Monday, May 4, 2015

Fireplace Makeover with Tin Tile

Let's just cut to chase and start with the before of my fireplace.
The pros of this fireplace are the large size, lack of brass, and nice wood details.  It's the oak and the tile that I just don't love.  I am probably perfectly capable of ripping out the old tile and I seriously considered a fun herringbone patterned tile to take the current's place.  I just couldn't bring myself to do it because...I was afraid I'd hate it in 10 more years.  I just love an old fireplace look, something timeless.  I love the herringbone tile look that is so popular right now, but will it scream "2015" a decade from now?  Because one thing is for sure: I'm not tiling this fireplace twice.

The new plan: tin tile glued right onto the old.  Next challenge: making everything heat resistant. 
The first step was to eliminate the oak.  I deglossed the wood with Kleanstrip Sander Deglosser and then primed with Zinnser Bullseye.  I painted with several coats of white paint and followed that up with three or four coats of Varathane Polyurethane.  I did quite a bit of research on the poly to use and decided on Varathane for what I hope to be it's resistance to yellowing as a result of high heat.

The tile was up next.  I started by buying nail-up 12" square tin tiles from  They were one of the few vendors I found that carried the 12" size I needed.  I ordered the tile without paint and then used high heat grill paint from Home Depot and added a finish on top using a clear gloss enamel engine paint from O-Reilly Auto

Next, I "glued" up the tiles using Rutland High Heat Silicone from Amazon.  After reading all of the reviews I felt confident it would hold as needed.  I applied generously to the tile and then placed around the fire box right on top of the existing tiles.
Because this is a silicone the tiles would slip and slide on the vertical surface.  As a result. I braced the tiles using scrap wood.  I left the wood in place for at least 8 hours to ensure the silicone had a chance to really set up.  As you can see below, the tile did not completely fill the space on the sides and top and I made a plan for adding trim.  But first, I needed to make a decision about the tile on the floor before I could place the final pieces of tin tile against it.  

I debated painting the tile but was afraid of scratches.  I debated just painting the grout to update the look but I finally decided to do the project fully and bought this lovely limestone tile at Home Depot.
I ripped out the old tile and put in the new. 
Now, I can finally finish off the tin tile!  I added narrow oak strips on the sides and dentil molding along the top.  The finishing touch: caulk...lots of it!  It filled in all the nooks and crannies that I simply couldn't get to.  After a light coat of the spray paint and enamel on top of the caulk my project was done.

Total cost:
Tin Tile: $60
Limestone Tile: $50
Paint, Silicone, etc.: $25

Total cost of updated fireplace: $135

One last before and after:


  1. This is exactly what I've been thinking of doing! I so appreciate you posting the products you used, and the instructions. It looks beautiful. Has everything held up/stayed in place since you finished the project?

    1. Thank you!!! It has held up really well. I haven't had any slipping of the tile. The silicone seemed to work quite well. The only maintenance I've needed to do is on the caulk. Caulk can yellow over time. I used paintable caulk and tried to paint over it to keep it white. A few places I missed with paint did get a little yellow but nothing paint couldn't fix. Honestly, I doubt anyone would have noticed anyway but I was inspecting. :)

  2. BRILLIANT AND BEAUTIFUL! Your project appears to be well researched. Thank you for your informative post!

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  4. where did you buy the tin tiles that wont warp? how are yours holding up?

    1. We moved from this house about a year after I finished the project. It still looked great at that time. The tin tile was from Because it was tin, it was able to withstand the heat without warping. Thanks for asking!

  5. Do you mind sharing the name of the tile? I've been looking at the website, but not sure which one. The one you chose is exactly what I want! Thanks!

    1. No problem. It's the fleur de lis 12 inch repeat nail up tile (#102 12"). Here is the link to it.

      I did buy it in the metal color and then painted it using the high heat grill paint with and an automotive/engine clear coat. I think I mentioned which paints I used in the post, if you need that info. Thanks!!

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  7. I have been thinking of doing this myself but wasn't sure if it would hold up to the heat (although I only use ethanol which is not very hot). Thanks so much for your research and information! Your fireplace looks stunning and it will stand the test of time: it is truly beautiful and classic.

  8. Sorry I have a question: How did you cut the tile or did you? I would need to cut mine, the sides are not as large as the top... thank you!