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. says

    This is SUCH a gorgeous makeover. I can’t wait to have an ugly fireplace of my own to redo ;)

    I think it would look even more seamless if you used white trim between the herringbone tile part and the floor, to make it look like a continuation of the quarter round trim under the baseboard part on the front of the fireplace rather than the brown that matches the floor. Then it would look like one continues piece of quarter round trim. Just a suggestion but obviously you guys rock and it looks amazing either way :)

  2. Michelle says

    I LOVE it! I love how detailed your posts are, too, so I was looking forward to seeing how you finished off the trim and the floor… How did you attach those pieces, and did you have to shave down any of the cork or anything like that?

    • says

      We actually left the cork as-is (didn’t want to remove it or cut it down) so we just removed the trim pieces that were there originally, added the new hearth tile, put the trim pieces back down (nailed them in the same way we did originally) and added the shoe molding and stuff around the fireplace (with a nail gun, being very careful not to shoot the tile of course, haha!). Hope it helps!


  3. Lauren says

    This might be one of my favorite make overs that you guys have done yet! It looks incredible and really helps define the space. I am also loving the new wall color so much more than the previous… it looks more mature and elegant but still has a playful element. Also helping my love for it is that we used that same Home Depot tile in our master bath… our walk in shower and tub surround with it is heavenly!

    • says

      Thanks so much Lauren! I think it’s one of our favorites too! In person it’s just so exciting to walk into the kitchen and see. Haha, we’re nerds.


  4. says

    I absolutely love it all now! The hubs and I are tossing around the idea of staining our kitchen cabinets (which are natural but sealed birch wood) a nice dark walnut or kona. I would love to do something like the Corian countertops too. Think Clara’s changing table, as a kitchen. Your makeover on that is what sparked the idea for me anyway! Also I want to say thank you, because seeing the upgrades you guys do youself make things not look so impossibe and fairly easy sometimes. The thought of taking on certain projects do not completely terrify me anymore!

    • says

      They sell them at ZGallerie (we have a smaller one that we use for a fruit bowl) and this bigger one was from Joss & Main about a year ago. Hope it helps!


  5. says

    This is beautiful. The before and after (from what you just had before), from a distance, doesn’t jump out at first glance, but then the lovely details come together. I’d love something like this. The before from when you bought the house, that’s awesome. Can’t wait for the next before and after (of the whole house), though I think it’ll be a while since you did one not too long ago. Now, I look forward to your yard transformations – sorry, I know that means lots of sweat. :) I’m dying for spring.

  6. Margaret Mailman says

    Love, love, love! Absolutely stunning! Love your step-by-step and cost of the reno too! I <3 you guys!

  7. Caitlin says

    It looks so. good. What did you use/where did you get the molding around the marble hearth? I looks like it was there from when you put in the cork floors, but blends really well, something we will need for ours.

    • says

      Aw thanks Caitlin! We just got that from Home Depot, it’s the same baseboard and shoe molding we have in the rest of the kitchen (around the cabinets) so it fits in nicely. We just nailed it in :)


  8. Kara says

    I love this! We are getting a modular home in the next few weeks and the fireplace looks like it belongs in a log cabin. I cannot wait to use this for my main inspiration. Beautiful. My favorite makeover of yours!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *