October 26, 2023

Ask the Expert

How to choose the best Fireplace Tiles

Fireplace tiles show how safety considerations and decorative finishes can complement each other perfectly. Today, the chimney breast has become a mainstay of living room décor.

Building regulations in the United Kingdom require a fireproof finish surrounding heat-producing appliances. Fireplace tiles have fulfilled this function since the fire first entered the home. Their use, however, has evolved dramatically over time. It began as a purely practical response and eventually became a decorative element in its own right.

Fireplace with marble effect bookmatch tiles

Dolomiti Bookmatch 59.6×150 (Available in-store)

Modern lifestyles and how we use the living room are not the same today as they were in years gone by. Nowadays, we don’t depend on the fireplace so much to provide heat, it’s become a decorative addition. This article looks at the numerous options to embellish your fireplace and keep your home safe.


What the legislation says about fireplace tiles

UK Building Regulations require a fireproof finish to extend 50cm in front of the fireplace (heat-producing appliance) hearth and 15cm on each side of the fireplace opening. Additionally, fireplace recesses and flues have their own separate requirements.

Walls adjacent to heat-producing appliances must be clad with fire-rated finishes to a height of 30cm above the appliance. Similarly, to the hearth, fireproof cladding is required 15cm on either side of the appliance on the adjacent walls.


The Tiled Fireplace through history

The solid fuel burning fireplace (either coal or logs) is not as common in UK homes nowadays compared to the past. Instead, decorative gas or electric-style installations are gaining popularity. They are hassle-free and don’t require a functioning chimney.

Alternatively, the solid fuel burning stove remains popular and offers distinct advantages. Whatever the choice, the treatment of the chimney breast remains the same. In other words, a tiled heart and tiles for fireplace surrounds. This classic look adds warmth and decorative charm to the living room.


The fireplace tile surround and living room décor

The fireplace is an ideal solution to providing the living room with character. It’s also a practical way and helps to layout the space. Within a rectangular or square shape plan room the fireplace establishes an axis, that centres on the fireplace typically.

The fireplace surround and chimney breast can be positioned symmetrically for a more classical effect. They can also be offset if a window or other feature in the space needs to be highlighted. In either case, the fireplace helps organise the space and will influence the placement of other key pieces of furniture.

Living room with black marble effect tiles chimney designedbyiman
Liem Dark Polish tile _ Porcelanosa




Appearance: Black

Finish: Polished



Living room décor with fireplace ideas

Traditionally, the fireplace surround treatment would consist of the firebox, a hearth in front, glazed tiles and a mantelpiece frame. Today, those same components are still in place, but modern technology means a lot more freedom when designing a fireplace.

Perhaps, the biggest change is the replacement of the lined flue with a proprietary product or, in the case of a gas (or bioethanol) flame, no flue at all. As a result, the chimney breast and hearth can be treated as decorative elements. The following pointers will help you adapt your fireplace to different living room décor styles:

  • Height of the hearth. For a contemporary or cutting-edge living room décor, lift the hearth off the ground and clad an entire wall with tiles. The oversized chimney breast becomes a sculptural feature in the room.
  • Open flue. Depending on the home layout, an open plan fireplace that joins two spaces can recall a more rustic style décor. Clad the surrounds with stone effect tiles for an authentic country feel.
  • Media wall with fireplace. The flat screen in the living room is often combined with the chimney breast. This arrangement is most suitable for gas or ethanol fires for protection of the electronics. Place the TV screen at eye level when standing and add an adjustable mounting angle.
Living room with fireplace wave tiles by sarasota.homes.bry
Ona Blanco tile by Porcelanosa




Appearance: White

Finish: Matt



  • Modern sheer fireplace. Adapt the modern traditional fireplace configuration with a decorative tile. By removing the mantelpiece, the breast becomes more of a feature.
  • Fireplace feature wall. Convert an entire living room wall into a composition of traditional and cutting-edge high-tech design. Combine shelves, media wall and home bar along one entire wall with the fireplace off-centre. This breaks the traditional symmetry of the layout and, consequently, feels fresh and modern.

A guide to different fireplace tile surround options

The fireplace tile surround and fireplace floor tiles, like any other aspect of home décor, let you put a personal stamp on your home. There is a rich tradition of fireplace tiles in the UK, and today there are more choices than ever before. Whatever style you’re going for, these floor and wall tiles can provide plenty of character to a living room. The approaches described below will produce radically different decorative effects.


Fireplace Tile Ideas

The following ideas are a great starting point for matching your home décor with different style fireplace tiles. These options provide the wow factor and satisfy building regulations as well as making maintenance easy-peasy. Don’t forget that the chimney breast can set the tone for an entire living room décor.


#1 Large format ceramic fireplace tiles

Instead of the smaller tile surround, go for a larger, more substantial, tile format. This approach works for any size space, small or large.

Although a certain minimum area is required, even average-sized chimney breasts, entirely clad in tiles, work well. The larger format has a more continuous effect and appears monolithic. Choose a neutral-coloured tile that complements the room’s architecture.


#2 Wood effect fireplace tiles

The naked flame appeals to something deeply rooted within our DNA. Like fire, wood is another material that ignites our imagination. The timber effect tile fireplace surround features the colour and texture of wood to frame the hearth. Even when not in use, the timber effect gives warmth and radiance to the fireplace.

