Build a Beautiful Hearth
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Continue in this fashion until you cover the entire area. If you have any very small pieces, you may need to apply mortar to them with a putty knife – like buttering bread – before placing them on the floor. Also, if you have pieces of varying thickness, you can apply a little extra mortar to the thinner pieces to elevate them some. Let the work cure for 24 hours before proceeding to the next step.
Step 10 – Grout. Mix the grout to a mayonnaise-like consistency, according to package directions. Fill two basins with water. In one, you will rinse the sponge rubber float. The other, your helper will dump and refill. You need to keep the float wet with fresh water.
Using the trowel, drop grout along the spaces between the tiles and work it in with the float. Be sure that the joints are tightly filled, with no air gaps. If need be, pack the grout in with the handle of an old toothbrush. Smooth over the tops of the tile and work it in wherever you can. Avoid wiping along the joints, do wipe across them.
You will develop a feel for this once you start. The tiles will have grout all over them. Remove as much as possible with the float and use sponges to wipe them off. This is a process: wipe, rinse, wipe, rinse. When the tiles look clean, stop and wait. After 30 minutes, wipe any dried residue from the tile surface with a dry terry-cloth towel, polishing as you go. Be sure to remove all the haze now; it is difficult to remove after it has cured. Wait for the grout to cure before applying the sealant. Refer to the manufacturer’s directions for the appropriate length of time.
Step 11 – Seal. After all this work, you want to protect the hearth from damage. Dropped ashes and coals can leave black stains, as can moisture from wet or snow-covered logs. To prevent this, you need to apply a sealant. Following the directions on the can, spray the grout sealer over the hearth. Do this when you can leave the house for a few hours to escape the fumes. To test the sealant, trickle water on the grout to see if it beads up. It may need several coats.
Step 12 – Trim work. You may want to frame out your tile job. We put an oak frame around ours to cover the crack where the tile abuts the new vinyl covering the rest of the floor.
Step 13 – Replace the woodstove, light a fire and enjoy!
Carol J. Alexander writes from the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia where she enjoys rural living with her husband and six children.
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