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.
Time: 2 days for an 8x8-foot wall
Skill Level: Intermediate
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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