think you have really done a fantastic job. The way you painted the ‘bricks” behind the fire looks so real. Really great work. Can’t wait to see it totally finished in the room.
    What do you think of a black slate type of hearth?

    1. I agree! It’s looking fantabulous! If your going to do a hearth, larger tiles for sure, smaller tiles may look to busy. What ever you decide will be awesome!

  4. WOW! Wow! and WOW! That looks so great! The shading on the bricks adds that extra ‘Kristi’ touch that just takes it over the top! I would never have thought to put the ‘bricks’ on the rear wall in the herringbone pattern, but it really adds another dimension to the firebox.

    Personally, I don’t think it needs a hearth; the first inspiration photo doesn’t look like it has one and it looks fine. I think that, since the firebox sits up off the floor, just adding the baseboard trim up to the surrounding tiles will be just fine. Adding a ‘hearth’ will make the fireplace stick out further into the room, and just make it easier for people to stub their toes, imho. But you might want to cut one and put it into place and try it out to see, you never know until you try something! lol.

    I get tickled when you comment about something taking so long. Girl, you get so much done in such a short amount of time that it never ceases to amaze me. It would have taken me weeks to get done what you’ve accomplished in this one.

    1. I agree. No hearth. We have a wood burning fireplace and it has a big hearth that I hate. I also don’t care for our fp as I live in FL and never use it. I do think I will remodel ours because it has a total 80’s look to it. Blah!
      Yours is gorgeous and encourages me to look at a reface of my own.

    2. I agree with this commenter saying that it’s funny that you think it’s “taking forever” to get this done! Every time I click on FB & see you’ve made more progress on it, I’m amazed at how quickly you’re getting this done!

      It’s fabulous! This might be one of the most interesting projects you’ve ever done!

  5. My fireplace hearth has 4″x4″ tiles with border of 1.50 × 1/2 inch tiles. Possibility to tie the surround to the hearth. You project is looking great!

  6. Looks super, love the bricks, you did a great job. Maybe just a skinny hearth in marble (all one piece) would look good. This fireplace is going to be a wonderful asset to this room, I could sit in there and read all day.

  7. I love it. You could never have found a pre-made electric fireplace to meet all your specifications. I took me years to find one that I liked then I had to add the glass tile and paint. I thought for years it would be simpler just to build one. I’m so happy you did this. Yes, a small amount of hearth would be wonderful. If you can find a slightly larger tile that is a perfect co-ordinate, use it. Otherwise, use the same small tile. I have so enjoyed this project.

  8. You have inspired me to finish a small tiling project in my son’s bathroom. I have a tee-tiny area to tile, just above a new Ikea sink. This Simple Mat seems perfect. It’s not going to be in a very wet zone, but it will be in a bathroom. Hopefully it can be used there!

  9. Love what you’ve done. We have been watching and reading carefully as we are still waiting on starting ours. We are thinking of using smokey glass on the inside of the firebox to reflect the light. What do you think about that idea especially if we cut the glass and put it in the herringbone pattern? Can’t wait to see it all finished.

  10. oh Kristi how I love this fireplace you have done. I was wondering after all of the work you have done (and I didn’t want to ask “just in case” ) if you would add a hearth to this to “finish” off the look. It is so real looking I think adding the hearth would make all the difference in the world. We lived in a huge old 1790 house a few years ago and it had 5 fireplaces plus 2 in the basement and they all had just flagstone hearths. We used gas fireplaces in them as the chimneys needed to be redone. I think the hearth made such a difference, the fireplace in the dining room was completely non working and someone before us had taken out the hearth and it just never looked finished to me.
    I crack up each time I hear you say it is taking forever, girl you are like a tornado getting work done, you constantly amaze me. I am just loving all that you are doing.

  11. Hi Kristi! I agree with Alta, a hearth is really not needed as your inspiration photo shows. If you do decide to put one in, I think a larger sized tile would be best. However, having said that, anything you decide on will be fab as what ever you touch is golden! It’s really looking beautiful. Your skill and ingenuity continue to amaze. Sorry if I continue to gush on probably a daily basis but you really are so gifted and I feel blessed that you share it with us all.

  12. Seriously, is there anything you can’t do??? I usually don’t comment. But, my goodness this is beautiful. You should seriously have your own show. Great job!!!

  13. Your black bricks look exactly like my real bricks in my fireplace. For your hearth, I would go with a larger tile to coordinate with your mosaic tiles. I love seeing all of your projects! Good job!!

  14. You did a fantastic job on this project! I admire your skill. I would use large tile for the hearth and maybe add a border with the smaller tile to tie it together.

