Once I got the concrete slab moved to the front porch it was now in a handy spot for working on it a bit easier.
After putting a straight edge on it I could see a few humps and hollows where my trowelling was a bit out. Similarly putting a set-square on it showed where I was out a bit with the boxing a regards true 'square'. So using an angle grinder to skim off the humps and a bit of solid plaster mix to fill in the hollows I then had all nice straight, flat, square surfaces on which to glue the tiles.
Because the mantlepiece would end up in a very visible space directly beneath the TV, I realised the tile work would have to be spot on. I didn’t want the edge of the tiles to show, which meant I would need to do a lot of cutting of 45° bevels so the corners could be mitred. So using a tile cutting machine and an angle grinder I mitred all the tiles for the top surface first.
Then once the tiles were cut I spread the glue on the slab for the first row of tiles on the front edge. The position of these tiles was critical to how it would all finish up. So positioning the 2 front corner tiles first, I simply placed all the remaining tiles for the first row in between.
I hasten to add, I did a lot of measuring, double measuring and then measuring again to make sure the mantlepiece would end up at just the right length to match the existing hearth, allowing for the thickness of the tiles and the glue, etc. I wanted all the new tiles to line up with the existing tiles, otherwise I figured it would just look wrong.
Using a straight edge I made sure all the tiles were flat, straight and evenly spaced, then I allowed the glue to set before doing the next row. Once the first row was set in position I knew I could use them as a solid reference point for making sure the whole top surface was perfectly flat. This would be important as the mantlepiece would act as a shelf for the DVD player and other items and I didn’t want anything wobbling around if the surface was uneven.
Once all the tiles on the top surface had set in place I carefully turned the whole thing upside down to work on the surface underneath. Following the same method as before I made sure the 2 end tiles were positioned correctly first using a set square to ensure everything was properly square. Then I just filled in between them with the remaining tiles. I used a straight edge to make sure they were all straight and flat and the set-square to make sure they were lining up correctly with the tiles on the top surface (which was now face down). Then I let the glue set same as before.
At this point I needed to do some quite tricky cutting. All the remaining tiles needed to be cut very carefully to fit in the gaps. So I turned the slab on its edge and took some careful measurements before cutting the tiles on the tile cutter, then bevelling the edges so each piece would fit nicely together with no tile edges showing. I used a portable vice to hold the tiles and the angle grinder came in real handy for this part of the job.
Eventually, once all the tiles were cut, glued in placed and the glue had set, I grouted between all the tiles to finish it off.
By now it must have been weighing about 100kg so I definitely needed help to install it. I used a whole tube of liquid nails to glue it to the existing hearth. And to make sure it wouldn’t tip over or move I installed a rimu upstand which I solidly fixed to the studs behind the wall.
There’s just one more thing I need to do now and that is to cut a channel in the back of the upstand with a router so that I can hide away the cables which are still showing.
Thankfully I got it finished before the really cold weather arrived. This fireplace really pumps out the heat. But at least we can now use the fire without worrying about melting the TV.
But the best part is, although it took a lot of time and effort I saved over $1000 by doing it myself.
I’m pretty pleased with it.