While the fireplace may not take up too much space, it always attracts an enormous amount of attention. By installing new fireplace tiles you can use this natural focal point to your advantage. Here’s everything you’ll need to know to get the best results possible, along with all of the top tile ideas.
A fireplace can add warmth and charm to your home. And in front one is a fantastic place to enjoy time with friends and family or simply relax on your own. In fact traditionally they were installed in the center of the wall space to allow as many family members to gather around them as possible.
Huge Impact For A Small Space
Whether it uses wood, gas, electricity, or is just for decoration the fireplace is more often than not the highlight of the room. By focusing your efforts on such a prominent feature, you can expect massive results not just for the fireplace itself but the entire room.
The total area to be tiled is usually fairly small and will only need a minimal amount of tiles, time, money, and effort to complete. For these reasons a fresh fireplace tile upgrade is one of the smartest and most economical home improvements you can choose even when on a tight budget.
A Safe Fireproof Barrier
Fireplace tile is not just used for its looks it also functions as a non-flammable barrier between the opening of your fireplace and the rest of your home. The majority of tile materials can handle the extremely high temperatures that fireplaces reach and the extreme changes in temperature that take place very quickly without damage.
You won’t be installing new tiles inside of the actual fireplace (known as the firebox) where the conditions are too harsh for tile, but instead you will be surrounding it. This keeps the flames totally contained and your home safe. Tiles are usually added in two places: the surround and the hearth.
Fireplace Surround Tiles
The surround is the vertical space directly surrounding the firebox. Many surrounds are quite small and only require a handful of tiles to cover them completely. While they do serve as a fire barrier for your walls, the tiles used here are also for decoration.
Since they are up off of the floor, other than being made from a heat resistant material they don’t need to be very tough. So when choosing fireplace surround tiles you have the option of using wall tiles (even ones that are more fragile) or thicker and heavier floor tiles if that’s what you prefer.
Fireplace Hearth Tiles
The hearth is the part of the fireplace located at the base that extends out in front of it to protect the surrounding floor space. The hearth tiles of course can be used to add beauty to the home but they will also need to be strong.
The hearth is where tools such as pokers, brushes, and tongs are usually kept along with piles of heavy logs. These metal tools will be sure to fall at some point and when logs need to be cut to fit in the fire it almost always happens on the hearth so the tiles will be sure to take some abuse.
They therefore must be rated for floor use (you cannot use wall tiles) and need to be made from a heat resistant and highly durable material. Some of the best tiles for fireplace hearths are actually made from natural stone since they possess these qualities.
A Bit Of DIY?
If you like DIY projects, completing a fireplace tile upgrade on your own can more often than not be a terrific way to save some cash.
Because both the surround and hearth are relatively small and the patterns normally used on them aren’t as complicated as in other locations it can be an excellent project to learn some new skills. You will of course need the proper tools and have to pay attention to detail. Special heat resistant tile adhesive is a must too.
Don’t Overlook The Importance Of The Layout
It’s easy to get excited about materials and styles but don’t forget that the pattern you use with your fireplace tiles can make an impact too. While there are many different choices there are a handful of tile patterns that are typically used on the fireplace because they work so well there.
The straight lay and diagonal are both simple choices that can look fabulous with the right material. If you prefer the look of something more brick-like, the running bond might be for you. The more complex and V-shaped appearance of the herringbone is sure to attract a lot of attention if that’s what you’re after.
Focal Point Or As An Accent
Before you pick your tiles you should take some time to think about what you want them to accomplish. You can use them to accent the current style or theme of the room. Or you may want to use your tiles to help create a stunning focal point. They can do both of these jobs perfectly so it’s really up to you.
By deciding what you want your end results to be first, it will be easier for you to find the best fireplace tile for your needs. That’s because your decision will influence the color, style, material, and pattern.
The Top Fireplace Tile Ideas
If you don’t know what you want yet that’s no problem, because we’ve come up with a list of the top ideas to help make deciding even easier. While some of the choices listed below are materials, others are styles, but they all can give you results to be proud of.
Ceramic Fireplace Tiles
We often get asked, “Can I use ceramic tiles on a fireplace?” You definitely can, and many of the style suggestions in this list are actually made from ceramic. These tiles come in a wide range of colors, with a huge variety of designs, and they can be very budget-friendly.
