Look how much progress we've made on the fireplace!
Yes, it looks like a bit of a mess right now, but it's changed a lot since you last saw it four months ago. Here's where we last left it:
Now, you can barely see any of that terrible orange-y brown. All the sheets of tile are up. What Dan ended up doing was fitting and placing full, unaltered sheets on the fireplace and coming back later to fill in the edges with individual tiles. He did a row at a time, letting them completely set before going onto the next one.
The only real challenging one was the one that bridged the opening. It took two sets of hands and was almost a disaster. If we were to do it again, I would set them in the spanning row until it just reaches the opening, let them dry completely, then do the thinner bridge pieces.
The lefthand wall edge and the gas key hole (what the hell is that called?) are done, but the righthand wall and the fireplace opening are still left to do.
My job in all this fun is to clean the tiles. That's what all those weird, ugly dark spots are. Just wet, clean tiles. I sit for an hour every evening on that tiny stool and remove the extra, messy mortar that Dan accidentally got on the tiles when installing them. I've worked out a pretty good system with a bowl of warm, clean water, a stiff bristled toothbrush, and tooth pics.
Since it will be impossible to fill in all the gaps and get the edges perfectly smooth, Dan found a grout in the identical color of the tiles. The plan is to just it to fill in all the tiny little gaps, the ones that are big enough to see, but not big enough to tile. We may end up using some of it to line the opening of the fireplace. And there's still the interior of the fireplace to do, too. They make black thermal paint for things like that, right?
We're finally in the home stretch. Once all the tiles are installed and cleaned, carpet can be reinstalled. Since tiling is such a dirty process, no point in installing carpet until the fireplace tile is 100% done. And once there's carpet, there can furniture again. Maybe in time for Thanksgiving so my dining room doesn't look like this anymore:
Although it worked great for getting out of hosting last year so maybe it's best not to rush.