You are currently viewing Fireplace Mantel Surround | How To Install Brick Veneer

Would you agree that having a fireplace in a room helps make it feel cozy? A fireplace mantel and surround complete the look and add architectural interest to any space. Continue reading to see how we finished our fireplace surround by installing brick veneer.

We’ll share our DO’s and DON’TS to help you save time and money.

If you’ve been following along with our fireplace series, we’re glad to have you back again! This post will wrap up our series. If you missed any of the previous steps you can click the links below.

How To Install A Fireplace Insert

How To Build A Faux Wood Beam Mantel

How To Restore Vintage Corbels

How To Add Molding And Trim Work To Mantel Surround

Tap the video 👇🏻 below 👇🏻 to see this project come together from start to finish.

Fireplace Surround | Choose Materials

brick veneer

If you’ve learned anything about me during our blogging journey, you know that I’m a sucker for all things with an old, weathered, and worn look!

I wanted to incorporate a material in our surround that would be timeless and look great with any style my little heart might be drawn to.

Ultimately we chose to use Boston Mill from Floor & Decor. I was immediately drawn to all of the imperfections and worn edges, and knew it would work well in our space.

How To Install Brick Veneer

brick veneer

The Boston Mill brick veneer comes on a web for easy installation. Since our fireplace surround is small we opted to cut the webbing apart so we had individual brick pieces to work with.

(We actually ended up removing the webbing from each brick piece because they were falling off as we cut the webbing apart.)

brick veneer

Using a small notched trowel tool, we buttered each brick with a premixed tile adhesive.

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brick veneer

After applying a nice thick layer of adhesive, we used the notched edge of the trowel tool to remove any excess. This will leave the correct amount of adhesive on the backside of each brick.

Fireplace Surround Brick Pattern

brick veneer

A typical brick pattern (as seen on the webbing) shows the bricks are staggered. Since the side spaces of our fireplace surround are only 7″ wide, we opted to stack the brick veneer right on top of one another to minimize the amount of cuts we’d have to make.

(We did install the bricks in a staggered pattern above the fireplace insert.)

brick veneer

In order for the fireplace surround to look symmetrical it’s important to locate and mark the middle of the fireplace insert.

brick veneer

To begin installing the bottom row of staggered bricks above the fireplace insert, we placed a brick on each side of the center mark.

Then the first brick to be installed on the second row will be centered on the mark.

brick veneer

The third and top row of brick veneer was a slightly smaller area. We used a small wet tile saw to trim off about 1/4″ to have them fit in the space.

brick veneer
brick veneer

As we installed the brick veneer we used scraps of the trim molding from the previous week’s project and cut them into small pieces to use as spacers.

After about 30 minutes the bricks were adhering well and we removed the spacers. Some of them were even a little challenging to remove because they had a little adhesive on them.

If any of the bricks pop off or are moved at all when removing the spacers, simply move back into place and hold it firmly for about 30 seconds and it will regain its bond.

Fireplace Surround | Mixing Grout

brick veneer
brick veneer

When mixing grout it’s important to follow the specific directions per brand you’re using.

Begin by pouring the measured amount of water into a large mixing bucket. Next slowly dump the measured grout powder into the bucket.

(You may want to wear a face mask while mixing it together. It does put a lot of dust into the air.)

PRO TIP: Run a vacuum hose near the top of the mixing bucket while pouring and mixing the grout powder to minimize the dust in the air.

Use a trowel tool or a mixing attachment on your drill to mix the grout together. Again be sure to follow the directions per the specific brand you’re using. We mixed ours for 5 minutes, let sit for 10, then mixed again for 1.

PRO TIP: You’ll know you’ve achieved the right consistency when the grout mixture resembles toothpaste. To test that it’s the correct consistency, scoop a little of the mixture onto the trowel and hold it upside down. If the grout sticks to the trowel and doesn’t fall off (without some forceful shaking) you’ve achieved the right consistency.

The DON'TS To Grout Application

I need to add a little disclaimer here…up until this point, this was the first tile job my hubby Dan and I have ever tackled.

Don’t let that scare you off just yet! This simply means you have first hand access to learning from OUR mistakes so you can avoid making them yourself! We live and learn right?

We definitely have some tips on what NOT to do while applying grout, and what you SHOULD DO while applying grout!

brick veneer

Mistake #1: DON’T use a ziploc bag for grout application!

(You can hear all about my little shopping story in the video tutorial about not having a piping bag. Thanks to Covid-19 for this unique shopping experience! 🙄)

brick veneer

Mistake #2: DON’T try to smooth out the grout too soon!

Again this was our first time grouting which I’ll admit was not one of our finest moments.

It’s a little embarrassing to admit, since I’m the one sharing how to apply grout. 

We definitely learned from our mistakes, and hope you’ll learn from them too so you can avoid making them!

Just look at this MESS we’re making! 😳

brick veneer

After our first grouting attempt this is what our fireplace surround looked like.

Because we tried to smooth out the grout too soon, it was ultimately still too wet, and as much as we tried to avoid getting the grout on the front of the bricks, it was near impossible!

In the end we had more of the whitewashed, or German schmear look. Which isn’t bad if that’s what you’re going for. I actually do like this look, but I was hoping to have a little more of the red color showing.

The DO'S To Grout Application

brick veneer

DO: Use the proper tools to get the best results!

During our first grouting attempt, we ran out of grout due to some hardening before we used it.

This time around, I knew I couldn’t go inside the store to get what I needed…so I resorted to online shopping. I also couldn’t help but feel this whole grouting job should be easier! So I searched for a grout bag…and sure enough there is such a thing! So I quickly ordered a grout bag and another 10lb. bag of grout.

Your grouting experience (and work) will go SO much more smoothly and look SO much better if you’re using the right tools!

(The sad thing is, the grout bag was only about $5, had I been able to shop in the store while getting supplies the first go around, I would’ve looked for one and snagged it!)

brick veneer

DO: allow the grout to dry enough before attempting to smooth it out.

This time around, we decided to wait a while before smoothing out the grout. The waiting time will be different depending on different indoor temperatures and humidity levels.

Keep an eye on it and check every 5 minutes or so. To test if it’s ready or not, simply dab your finger onto the grout.

If the grout sticks to the glove and pulls up then it’s still too wet.

If the grout smooths down and doesn’t lift up when you pull your finger up, it’s ready to be smoothed out.

Removing Excess Grout

brick veneer

After our second attempt at applying the grout, we were much happier with the results!

Ultimately I did want more of the red color to be exposed, so I used a stiff plastic bristled brush from the dollar store to scrub away much of the excess.

I had a cup of water to dip the brush into, and a wet washcloth to wipe the brick “clean” after scrubbing.

brick veneer

Take a look at that difference!

Like I say if you’re going for the whitewashed or German schmear look, by all means you can call it good at this point!

I’m just happy I was able to get a bit more of that red color exposed.

brick veneer

Here’s a look at the fireplace surround with the left hand side scrubbed and the right hand side with the excess grout.

brick veneer

Once you’re happy with the grouting job, you’ll want to seal it. This will provide a moisture barrier and help prevent staining and keep it looking as good as new.

Before we sealed the brick, we also taped off the fireplace surround and used a tile grout caulk to get nice crisp lines bordering the fireplace insert.

Add Finish Molding

brick veneer

To create a nice crisp edge along the outside edges of the brick where it meets the molding, we also added a cove molding.

You can see the difference this makes in the picture that’s labeled above.

Completed Fireplace Surround

brick veneer

At long last this fireplace surround is complete! I’m not gonna lie, this grouting experience was a bit stressful! But, if you avoid the mistakes we made you’ll save a lot of stress and get better results right from the get go!

brick veneer

When all was said and done, it was nice to sit back and appreciate all the work that went into this fireplace install!

brick veneer

I absolutely love the way everything turned out even amidst the setbacks! From these amazing 100+ year old antique corbels, to the details in the trim work and yes, even the old, weathered and worn brick work!

brick veneer
brick veneer

I had to do a thing! I “borrowed” these darling chambray chairs from our Master Bedroom Makeover, and am totally in love with how they look with our fireplace!

Looks like I’ll be buying more of these! 😁

brick veneer

What do you think? Do you like the way our fireplace turned out? Would you have done things differently? PLEASE share any tips on how you’d make this project any better or easier! We can all definitely learn from one another!

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And as always here at Sunny Side Design


brick veneer

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This Post Has 6 Comments


    Hi, Love the fireplace! What kind of “cove” molding did you use for the inside of the brick , next to the fireplace insert, that is fire resistant?

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Thank you Tracy, we are glad you loved the fireplace. The cove molding we used was just a wood molding. According to the National Fire code, combustable materials need to be 6 inches from the firebox. So we didn’t need a fire resistant molding there.

  2. Jim

    Looks great!
    But if you ever have to replace the fireplace, how do you get the old one out? Seems like you’ll have to pry out the veneer.

    1. Michelle Dickson

      Yes, that is true. Anytime you replace any fireplace box the tile/veneer surround would need to be replaced as well.

  3. Carrie

    It’s absolutely stunning!

    1. Stephanie Hofer

      Awe thanks so much Carrie! I’m so happy with the way it turned out, but am equally as happy that the project is finally finished! 😆

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