Can You Use Normal Tile Adhesive For A Fireplace?

A new look to your fireplace can transform your entire interior. The possibilities are endless, from subway tile for a smart, modern look to porcelain dimensional wood tile for a contemporary vibe. But can you use normal tile adhesive for a fireplace?

Normal tile adhesive cannot be used for a fireplace. Instead, use a modified thin-set tile adhesive for the surround and refractory mortar inside the fireplace box or flue. Mastic tile adhesives or regular thin-set tile adhesives are not recommended for use on a fireplace as they deteriorate under heat conditions.

When you tackle a home project, it certainly saves you time by doing a little research first to ensure your project is done well. Below, we review what tile adhesive is best for applying tile to a fireplace surround. We will also discuss the tile adhesive’s fire resistance, how to apply the tile, and what kinds of tile can go inside or on the hearth of a fireplace.

Can You Use Normal Tile Adhesive For A Fireplace?

Normal tile adhesive cannot be used for a fireplace. While it may be great for applying tile as a backsplash or flooring, tile adhesive around a fireplace needs a little extra support. A modified mortar is the type of adhesive you want to use for a fireplace surround.

Here are a few terms to know when you go to purchase tile adhesive. This will help you pick the best option for your project.

  • Thinset – a type of tile adhesive. It is made of cement, water and fine sand to adhere tile. This type of adhesive is typically used for backsplashes, flooring, and in some bathroom features.
  • Modified thinset this type of thinset contains additives that improve its strength and function. This type of mortar is good to use on a fireplace surround since it has a greater ability to withstand heat.
  • Masticanother form of adhesive that is used to attach wall tile. It is water-resistant but does not fare well under heat. Great for use outdoors.
  • Refractory by definition, this word means stubborn, but in regards to adhering tile, this type of product can withstand high temperatures and is best used inside a fireplace box or the flue of a chimney.

Is Tile Adhesive Fire Resistant?

Tile adhesive is fire resistant on some level since most tile adhesives are made of mortar, which is naturally fire-resistant. Cement, lime, sand, and water are common materials used in tile adhesives. However, to withstand constant heat exposure, a modified mortar is needed to tolerate heat exposure.

While a regular thinset tile adhesive may not be flammable, that does not mean that it will be an effective adherent to use in your fireplace. The modified version provides that extra strength to your adhesive to ensure that the tile around your fireplace stays in place.

Sometimes, tile adhesive is used inside a fireplace or chimney. This is typically required when a repair is needed, a flue joint needs extra support, or even to seal the masonry inside. A high heat tolerant adhesive mortar is required for these projects.

Refractory adhesive is intended for such purposes. Some refractory adhesives can withstand temperatures of up to 2550 degrees Fahrenheit.

How Do You Adhere Tiles To A Fireplace?

You adhere tiles to a fireplace with these steps: 1) mix your mortar; 2) spread the mortar onto the backer board or existing masonry; 3) start placing the tiles, beginning at the top opening, on the centerline, and moving up; 4) use spacers and allow mortar to dry before grouting.

Tips for putting the tile on uniformly:

  • Begin with a plan. Draw out your pattern and layout your tile before you begin. Look for discolored tiles and if you are using various colored tiles, use this opportunity to organize tiles before you begin.
  • Use a level or straight edge to make sure your tile is aligning straight.
  • Start at the centerline and move out to the sides.
  • Level your tiles at each row.
  • After you spread the mortar, use the comb to create ridges in the mortar. The ridges help air escape and improve the bond.

Can You Put Tile Over Tile?

You can put tile over existing tile that is structurally sound. If a portion of the existing tile is falling off, molding, or damaged. You would need to remove or repair the existing tile before putting the new tile on top.

Layering the new tile on top of the existing tile is certainly easier than having to do remove the old layer. However, the risk with putting new tile on top of already deteriorating tile is:

  • You can trap mold and moisture in already damaged material.
  • The added weight of the new tile increases the likelihood of the tile falling off.

What Kind Of Tile Can Go Inside A Fireplace?

Tile should not go inside a fireplace. Masonry, such as cement or fire brick, is recommended for use inside a fireplace. Building codes dictate which types of material can be used inside a firebox and chimney. Areas exposed to fireplace heat – like a hearth—can be tiled with heat-resistant tiles such as porcelain and ceramic.

There are many different colors and styles of tile to beautify the fireplace surround. Unless building codes approve the material for fireplaces, homeowners should not attempt to put tile inside the firebox. When porcelain or ceramic are exposed to continuous high heat, they can crack, fall, or burst inside a firebox.

On the other hand, the hearth isn’t heated as much as the inside of the fireplace. Here, you can use heat-resistant tiles to decorate.

How Much Does It Cost To Tile A Fireplace Surround?

The cost of tiling ceramic or porcelain averages from $13.50 – $83 per square foot. This estimate includes the cost of the tile and labor. Assuming you will be tiling 10 square feet of space, your project total is estimated at $135 – $830.

When you DIY (do it yourself) this project, consider the additional cost of materials and tools.

To name a few supplies, you will need:

  • A wet saw to cut the tile
  • A trowel to spread the mortar
  • Mortars
  • Spacers
  • Level
  • Grout

Dan Westfield

Hi everyone! My name is Dan and I currently have two fireplaces, a wood-burning and a gas one. I cannot live without them and love to share my passion with you all!

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