Our $200 Fireplace Makeover (Marble Tile & A New Mantel)

We can officially stick a fork in it, guys. Well, Sherry actually stuck an oversized fauz clam shell in it, but that’s doesn’t roll off the tongue quite as well. Either way, the fireplace makeover is complete.

To back up a smidge, you saw us devise a plan for this little refacing makeover, add some marble subway tile and then build out around it. Reminder: fireplace code is different in every area (and requirements vary if it’s wood burning or if it has a gas insert, etc) so it’s a good idea to check that before going nuts on your fireplace.

Our fireplace is non-working (we’d love to add a gas insert and even double-side it down the road) but for this phase of the process all that was left was to add some primer and paint.

I’ll spare you the play-by-play of the painting process because it wasn’t all that exciting. First we primed (using what we already had on hand) then painted the whole thing with Benjamin Moore’s Cloud Cover since it’s what’s on the nearby cabinets (and because we had some leftover). After that we did some touch-ups, like giving the firebox itself a fresh coat of its original color (Benjamin Moore’s Temptation) Note: use fireplace-approved high heat paint if you have a working fireplace.

And after giving it a couple of days to “cure” we put everything back so that we could call this puppy complete. And it’s a puppy that I kind of want to curl up with (yes, Sherry pets it).

Update: A few folks are asking if we considered widening the tiled heath to match the width of the built-out sides of the fireplace – we did, but since it’s just a bit of shoe molding (which also extends around all of our cabinets) it didn’t bother us enough to rip up cork to make it happen. Perhaps down the line we’ll paint the brown floor trim white to make it appear wider if it bothers us :)

Here’s an obligatory before and after for ya:

But I much prefer this one, which shows what the fireplace looked like when we bought our house back in 2010…

Since the painting step didn’t cost us any extra money (we used supplies that we already owned), the total cost for the project is just the addition of the two budgets we’ve already shared (tiling was $99 and building out was $98.75) but here’s the full breakdown:

  • Cement board (2 sheets): $16
  • Masonry screws: already owned
  • Liquid Nails Heavy Duty: $2
  • Subway tile: $5.50/sq ft, totaling $70
  • Thinset: already owned
  • Tiling tools (saw, trowel, float, etc): already owned
  • Grout: $11
  • Tile sealer: already owned
  • MDF frame: $35
  • Mantle top: $17
  • Crown, baseboard, & decorative trim: $22.75
  • 1 x 2″ boxes: $24
  • TOTAL: $197.75 (* thanks to holiday gift cards from the family we only spent $147.75 – but without gift cards or already owned supplies this might be a $250 upgrade)

Definitely not our cheapest project, but we love it. The herringbone marble tile and the tailored built-out surround looks pretty darn expensive (at least in our humble opinion). We’ve never had a tiled fireplace so we suddenly feel very swanky indeed. Perchance I’ll start sporting an ascot.

Some of you were curious about how we concealed the exposed edge of the cement board around the firebox.

We just used a piece of trim that we had in our scrap pile (it’s slightly rounded on both sides). Before grouting we glued it in place to provide a clean edge to grout up against and now it’s painted to match everything else. Obviously for a functioning wood-burning fireplace that’s no bueno, so you’d probably want to use something like this. And if we ever convert our fireplace to a wood-burning one (which is unlikely since it would require a ton of chimney work) we’ll just pop out the wood trim and install tile edge pieces.

Now back to the gratuitous after shots.

Ok, one more and we’re done.

Just this guy and I’m out.

Oh wait, here’s a good comparison shot that shows how the original fireplace was pretty thin and even a little top-heavy, while the new chunkier tiled-and-framed-out version feels more “focal-point-ish.” In person has even more dimension (unfortunately photos of a white-ish surround with white-ish tile don’t depict all the texture and interest that they have in real life).

But perhaps best of all, our wall of penny tile on the other side of the room no longer feels like it’s “the fancy wall” while the rest of the kitchen struggles to keep up. The herringbone marble fireplace finally gives the penny tile a run for its money, in the best possible way. According to Sherry “it’s a swank-off in our kitchen.” Fireplace vs. wall o’ penny tile. Who will win? It’s anyone’s guess. (Spoiler alert: Sherry says the wall of penny tile wins because she pets it slightly more than the marble but it’s very close.)

So that’s the end of our little fireplace update. We’re really glad to have it done and are looking forward to some porch and carport updates. So come on end-of-March snow, give it a rest so we can get outside and start working! What are you guys doing? Any tiling, mantel building, priming, or painting? What about placing giant clam shells around the house? Any of that going on? That’s all in a days work for my lady.

PS: If you want to read about this makeover from the beginning, check out our planning process, how we tiled and how we built out the wood frame around it.


  1. Jessica says

    I love it. It looks so much better. Not that it looked bad before, but I love a chunky fireplace. Great job!

    • Kathy says

      Totally NOT weird! I want one too!

      We have one of those “plug & go” electric fireplaces, but you cant build around it because the heat vents out through the top (major fire hazard). Boooo.

  2. says

    This looks incredible. We are in the same boat – looking at painting it for now, and then likely refacing it next year. Definitely saving this post for tips when we finally get around to it ;)

  3. Kristi says

    Absolutely love it! We have a fireplace makeover on the list so this is extra inspiring!! We do have one problem – our ireplace is between 2 windows but not centered! There is about an inch between surround and window trim on one side and maybe 6 inches on the other side. Any thoughts on how to even things out? (Our house is 100 years old so we tend to cut it some slack!)

    • Jenny says

      So funny — we’ve lived in our (100-yr-old) house for two years, and I just last weekend noticed that our fireplace is off center, too. The mantel is centered between two doorways (to a sunroom), but I finally noticed that the fireplace opening is not centered under the mantelpiece — it has a couple of inches on one side, and probably 10 inches on the other side. So FWIW, that approach (basically Sherry’s suggestion) seemed to work pretty well for whoever built the mantel at our place, since I sit on the couch facing that thing every day and never noticed it before.

  4. Gaby says

    Looks great but very similar to the painted brick. Wish there was some contrast between the tile and painted part.

  5. says

    I love it, but I realized that looking at the before shots of the painted white fireplace it doesn’t seem that different from far away (I’m sure it does in real life), but I have a question for you: With something like this change would it add value to your home? I’m only asking because we have a good fireplace surround (it was a new build), but the tile is…let’s just say I’d pick your tile in a heartbeat if I decided to do this to ours. But I know I need to prioritize items in my house (getting rid of contractor-grade materials). How did you decide to spend the money on this now when you know you have other plans for the fireplace down the road?

    • says

      Great question! I’m not sure if it would add 1K of value to a house or anything like that, but to get to say “marble fireplace surround” in a listing, for $147, that could be what draws in buyers since it sounds posh. In person the painted-over old cracked hearth had to go, so it was more like that was a deterrent and this new fireplace definitely doesn’t hurt :)


    • Stacey says

      Some time ago I watched a local make-over show where the decorators tackled a house which had been on the market for a while. The updates (some similar in nature to this) didn’t necessarily add value to the house but generated far more interest from buyers and the property was sold soon thereafter.

    • says

      Good to know since I’ve stared at our fireplace going, “I should just get on that already!” I’ll have to go see this tile in person for sure since your pictures make them read almost yellowy/shell like…which I really like btw. Hope you don’t mind a copy cat! Haha!

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