Tip: use a textured tile to add greater dimension and create interesting patterns of light and shade.


#3 Marble effect fireplace tiles

Nothing beats marble effect tiles around a fireplace for a standout interior design feature. It’s a treatment that works equally well on cutting-edge modern fireplaces as it does on traditional ones.

Large format marble effect tiles fireplace by ramconflooring
Liem Dark Polish tile _ Porcelanosa




Appearance: Black

Finish: Matt



#4 Metro fireplace tiles

Recreate the traditional chimney treatment with metro tiles for a throwback look. The gloss finish can contrast with a wood or metal mantelpiece while also reflecting the dancing flames within. Remove the mantelpiece for a more modern look and just use the tiles. Use a colour tile with muted grouting for added interest.


#5 Decorative fireplace tiles

Even in more modern, clean-lined spaces, the chimney breast is usually the main architectural feature of the living room. Decorative tiles can help add character and determine the overall décor. For best results, complement the tile selection with the flooring in terms of colour and scale.

Tip: metallic or reflective tiles will work with timber floor or timer effect tiles.


#6 Brick fireplace tiles

For a more rustic style living room, it’s hard to equal brick, which is a quintessential exterior material. Brick has a texture and a patina that evoke construction down through the ages. When used indoors, it lends the fireplace a rugged charm. The reddish-brown tones look sumptuous against the orange and red flames of the fireplace.


#7 Bookmatch fireplace ideas

For fans of marble, the pinnacle of the fireplace surround treatment is book-match marble cladding. Like the renowned Rorschach psychological test, the marble veining is mirrored on opposite sides of a central axis. This indicates the tiles are sourced from the same original piece of stone. The overall look is symmetrical and provides a classical elegance to the fireplace.


Bookmatch marble effect tiles on fireplace by designedbyiman

Aria White Bookmatch (Available in-store)

#8 Fireplace mosaic tiles

Mosaic for the fireplace surround is a great way to bring the fireplace into the 21st Century. Cutting-edge decorative patterns and designs can elevate the chimney breast and/or the tiled hearth to the level of a work of art. Because the area is small, you can be more experimental to create a focal point.


The do’s and don’ts of fireplace tiles

Tiling around fireplaces is a highly specialised field. As a result, there are many questions about what tiles and materials to use, and how to meet quality standards. Here we look at tips and recommendations about fireplace tiles.

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Yes, you will require heat resistant tiles, which are the only suitable ones to use. Remember that an appropriate adhesive must also be used otherwise there is the danger of falling tiles.

Porcelain and ceramic are among the best performing heat resistance building products available. The raw materials used in their manufacture are non-combustible. The manufacturing process involves extremely high temperatures and results in a material that will not burn, produce toxic smoke or any other fumes. These properties make porcelain and ceramic the ideal materials for providing fireproofing around the fireplace and other heat-producing appliances.

Start by brushing up or vacuuming any soot and dust from around the hearth and fireplace surround. Then mix a few drops of washing up liquid with warm water and using a damp cloth clean the tiles in small sections. Rinse with non-sudsy water and dry with a soft cloth. To return the grout back to its original colour mix equal parts water and hydrogen peroxide. Apply to the grout with a toothbrush and lightly scour. Use a damp cloth to remove any excess solution.

Yes. But the chimney firebox must be in good condition. Heat resistant boards or panels can be used to provide a backing for tiles in case of a damaged chimney.

Yes. But you need to know what you are doing. A qualified tile installer is recommended. The granite must be scarified, in other words, its surface must be provided with a key that will help the tile adhere to the granite. This can be done with an angle grinder and a masonry blade.

The flat area around a fireplace, the hearth, is small enough for a DIY enthusiast to tile without too much difficulty. Existing tiles do not necessarily need to be removed, but certain stone finishes require special attention if tiling over.

  • Ensure the hearth is completely level (especially if tiling over an existing tile). A levelling compound may be required which should be left to dry for 24 hours minimum.
  • Set out the tiles from the centre line of the hearth aligned with the centre of the recess.
  • Apply the adhesive with a notched trowel to the hearth. Then apply the adhesive to the back of the tile and lay using a twisting motion to ensure adhesion.
  • Use tile spacers to ensure accuracy when it comes to grouting.
  • Use a tile cutter for clean cuts.
  • Leave the adhesive to dry for 24 hours. Remove the floor tile spacers. Mix the grout as per the manufacturers' instructions. Then with a rubber float at a 45° angle, liberally apply the grout making sure to get into every corner. Remove the excess with a damp cloth, and then after 30 minutes or so, buff with a dry cloth.

Repeat the previous steps for the wall area around the fireplace, between the fire recess and the mantelpiece. However, remember to follow the tile manufacturer’s instructions for the tile's wall adhesive.

The best (and cleanest) approach is to remove the mantelpiece and protect the firebox before taking off the tile. Follow these steps:

  • Start by removing any skirting boards that abut the mantelpiece.
  • Then remove the metal trim around the hearth, if there is one.
  • Using a crowbar gently prize the mantelpiece from the wall without damaging the wood.
  • Using the crowbar gently prize the floor and wall tiles from the fireplace surround.
  • Remember to clear as much of the underlay adhesive as possible.

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