DIY Fireplace Surround

Perk up an old fireplace with this DIY fireplace remodeling project that uses stone veneer to completely transform the look of a fireplace facade.


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DIY Stone Veneer Fireplace: Getting Started

The texture-rich building technique of stacking stone appears in fencing, foundations, walls, and fireplace surrounds in both rustic and modern homes. Thanks to new materials, seasoned do-it-yourselfers can try their hands at stacked-stone projects without breaking their backs or budgets.

Choose Stone Veneer. Home centers and stone quarries now sell stone facing -- 1- to 3-inch-thick slabs of stone -- in a mix of standard sizes. Some products are real rock (split fieldstone and limestone are popular), but quality synthetic options are also available. Molded from concrete, synthetic stone features textures and shapes that often mimic more expensive and heavier natural materials.

Get a Dry-Fit Look Without the Fuss. Real dry-fit masonry is time-consuming; a mason must cut each block to fit together snugly without mortar. To cheat the look using stone veneer, simply spread mortar on the back of a stone and press it onto any sturdy base surface. Think of it as a really rustic tiling project.

What You Need:

  • 1/4-inch plywood
  • Felt paper
  • Metal lath
  • Staple gun
  • 1/2-inch staples
  • Metal snips
  • Scissors
  • Stone veneer (real or manufactured)
  • Mortar mix
  • Mortar box or large bucket
  • Mason's hoe or other stirring tool
  • Square trowel
  • Pointed trowel
  • Mortar bag
  • Stiff brush
  • Level

Time: 2 days for an 8x8-foot wall

Skill Level: Intermediate

Create a Sturdy Base

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Securely attach a layer of plywood to the wall or fireplace surround. Staple felt paper over the plywood, and then sheets of metal lath on top of the felt paper. Lath perforations should slant down and in toward the wall, not out.

Apply Mortar to Wall

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Plan your stone pattern. Arrange the stones until you're satisfied with the fit and arrangement. After you determine your stone layout, mix the mortar. Starting in a lower corner, trowel a coat of mortar onto the lath, leaving no lath exposed. Work in 3x3 foot sections.

Apply Mortar to Stone

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Back-butter the stones one by one with a pointed trowel. Don't worry about applying too much mortar; the excess will squeeze out and fill the joints between the stones.

Press Stones in Place

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Start in a low corner of the wall or fireplace surround and work in horizontal layers. Push each back-buttered stone into the mortar and hold for 30 seconds. Prop higher or heavier stones in place with a 1x4 board.

Check Your Work

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Continue laying stone rows in the same way, following your predetermined stone arrangement. Use a mortar bag to fill any wide joints or deep pockets with mortar. After the mortar sets slightly, remove excess mortar with a stiff brush. Periodically use a level to check that the layout is roughly horizontal. Let the mortar cure according to the manufacturer's instructions.

Make Easy Corners

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Most stone-veneer manufacturers offer specially formed L-shape corner pieces. Corner stones cost a bit more, but they're worth the convenience. Back-butter and set corners just like regular stones.

Stone-Stacking Tips

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  • Plan your project design. Mortar sets in about 30 minutes, so figure out how you'll arrange stones before you mix or apply mortar. Dry-lay the stones on a sheet of cardboard or a drop cloth. Be sure to offset the stones from row to row so the vertical joints (the spaces between the stones) do not line up.
  • Consider the details. For the look of built-in display ledges, install wall shelves before applying stone or brick veneer. Fit the stones around shelves and any brackets with the help of a chisel and hammer.
  • Stay tight. The thinner the joints, the more professional-looking the final effect. You might need to chip some stones with a chisel and hammer for a flush fit.
  • Choose your finish look. If you don't want the dry-stack look, use a mortar bag to fill wide or deep joints with mortar. Let the mortar set slightly, and then clean off excess with a stiff broom or brush. Use a dowel or old spoon to press and smooth the mortar between the joints.

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