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. Emily says

    The only adjective I can use to describe this upgrade: delicious. Cause I am eatin’ it UP! Love it :). Well played, Petersiks, well played.

  2. Judy Cassidy says

    I’m just curious why you didn’t do the tile all the way to the edge of the wood. I think it looks great but I didn’t know if there was a specific reason for doing that! Maybe all fireplaces are like that and I’ve never noticed!

    • says

      We just remade the mantel over the existing one and tiled over the existing surround, so the added trim made it a bit wider but we don’t mind the look at all. Our cabinets have wood trim that overlaps the floor too, so it seems to work in the room nicely :)


  3. Kelly says

    How can you tell if it’s working or non-working? Yours looks like you could throw some wood in there and have an impromptu marshmallow-roasting par-tay!

  4. says

    The side by side before and after really show the difference in balance it has in the room. It looks really nice and I super enjoy the herringbone tile. My one question is this: Is there a reason you didn’t extend the hearth to go all the way under the mantel on the edges? Or does it and it’s being all magic-eye on me because the mantel is white and the hearth has a brown trim on it? I guess that’s two questions. I fail at math.

    • says

      We considered extending the tile hearth, but since it’s just shoe molding (which also extends around all of our cabinets) it didn’t bother us enough to rip up cork to make it happen :)


  5. Allison says

    Looks great! But I can’t understand why you’d do the makeover before adding gas logs. Such a waste to have a cozy fireplace corner, without a fire (aka, the cozy part). That would have been priority #1 after painting the brick, for me. Maybe I’m a fireplace snob, but that comes from never having lived in a house without a wood-burning fireplace that gets used nearly every single night. Nothing comes close to replace that warmth and ambiance!

  6. Anya says

    Hi John & Sherry, your fireplace is beautiful!! I love the white marble, especially with the herringbone pattern. One question I had is that visually I seem to prefer having the white wood fireplace line up with the white tile on the floor, like you had for the first fireplace. Did you think about making the floor tiled area wider? Just curious.. it looks great, and I would LOVE to have a fireplace in my apartment, or even a woodstove. I love warmth.

    • says

      We did think about slightly extending the hearth, but since it’s just shoe molding (which also extends around all of our cabinets) it didn’t bother us enough to rip up cork to make it happen :)


  7. says

    A swank-off. You never cease to amaze me. I love how it’s gone from a sheepish little fireplace to one that demands attention. I also really like how it’s been built out- the scale looks great. My fireplace has never felt so insecure before. I’m looking at your boring slate tile!

  8. Katie G says

    This has confirmed for me how much I love the blue over the grellow (although I know a lot of the problem was probably that it didn’t photograph true to life). This just feels so grown up and calm. Like Meryl Streep might breeze in and cook an omelette or something.

    • Laci says

      I don’t usually read all the comments of a post, but I’m going to have to start! Petersiks, your commentors (like yourselves) are word MASTERS!!
      Speaking of word masters: I can’t get “treat yo self” out of my head from last post. Everytime I saw the marble and penny tile in this post, I thought TREAT YO SELF! …and I’m glad Sherry is bringing awareness and advocating for all of us in the I-Pet-Pretty-Things Club!! We’re not weird; we’re just our own kind of normal. :-)

    • hjc says

      Weird can’t be the new normal because then all of us weirdos would have to become normal to be weird and that would just be wrong (and weird).

  9. Alisa says

    I am obsesssssssed. Seriously. It’s a good thing I’ve been given strict instructions to not do anything that isn’t on THE LIST or else I’d be all over doing this to our fireplace. I’ll just stick to my trim painting and picking out floor samples *sniff*sniff*