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Replacing tile surround on wood-burning fireplace

I'm removing the existing floor tiles on the fireplace surround and installing ledgestone. We just bought this house, and it looks like the previous owners have not used the fireplace in a very long time. It looks like the previous owners partially covered up the opening to the firebox with some of the tile. From what I can tell, they used cement board and thinset mortar to install a row of tiles covering about 6" of the top of the firebox opening. I wish to keep the same size opening, but I wanted to make sure that using cement board, thinset mortar and the tile is acceptable. I am worried the heat from a fire would make those tiles very hot, so I thought I'd throw this out to the community before buying any materials and ripping up the existing tile. Any help/insights would be VERY much appreciated!

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Posted 2013-12-29T23:58:14+0000  by Neub Neub

Hi Neub,


Thank you for your question and Happy Holidays!


Do not use a regular thin set mortar or regular tile adhesive on your fireplace tile.  These adhesives are not heat resistant and the high temperatures from your fireplace can destroy the bond, causing your tiles to become loose and fall off.   You will want to look for a latex reinforced thinset mortar or adhesive that is made specifically for heated surfaces.


It has been suggested that a clay or silicate mix be used in the mortar to give it strength in the hot environment of the fireplace.  Quikrete has a mortar that can be used with your fireplace tile and will withstand the excess heat the fireplace produces.  The Quikrete Fireplace Mortar may only be available online.  Check with your local Home Depot for availability.  The fireplace mortar contains a silicate that gives it the strength to be used for your fireplace tile and fireplace construction. QUIKRETE® Mortar Mix and Mason Mix can stand temperatures up to about 300 degrees F.  For more information, visit

Quikrete Mason mix.jpgQuikrete Maon mix.jpg

When deciding on which material to use around your fireplace, you may want to consider using slate.  This can be found in a traditional 12 x 12 or in the rough form.  Regular ceramic will work but you may want to keep a few extra on hand in the event of one cracking due to the higher heat of the fireplace, especially if you are burning some of the hotter firewood such as oak, elm or eucalyptus.


A granite or slate stone is another good choice.  Both tiles can withstand all of the temperature ranges and is very durable.


Slate-Natural color.jpg     Slate Golden Honey.jpg

Granite tile-Green onyx.jpg                       Granite tile-Verde Amazonia.jpg


I think you are on the right track with your installation.  Just be sure that the mortar you are using has the silicates in it.  The Quikrete site has some very good info for you on fireplace mortar.  


Have fun with your project.  Be sure to take pictures of your fireplace remodel and share them with the rest of the community in our Project Library Decor site at


Please let us know if you have any further questions. 



Posted 2013-12-31T23:35:20+0000  by Rick_HD_OC
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