Here is Max’s fireplace surround. He bought some new tiles to give some more contrast to the room – also, a few of the original floor tiles were cracked. He asked me to re-tile. I suggested going over the existing tile and he went along with it–it brought the new tile to the same level as the carpet. And saved a ton of work and mess.
The first step was to clean the tile and then paint it with Eco Prim Grip. It’s a rubbery cement paint, believe it or not. Then I used contact cement to place aluminum trim around the fireplace. The reason for this was to hide the edges of both the new tiles, and a few of the old ones as well. (They got spray painted black later).
Then I laid out the tile. It was fairly straightforward because it was the same size as the old tile. The only hiccup was the aluminum trim, which pushed the tile out a little bit and caused some extra notching. I used a light mortar thinset to set the tile. Unfortunately I mixed it a bit wet, but it seemed to stay in place.
The next day I grouted the joints and caulked the edges with a similar colour Dap. It turned out very nice. It was not easy, though–gives me some respect for “real” tilers!