  15. Your fireplace looks so great! Thanks for showing the sticky sheets. Makes me think I could possibly make a backsplash for my kitchen. How do you cut the tiles as needed, Kristi? Do you still have to grout the tiles? Sorry is these are stupid questions!

  16. The company from which you purchased your electric insert ought to know about what you have done with their product! Great job!

    1. I agree also. The company should know. My vote is larger tiles also if you decide to do the hearth. I will be copying this and if mine looks half as good as yours I’ll be happy. Yet I will follow your ever little step. Will have to save up for supplies though. Hope you do the end cost like usual. You are amazing girl, I bet there are very few projects that you haven’t finished yet. You are like a kid in a candy store when your doing a project, you just can’t wait to see the finished piece. So happy I follow you. Super great job.

  17. I don’t know if this is an option you would even consider, but when we lived in our town home in Atlanta, the gas fireplace had a black “slate-like material” hearth. Since it was flush with the floor, it was trimmed with pieces that matched our wood floors. I thought it looked really nice.

    Just an idea. I’m sure whatever you decide will look gorgeous. It always does!

  18. This project is amazing! I thought about a hearth too. But your inspiration piece doesn’t look like it has one. You could go without. I would probably use larger tiles if you decide to do one. I really enjoy reading all about your projects!

  19. Without a doubt, this is my favorite of all the things that you have done. Love all the DIY techniques the went into it. I’ll be copying most of them for other projects.

  20. I love the tiles on the front and the ‘brick work’ in the firebox. Beautifully done! Might I suggest black slate tiles for the floor and maybe the mantel?

    I agree with others who think you should show the insert people what you’ve done. They can’t help but be impressed!

  21. Wow! Kristi, I am sitting here with the biggest grin on my face (I’m at work – sshhhh! don’t tell anyone!), and my friend just walked by and said “What on earth are you looking at? You look so happy!” I LOVE this fireplace, it looks totally real! The paint job on the bricks is astoundingly realistic looking. Those tiles are lovely. So far, it looks amazingly similar to the inspiration piece. I’m waiting with bated breath to see the final product, I know it’s going to be an other awesome Kristi piece!

  22. It’s been fun watching this project take shape, looking great! I’ve been thinking of using the simplemat with 4″ tile for a kitchen backsplash, heard lots of good things about it!

  23. Lovin it…..can’t wait to see it finished. I’m gettinng my husband on board to making one each time I show him your progress. Thanks for a great project….your room is going to be amazing!!!

  24. Oh wow, what a beautiful fireplace you have created…your talents are amazing, it looks gorgeous. I think a hearth would be the icing on the cake….but if you chose not to create one….it looks jaw dropping as it is. I can’t wait to see it all complete (I bet you can’t either…lol!)


  25. Looks great! I would add the hearth. As someone in the chimney sweep business I can tell you that the hearth is a functional part of every real fireplace. A place to set your tools while tending your fire and somewhere safe for sparks to land so your wood floor doesn’t start on fire.
    It also would ground the entire fireplace. I would keep it neutral. I am also an artist and do store displays. What I love about your projects is your attention to detail. It is what puts them over the top. Great job!

  26. You are one determined and creative woman…. With a lot of patience! I’m the first two, but I haven’t taken on any projects of this magnitude. I just know that, like you, when I want something, I go for it, even if I have to build it from scratch. You should definitely hold some workshops to teach women how to use power tools to make simple objects. Even as a paid webinar! You have enough of a following to make it lucrative for you.

  27. I think it looks fantastic. I have always used “faux” ideas in crafting when I was younger, had to spoil it by explaining to everyone. You are doing a wonderful job. What about a silgle slab of slate for a hearth. It looks like gray tones in the surround on my IPad. The slate could be as thin as you need. Good luck Arlene

    1. I am liking the idea of this single slab. Then it can be a width that would complement the size of the FP. Beautiful job on the project so far. I’m telling you, girl, this looks so real I’m about the bust out the sticks and marshmallows!

  28. Love your faux bricks. They looks used and sooty. 🙂 Love that. What I am most excited to see is the Simple Mat product! WOW! I didn’t know anything like this was available and, as such, have avoided a tiled backslash in the kitchen. I might have to rethink my plans. Thanks, for always having great new ideas and products!

  29. I have a question for you that has nothing to do with your fireplace! The rug you have on the floor……is it sisal? Most importantly, is it comfortable on bare feet? I need a rug to but under my bed on our new hardwood floors, and it needs to be pretty neutral because of the bedspread.

    Thanks for the info in advance!