For these reasons many people choose ceramic tiles for fireplace surrounds in particular. They can also be installed on the hearth too as long as they are rated as floor tile and have a PEI rating of four or five.
Porcelain Fireplace Tiles
Denser and more durable than ceramic, porcelain is an outstanding fireplace choice for surrounds and hearths. Like with ceramic though, tiles used on the hearth will still need to be made for floor use with a PEI rating of four or five to ensure they are tough enough.
While porcelain tiles are typically a little bit more expensive than those made from ceramic, they do come in a wider variety of colors and can even be made to look like other materials.
They are one of the top tiles for fireplace use, especially if you are looking for a material that costs less than real stone, is easier to maintain, yet can be deceivingly similar in appearance. Some are even made to have realistic stone-like textures too.
Marble Fireplace Tiles
For adding a classic and high-end look not just to your fireplace but the entire room you can always count on marble. Tiles can have gorgeous veins running through them that make your surround, hearth, or both look like a natural work of art.
While most often seen in black, white, and grey, marble fireplace tile can also be found in colors such as green, red, and pink if you’d like something that stands out even more. Like with other natural stones, tiles come in finishes that can make them appear glossy to weathered depending on what you like.
Granite Fireplace Tiles
Granite is considered to be one of the strongest and most heat resistant tile materials of all. It also happens to be scratch-proof and is so durable that it won’t chip or crack. Therefore it can easily handle being used on the hearth. An added benefit that really comes in handy on the fireplace is that it’s also a cinch to clean.
This is an extra luxurious choice and while tiles are more expensive than other materials, with granite you get what you pay for as tiles can last a lifetime or more. Colors can range from white to black and even pink and will have small flecks of colors instead of veins.
Even though this material is generally used for more lavish traditional or contemporary installations black fireplace tiles made from granite especially when they have a polished finish, can make a very sleek looking option for modern spaces.
Slate Fireplace Tiles
For rustic elegance, slate tiles are often the number one pick. You may also want to take advantage of the fact that this stone comes in many color variations ranging from orange to black which can really make for quite an earth tone display on your surround and hearth.
Or you could always stick to tiles that are a single uniform color especially if you want grey fireplace tiles, since that is the most common and one of the preferred color choices with this particular stone.
If you would like a more natural looking installation that emphasizes a country feel, rough textured tiles and rectangular shaped split faced tiles are both very popular for this use. With a smooth flat surface though, slate can also look quite clean and modern.
Travertine Fireplace Tiles
Typically a light brown or cream color, travertine is yet another stone that works incredibly well on the fireplace. Travertine tiles will have small pits from the gasses that escaped during the formation of the stone which can really give them an antique feel.
Like with slate you may also want to go with split faced tiles for a rougher appearance or you could opt for tiles that chiseled edges to make them look aged. However, tiles that have their pits filled and a honed finish are also a popular option especially if you want a natural stone fireplace that looks more contemporary in style.
Other Natural Options
Of course there are other natural material options that can be used on the fireplace too. For pale colored stone tiles that are strong and have veining similar to that of marble, quartzite is a winning selection. And the beiges and tans of fireplace tiles made from limestone can add a warm look to any room.
Among the most heat resistant tiles for fireplaces are those made from soapstone, which also happens to be a timeless and maintenance-free material. Pebble tiles which are made up of many individual round-bodied pebbles offer quite a unique, natural, and three dimensional choice.
There are even mosaic tiles made from mother of pearl, the inner lining of certain shells, which can be used to add a shimmering iridescence to your fireplace surround.
Concrete Fireplace Tiles
An alternative to materials made by Mother Nature herself is concrete. It can be made into tiles that look just like stone and even wood with a realistic texture by using a special mold and colorant. Concrete tiles are tough, easy to take care of, and will cost you less than authentic natural stone fireplace tiles and other faux options like porcelain.
Because it can take on so many different looks you can use concrete in spaces of any style from rustic, to contemporary, or even ultra modern. You can also use it to save money on part of your project or the entire thing. Instead of adding authentic stone hearth tiles for example, many homeowners will install faux stone concrete ones instead and save the real stone for the surround.
Metal Fireplace Tiles
For something totally different metal tiles such as those made from stainless steel, aluminum, and copper can handle the heat and be used to adorn your surround. These are often rectangular but can come in many other shapes as well along with different finishes.
