If you want the short version, we took our fireplace from this:
Here’s the long version of how we got there-
After tearing out our old bulky insert, and hiring a contractor to move our gas line and install a new insert, we left off with a fully functional but not so pretty fireplace just waiting for the finishing touch- stone! I reasearched the heck out of it (which is kinda what I do) and found a manufactured stone (think lighter and cheaper) that looked impressively real, and was what the pro contractors use in a lot of homes. One of our local stores had a huge selection in stock, AND had beautiful displays set up so I could see what I was really getting instead of relying on a google image.
There are several different colors, styles, and installation types and we ultimatey decided on the stacked stone “panel” version that gives the look of stacked stone without the professional stone mason skill requirement of fitting all the stones together. There were different lengths of the stone pieces and corners in different configurations that we tried to randomize as much as possible to get that perfectly imperfect look.
Before we could start setting the stone, we had to install cement board and tape and mud all of the seams and screws. These are the boring, tedious, no fun parts of the project that I would probably skip steps and rush through, which is why I can’t be trusted to do big projects alone 😉.
We bought several bags of traditional mortar, but then decided to give this stuff a try.
We used a 1X2 spacer along the bottom before starting our first row to allow our flooring to be installed underneath the stone when we get to that point. And then we got started placing the stones! I was so excited to get those first few rows up and finally feel like we were making some progress! After a lot of research, here’s our method we used and a few tips and tricks-
- I would lay out several of each type of stone (corners, small, med, large lengths) on the floor and then pre-assembled my rows 2-3 at a time. This way I could make sure I was staggering joints and using a variety of patterns of the stones. There was only one spot that I missed and didn’t notice several of the same style of stones stacked on top of each other, but I got lucky and the TV covers most of it.
- I prepped for two rows of stone at a time. I wet the cement board, then spread mortar and notched the entire length of the row. Then I back buttered each stone as I placed them. Since I had my rows all laid out on the floor, it made getting them on the wall go very quickly!
- We stopped after every few rows and made sure the stones were adhering. They should give quite a bit of resistance when you try to take them off. We also checked for level about this often. Paint sticks made for great shims!
- We did 4-5 rows at a time and then allowed at least a day for them to cure. It took us the course of a couple weeks to finish, but we were concerned about the weight of the stone and wanted to do it right. Plus, it worked out well for our part-time DIY schedule to work on it in little chunks at a time.
- We used a grinder to make cuts and a soaked sponge wrung out over the stone to cut down the dust. My cuts got much better as I went, and I liked the ones where I angled the cut in to the back of the stone so that the front almost overlapped the nighboring stone. Does that make sense? It contoured the stone and made it look a bit more natural than a flat straight cut.
We reinforced where the TV will be mounted with plywood and painted it black to make it less noticeable. Remember, behind the cement board we also added 2×4 supports to hold the weight.
Along the very top row where the stone meets the ceiling we used a liberal amount of liquid nails to secure those stones. It would have been near impossible to trowel that area (and I’m sure a huge mess on the ceiling and neighboring stones), and there’s no weight on them, so it was an easy decision.
When we went to fit the mantle back on we ran into two little issues. We hadn’t drilled our holes in the wood quite deep enough which was an easy enough fix. We also hadn’t accounted for the varying stone to keep the mantle from sitting flush against the stone.
Eeeek! I love it! The mantle is everything, don’t you agree?!?!
This was by far the biggest project we’ve tackled together yet, and we came out alive. Now that we’ve started this whole thing, next up will be replacing all of the flooring in the great room and kitchen, taking out a few walls, and completely gutting our kitchen.
Wish us luck!