A brick wall adds a rustic look to a home, and many homeowners find brick to be an attractive decorative accent. If you are ready to change the look of your home, however, removal of brick is a costly and difficult endeavor.
Painting a brick wall is an option that changes the look, but you still have brick. For a new look, consider laying tile over the brick surface as an alternative. As long as your wall is structurally sound, you can lay tile directly over the brick around a fireplace, as a kitchen backsplash or on any brick wall in your home.
A brick wall must be solid and free of loose bricks to be used for tile installation. Otherwise, there is a risk that the tiles will not stay affixed to the wall. Proper surface preparation will ensure a satisfactory end result. You can remove loose mortar with a side grinder or a wire brush. A brick fireplace wall may have accumulated soot and grime. Washing the wall thoroughly before beginning your project provides a good surface for thinset to adhere to. Brick walls are not an even surface. A layer of thinset mixed with latex adhesive provides an acceptable surface for tiling. The thinset needs to be pushed into the mortar lines of the bricks and smoothed with a flat trowel. Apply a second coat of thinset once the first coat has dried for a more even finish.
Before setting your tiles, lay them out to determine the best placement. This will help you with centering the tiles and knowing which tiles will need to be cut to fit. After determining the placement, spread a layer of thinset over a small section of wall. Set the tiles in the pattern you have predetermined, placing spacers between them. After the tiles are in position, spread grout over the tiles, pushing it into the grout lines. Wipe excess grout from the tiles with a damp cloth as you go so it doesn’t dry on the tiles.
A straight, level line is helpful when determining placement of wall tiles to get the entire wall of tiles level. When placing tiles around a fireplace, take the time to create a level line at the firebox opening. This is the central focus for a fireplace, and an uneven row of tiles here distracts from the beauty of the tiled wall. Nailing a board directly beneath the first row of tiles at the opening to the firebox gives you a level base line, and the tiles can rest on the board until set to prevent slipping down the wall. If you are using decorative tiles in the design, take time to determine their placement before beginning to set tiles.
Tiling a brick wall in a bathroom requires special considerations. You need to provide a moisture-free surface. Attach cement-fiber board to the wall for a strong moisture-resistant surface rather than smoothing the wall with thinset. If the wall is around the shower or tub, leave a 1/8-inch gap between the tiles and the tub surround. When tiling is complete, fill the gap with silicone caulk, which will allow for expansion and moisture resistance.