Yeah, not too pretty of a sight. At first we thought about having someone come tile the entire fireplace. We went to pick out some tile but I wasn't sure I was going to like how it looked even with my idea of white marble tile with a dark gray grout. Plus, we would have had to purchase the materials and pay someone for the installation (I don't think our DIY skills are that great yet...despite what the hubs would tell you).
We did a search for stonemasons around and came up empty handed as far as options. I kept saying I wanted white marble with some dark gray in it to match the color we chose to paint the paneling. Then my husband had the idea of searching for a countertop remnant since he could picture what I was looking for on a counter. We headed to USA Marble and Granite in Fairfax, VA. Not only was the selection great, it was kind of fun rooting through a warehouse of remnants to find just what we were looking for.
we decided on one that was just right for us:
For $280 (WELL over half of what tiling and labor would have cost us), they cut the stone, beveled three of the four edges (we left the fourth one flat so it would sit flush against the fireplace), and polished the stone.
All that was left was the install. The floor in the basement was tile. We knew we wanted to carpet it but we had to get this stone down first so that the carpet guys could work around this. We bought QuickSet cement and a trowel at the handware store. Then we laid the stone down at the fireplace hearth where we wanted it to go and traced around the edges with a pencil. We used an old bucket and mixed it with water and used the trowel to even everything back. We set the stone back on top and voila! We have a new (and much improved) fireplace hearth. I've got lots more work to do in the basement and certainly need to decorate the fireplace more (and get a screen) but here's what it looks like now:
Here's a close up of how they tacked the carpet underneath the new hearth so that everything is flush.
Close up of the beautiful gray marbling in the stone: