Fireplace Stone

The stone veneer that I’ve been talking about putting up for the last couple of posts is mostly finished now.  We put the last piece for the wall up last night.  I still have to put the pieces around the hearth, but that needs to be built up some more before I can do that.

Once we got past the sides it went pretty quickly, we did it in 5 sessions each only an hour or two.  The last row was by far the biggest pain.  Picking out the last 4 or 5 stones was espicaly difficult, since not only did they have to be just the right height, and length, but we also were running low on stones to choose from.  And then to make matters worse, once we had finally gotten everything to fit, I managed to drop and break one of them.

I think it looks pretty nice, although there are one or two gaps that are a little bigger than I would like.  You can also see some more in work shots over in the Gallery.

Starting the fireplace!

After much preparation, (picking the stone, getting the stone, lathe, scratch coat…) we finally started putting up the stone yesterday.  We started by laying out about half of the stone on the floor.  This way there were plenty to pick from, as well as mixing the different boxes (which could vary in color) together.  Then we started what is basicly a giant jigsaw puzzle.  Since the stones can’t really be cut (unless the end isn’t going to be seen) each stone must be fitted perfectly into place.  We had decided to do a ‘Dry Stacked’ layout, where there is no mortar in between the stones, so the gaps have to be as small as possible.   Jess did most of the stone picking while I spent most of the time buttering and placing the stones.  In this fashion we were able to get this much done in an hour or two.


The family room is getting some nice stone for around the fireplace, and stone requires mortar to install.  Mortar comes in many different types (the main ingredients being cement and sand), but they’re all dirty, and they’re all heavy.  For our fireplace we got a 94lb bag of Portland cement, a couple of 70lb bags of Type N Masonry Cement, and a 50 lb bag of thinset.  In addition we got a handful of 50lb bags of sand to use as aggregate.  Now since I’m not a civil engineer I haven’t taken any classes on Cement, so I’m just going by the manufacturer’s recommendations.  Eldorado Stone recommends that the scratch coat be made out of 2 Parts Type N Masonry Cement, and 3-5 parts sand.  They also say that the mortar should be 2 parts modified thinset, 3 parts Portland cement, and 7 parts sand.    The only problem with all of this, is that all of these products are basically crushed stone, and are therefore all very heavy.  This means that we had about 600lbs worth of material in the trunk of my car, which is probably significantly more than it was designed for.

Bluestone Hearth

The hearth of our old fireplace was made of the same bricks that make up the wall.  For the new fireplace we ordered a nice big piece of Pennsylvania bluestone.   The 5’x18″x2″ piece of bluestone weighed in at about 250lbs, so once agian I called upon my friend Greg to not only transport the stone home, but to also give me a hand installing it.

I left a decent bit of the old brick hearth behind, so that I wouldn’t need to use that much mortar to set the stone in.  Once I decoded the nomenclature of the various Quickrete products they sell at Lowes, I was able to mix up some mortar using a 3-1 ratio of sand (All-Purpose as opposed to the Play, and Medium sand) and Type N Masonry cement.  I mixed it with some water till it was reasonably thick but still workable.  I’ve read that the most common mistake first-timers make when mixing cement is to add to much water, so I tried to avoid that.  Once the mortar was mixed (which was a surprising amount of work) I spread it on top of the remaining bricks, and then lowered the stone into place.  I used a small piece of 2×4 to keep the piece level while it setup.

My Pickup Truck

When I bought my car, I was living at home with my parents.  I needed to haul around my friends but not much else.  Thats why at the time a BMW 325i Sedan sounded like a great idea.  It could fit 5 people in reasonable comfort, and was fun to drive.  Heck I didn’t even get the fold down seats because “when was I ever gonna use that”.  Fast forward 5 years and now I really wish I had gotten a full size pickup instead.  Today I had to go pickup the stone veneer that will surround the fireplace.  Since I’d already bummed a ride off my friend to go pickup the five foot long, 250lb stone hearth,  I was stuck getting this myself.  5 Boxes, 80lbs a piece.

At the stone yard, the forklift guy starts laughing at  me, particularly after only one box will fit in the trunk.  I managed to get the rest in the car, and could have even fit a 6th box in the back seat!  Of course the waxy boxes did make a bit of a mess of the interior, but thats cleaned easily enough.