And while some are available as individual tiles others are sold in sheets that are even easier to install. Copper is normally used for a vintage fireplace feel while stainless steel happens to be more modern. And because aluminum can be made to look like both of these materials it can go either way.
Glass Fireplace Tiles
When need some extra color using glass is a spectacular way to get it. Glass tiles can even be quite luminous and will work to brighten up not just your fireplace but the room. However, while they can handle high heats they should only be installed on the surround and cannot be used as hearth tile.
Glass subway tile is particularly chic and when set in the running bond layout it can give you a colorful and modern take on the traditional brick style fireplace. You also have the option of using glass mosaic tile which uses much smaller tile pieces that are attached to a mesh backing and allows for a very simple installation.
Many mosaic tiles will offer multiple materials together within the same tile which can be used to create a very interesting fireplace display. These often come in combinations like stone and glass, glass and metal, or all three.
If you are having a tough time choosing between more than one material these could be the answer for your surround. But of course you will need to make sure that the all of the materials used in the specific tile you are considering can be used on the fireplace.
Add Some Art
A fun and effortless way to add some individuality to your installation is with art tiles. If you have a particular interest, hobby, or theme you’d like to you emphasize, your surround can be your canvas.
These are often hand-painted and can depict anything from beach scenes to your favorite flower or animal. You may be able be able to get away with only purchasing a few and adding them as accents that are evenly spaced between more plain fireplace tiles to spice up your existing surround.
Or you could always mix and match with something like Mexican tiles to create an entirely new hand-painted space. Art tiles can be your chance to get creative and even design on a dime.
Vintage Fireplace Tiles
You can easily add some vintage style to your fireplace surround and even hearth by choosing tiles that have patterns that look like they are from an earlier time. These may look brand-new but have designs that look like those that were commonly used in another era like the fifties for instance.
Or you could choose new tiles that have been “distressed,” to look like they have chips and fading colors to make them seem like actual vintage materials even though they are not.
Reproduction Fireplace Tiles
There are several types of very popular period style tiles which are listed below. While you may be able to find actual antique fireplace tiles from these periods the vast majority of what is available today are reproductions.
Many of them are handmade and hand-painted and use the same designs and colors that were used in their time which make them a historically accurate choice that is much cheaper than authentic antiques.
Victorian And Edwardian Fireplace Tiles
The Victorian era (1837-1901) and the Edwardian (1900-1920) saw many innovative advances which led to the tiles of the time becoming more creatively designed and colored. Many had fantastic color separation and also looked very three dimensional.
Victorian fireplace tiles started off with more decorative floral and plant motifs and colors such as greens, blues, and reds. These turned more towards geometric designs later on and into the Edwardian period. Edwardian tiles were generally simpler and had more muted colors such as blacks, whites, and browns.
While they were originally intended for use on walls and floors they eventually were used to decorate the fireplaces as inserts in the cast iron tile surrounds of the day. They were not used on the hearth and were either made up of runs of tiles that fit together to form an image on both sides of the surround or sets of patterned tiles.
When it comes to finding both real and replica Victorian and Edwardian antique fireplace tiles UK residents generally will have a much easier time than in the U.S. since this is where they originated.
Art Nouveau Fireplace Tiles
These tiles of the late eighteen and early nineteen hundreds were inspired by the international style and are considered by many to be the most beautifully designed of all time. This style really benefited from the many advances of the industrial revolution.
The hallmark of art Nouveau fireplace tiles are vibrant colors, long flowing lines, and intricate floral designs. They can also be distinguished by the fact that they use a raised line to separate the different layers of glaze on the tile. This is process is called tube lining.
Art Deco Fireplace Tiles
Art Deco had its original start in France. And tiles of this period that lasted from the early nineteen twenties to the thirties used zigzags, diamonds, squares, rectangles, and other geometric shapes.
While some hints of the art noveau style can sometimes be seen in some tile designs, they were much more the influenced by those of the Edwardian era.
Last But Not Least
If you have a faux fireplace that is just for show or one which you are sure will never be used, tile stickers can be a dirt cheap alternative to real tile. Renters in particular, like to use these stick on tiles for fireplaces because they can be placed right over outdated tiles for a new look. This of course requires no installation costs, skills, or time.
As you can see there is no specific material or type that makes the best tile for fireplace use. Instead there are many different options that can work, each with its own special advantages. What the top choice is for you will ultimately come down to your space, goals, and preferences.
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