Your fireplace acts as the focal point of your living room. This has been the case throughout history, with people personalising their fireplaces in many different ways. One way in which people personalised their fireplaces was by installing tile inserts. It’s a trend which is now making a resurgence. Read on to find out how you can personalise your fireplace with tile inserts. 

What are fireplace tile inserts? 

It was during the Georgian era that it first became popular to add tiles in and around a fireplace. However, by the mid-1800s plain cast iron square framed and arched fireplaces were becoming common. This meant that it was more difficult to add tiles close to the fireplace opening.  

However, by the Victorian era this problem was solved and cast iron fireplaces were being manufactured with integrated ‘sliders’ or tile frames, so that tiles could be slid down either side of the fireplace opening. 

As the Victorian era progressed, fireplace tile inserts featured more and more elaborate designs. These designs developed from simple solid colours to complex hand painted floral or symmetrical patterns. 

Tile inserts continued to be a prominent feature of fireplaces during the Edwardian period as the Art Nouveau movement came to prominence. Tile inserts became a must-have for every home fireplace.

Since then, tile inserts have made a comeback as more and more people choose to have a traditional cast iron fireplace in their home. Whether you want your fireplace to harken back to the Edwardian or Victorian eras or you want a cast iron fireplace as part of a more contemporary decor, tile inserts will add an extra element of colour and life to your fireplace. 

Tube Lined Tiles

It’s important to note that fireplace tile inserts are also referred to as tube line or tube lined tiles. You may also see them referred to as ‘cheek’ tiles (because of how they are positioned on the fireplace).

‘Tube line’ refers to the way in which the tiles are manufactured. It’s a form of manufacture which stretches back over a century and involves a craftsman hand-piping a raised ridge onto the tile and then painting the spaces inbetween with coloured glazes and intricate patterns. It’s a technique which means fireplace tile inserts effectively become works of art in their own right. 

The way that tile inserts are produced does mean that no two sets of tiles will ever be exactly the same. You’ll also find that many tiles feature a slight crazing. This is nothing to worry about and is simply a result of the manufacturing process. 

So, much as you would buy a painting to hang on your living room wall, consider buying tile inserts to add art to your fireplace. 

Gallery Collection Normandy Cast Iron Tiled Insert

Gallery Collection Normandy Cast Iron Tiled Insert

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What do fireplace tile inserts do? 

Tile inserts serve a number of functions. Their primary function is aesthetic. Cast iron fireplaces are generally a shade of black, grey or silver. Tile inserts can add an elegant splash of added colour and design to the fireplace. 

Many tile inserts feature a glazed finish which means that when the fireplace is lit, the tiles ‘glow’, again adding another element of colour and boldness to your fireplace. 

However, tile inserts aren’t just nice to look at. They also serve a practical purpose, reflecting heat into your room. They are typically placed at an angle on the fireplace facing inward, essentially ‘focusing’ the heat from the fire. 

How do you fit fireplace tile inserts?

How you fit fireplace tile inserts depends on what type of cast iron fireplace you have. However, the general method of fitting or replacing tile inserts is as follows. 

Remove the fire surround and grate

The first task involves removing the fire surround and grate. This is a fairly big job and as the surround and grate can be heavy, you may want another person to help you.

To remove the fire surround you should look for the fixings holding it in place. Cast iron or wooden surrounds are normally fixed in place using screws. If you have a cast iron surround it is likely to have lugs on the sides which are easily located. Simply undo the screws and the surround will pull away from the wall (as we say, cast iron is very heavy so you’ll need some help). 

Removing the tile frame

In many cast iron fireplaces the tile inserts will be held in place using a tile frame. This is a simple frame held in place with a few nuts. Simply undo these nuts and the frame (along with the old tile if there is one) will come away. 

On some cast iron fireplaces you may instead find two vertical rails where a tile can be slid in and out. 

Whether there is a tile frame or a set of sliders make sure you are very careful when inserting your new tile. It can be easy to crack or drop the tile if you’re not paying enough attention. 

Note - Some tile inserts are left and right specific, so make sure you’ve put them in the right place before reassembling your fireplace!


Once the tiles are in place, it’s time to reassemble your fireplace. If your fireplace has a tile frame, then you’ll want to make sure you’ve secured it back in place with the nuts. You then follow this up by securing the surround back in place. This is normally as straightforward as screwing it back in place. 

The best cast iron fire tile inserts

If, having read this far, you’ve decided that it’s time to enliven your fireplace with some tile inserts, which ones are the best? We’ve selected some of our most popular tile inserts below. 

Cast Tec Mediterranean Poppy Cast Iron Tile Inserts

Cast Tec Mediterranean Poppy Cast Iron Sleeves

Cast Tec Mediterranean Poppy Cast Iron Sleeves

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If you want to add an extra element of pattern to your fireplace, yet remain subtle, then these Mediterranean Poppy tile inserts from Cast Tec make the perfect choice. 

You can choose from either completely matt black tiles, or you can select a highlighted finish in which the raised details of the tiles are lightly polished (pictured above). 

As these tile inserts are made from cast iron, they’ll blend perfectly with your fireplace as well as being high-quality and long-lasting. 

Gallery Collection Argyll Red and Ivory Fireplace Tiles

Gallery Collection Argyll Red and Ivory Fireplace Tiles

Gallery Collection Argyll Red and Ivory Fireplace Tiles

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If you’re looking for bold, eye-catching tile inserts, then you’ve just found them! The Gallery Collection Argyll Red and Ivory tile inserts are made using the tube line method, and as such feature hand piped raised ridges as well as vividly glazed and coloured sections.

These are the perfect tile inserts if you want to achieve an Art Nouveau look in your home. 

Cast Tec Field Poppy Yellow and Ivory Fireplace Tiles

Cast Tec Field Poppy Yellow and Ivory Fireplace Tiles

Cast Tec Field Poppy Yellow and Ivory Fireplace Tiles

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If more minimalistic designs are more to your liking, then consider the Cast Tec Field Poppy Yellow and Ivory tile inserts.

These tiles are reproductions of an original Edwardian design and are the ideal choice if you’re looking to create a rustic feel in your home. 

Explore a world of fireplace tile inserts

Fireplace tile inserts really can make a huge difference to the overall appearance of your fireplace. Whether you’re restoring an old fireplace, buying a new one or simply want to update your current fireplace, you’ll find tile inserts to suit you at Direct Fireplaces. 

Explore fireplace tiles at Direct Fireplaces today

Read more fireplace advice and information on the Direct Fireplaces blog

How to Restore a Cast Iron Fireplace | What Accessories Do I Need for My Fireplace? | How to Choose a Marble Surround for Victorian Fireplaces

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