Updated Mantel: Plaster Repair and Painted Tile

Terra cotta tile on wall and on fireplace mantle, before.

Before: Terracotta tile on wall and on fireplace mantel.

Fireplace mantle with wall tiles removed and mantle tiles painted.

After: Fireplace mantle with wall tiles removed and mantel tiles painted.

A while back, we began a project at my house to paint the living/dining room floors. As often happens, there was scope creep –  before we could paint the floor, we had to rip out the wood stove and remove the wood stove hearth and lay tile for a new non-ugly hearth. As long as we had crowbars in hand, we removed the ugly terracotta tiles that were attached to the wall above the mantel.

We were left with a huge area of plaster that needed to be patched, plus there was a significant vertical crack above it from the house/chimney settling.

Wall after tiles removed.

Wall after tiles removed. Hmmm, looks a little frightening.

We did some research online and went with the simplest repair method. We can’t claim that it was the best/correct/most authentic way to go, but it turned out just fine.

Here’s what we did:

Step 1:

  • removed all loose pieces of plaster.
  • cut and screwed in 1/8″ plywood for patch, using a paper template for odd-shaped areas.
  • widened cracks with utility knife by inserting knife into cracks and twisting to remove plaster. Widening the cracks and making them “v” shaped helps the new plaster better bond to the old plaster.

Step 2:

  • dampened joints with damp rag for better bonding.
  • mixed Dap Bonding Liquid with Dap Presto Patch and patched large joints with drywall knife.
  • let dry.

Step 3:

  • applied sheet rock tape over large joints, applied joint compound over tape.
  • let dry, sanded.
  • applied another layer of joint compound, feathered edges out past first layer.
  • gently pressed sponge into semi-dry joint compound for added texture.

After the patch was completely dry, we primed and painted it.

The texture is not a perfect match – the difference is obvious when you shine a bright light across it, but looks fine in normal lighting.

And one more thing:

I never liked the terracotta tile on the top of the mantel, but instead of removing it, we thought it would much simpler to paint it with gray floor paint. We also dabbed the same gray paint onto the red brick of the fireplace face, in order to tie it all together.

How we painted the tile:

  • cleaned tile thoroughly
  • sanded with 150 sandpaper
  • primed with special primer/bonder, avoiding all grout lines.
  • painted with 2 coats of floor paint

The completed project:

Fireplace mantle with wall tiles removed and mantle tiles painted.

Yay! No more red brick or terracotta tile!


Even the wooden hand thinks it looks A-OK.


We still need to caulk between the tile and the wall, but that can wait (and wait and wait).

See more of Heidi’s artwork at Old Stuff. New Stories.

5 thoughts on “Updated Mantel: Plaster Repair and Painted Tile

  1. Oh man, that looked like a big project. I had to do some drywalling in an old closet b4 we moved. For some reason the original owners just used that plywood basement sheeting. I sanded and sanded and it was still not smooth in a bright light. In the end, I just removed the lightbulb…ta-da, done.
    Have you ever started a project and then said, oh crap…I’m in over my head. I may have done that with my tea trolly. It’s all apart, I used two different varnish removers that have made a mess…now I’m just going to use a palm sander. I still have to put it all together again, oh GULP.

    • I hear you about getting in over your head. And then it gets so that you dread coming back to work on it. Sometimes if it gets to not be fun, I usually have Monica and Mary Jean come over and get me kickstarted. That usually helps. If you have no one to help with that, maybe just give it a break, come back to it later and then decide if it is worth picking up again. It’s not fun if it’s not fun! (my wisdom of the day)

      • Thanks for sharing your wisdom, I respect your experience a lot. I plan to get back too it now that the weather has smartened up. Yesterday and today was the first full days of sun in a while. I need to have the garage door open due to the fumes and it’s been raining non-stop (not the amounts they got in southern Alberta, that’s for sure). I’ll be sure to post whenever it comes together. :/ fingers crossed.

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