Updated: Jul 2
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When we moved into this house 3-years ago, there were 3 things I desperately wanted to improve. The first, was getting rid of all the carpet on both floors (carpet in a dining room is just strange to me!). Second, a completely remodeled laundry room (coming soon!). Third, fixing the outdated fireplace situation on the main floor.
So, here we are! During the COVID-19 lockdown, we've had lots of time to plan and do projects that we had materials for. In fact at one point, we had 5+ projects going, because we kept running out of materials for them, so we started a different project.
At the beginning of the lockdown, Peter and I talked about what we wanted to do with the fireplace. We went back and forth on how much effort we wanted to spend on it, knowing that it wasn't a high-value area for us. After some initial research, we decided we wanted to somehow update the tiles, get a mantle, and fix the cords coming down from the TV.
Side note: You may be wondering why we mounted the TV off to the side (I know I would be wondering!). Well, the studs in this house (and the construction in general) are very funky, and the TV mount had to be set into the studs, so we didn't have much choice. Is it ideal? No. But does it work? Yes it does!
For the tiles, I started by investigating the painting route where we would paint the tiles and re-grout. That ended up sounding like a lot of work. So we went with my second option, which was to buy tile stickers (did everyone know that was a thing except for us?). After looking through several designs, we decided on this gorgeous pattern from AlegriaM & Mi Alma (sold on Etsy and Amazon). The stickers ship from Israel, so just know you'll need patience (but it was worth it and their customer services was 5 stars!). Tip: Measure, measure, measure to get the right size.
While we waited for the tile stickers, I set out to find the right mantle. Could Peter have built us one himself? Yes. But we didn't have the materials to do it and we wanted to support a small business. So, I went on Etsy and found a mantle that was simple and easy to install. After placing my order though, the seller ghosted us and actually got flagged by Etsy. So, that was an ordeal that I won't go into. BUT, the good news, is that I went back to Etsy and found an even better mantle made by a wonderful shop out of Canada - Anjowga Woodworks. I placed an order for a custom-length mantle and we let them get to work.
When the stickers arrived about 6-weeks later, we were ready to install! Of course, as soon as we set out to start, I realized that the new tiles were going to look horrible with the creamy brown grout that was currently there. I had a slight panic attack as I worried that we would actually have to re-grout, and if that was the case, then we might as well re-tile. BUT, after some quick internet searching, we found Mapei Grout Refresh.
We were skeptical of the product as the reviews were mixed, but as with most home improvement things, your project depends on how well you read and follow instructions.
The Grout Refresh arrived next-day (thanks Amazon!) and we were able to get to work. We started one night after the twins went to bed, and after about 2-hours, the grout looked AMAZING. I kid you not, it looked completely new and was the perfect clean white to go with our new tile stickers.
Side note: One annoying part about doing this refresh was that the original builders had horrible grout lines and splashed grout in random places and didn't clean it off. So that was kind of annoying, because the lines are not as clean as if we had done them ourselves. But, progress, not perfection!
The next morning, the grout refresh was clean and we were able to apply the tile stickers.
Tile Sticker Installation Tips
My advice for anyone who wants to do this is to know that it's a few hours of back-breaking, precision work (at least it was in my case - my back is not getting any younger!). In our case, the builders of our house were, sloppy. So some of the tiles were not straight and the cuts were not even. So we did have to improvise a bit, and if you look very, very close, there are imperfect places where the stickers were not a perfect fit. BUT, that said, it still looks pretty darn good if I do say so.
Wide, plastic putty knife (never used directly on tile, but with a microfiber cloth over the tip. This helped us get all of the bubbles out and ensure a smooth installation)
Microfiber cloths (these are great to wipe the tiles off, to smooth the sticker corners down, and for general project clean up)
Small paper trimmer (this is SO handy because we did need to make several small cuts for off-center tiles, or half-tiles)
Total tile sticker installation was about 2-hours, mostly because it's a lot of precision work. We could have gone a lot faster, sure, but since we were going to use these stickers instead of re-doing the tile completely, we wanted the best look possible. Also, remember, we still have the two-under-two twins!
In between installing the stickers, Peter painted the mantle to match the white of the trim we have all over the house. After a few coats, it was ready!
This project was probably one of the easiest and fastest and we think the final look is wonderful! The tiles look like real tiles! The change is remarkable and it really helps to freshen up the space and update the look. I wish I had other tiles to use these stickers on!
Total cost: $279! Most expensive piece was the mantle (but totally worth it!).
Eventually, we may try to paint the actual fireplace insert, or at least get a new door/clean it out. But that's a future future future project.