A stone veneer fireplace is a simple way to add drama and old world elegance to your fireplace. Stone veneer doesn't look much different than real stone, and when installed correctly, most people will be unable to tell the difference. A veneer surround is relatively simple to install on your own, and should take a weekend at the most to complete.
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Step 1 - Apply the Felt
Starting at the bottom, staple builders felt in the areas where the veneer will go. You will want to overlap the lengths by at least two inches. Each length should be a continuous piece to prevent the moisture in the mortar from creeping behind it and causing damage.
Step 2 - Metal Lath
One side of the metal lath will have small cylindrical protrusions. This should face upwards. When placed correctly you can run your hand across the material and it will feel rough in a downward pattern, and smooth upwards. Nail lengths of the metal lath horizontally on the frame. These pieces should also overlap by at least two inches, and the nails should be placed approximately six inches apart. Once the lath is installed it will need to be bent around the fireplace and nailed to the framework on the sides.
Step 3 - Mortar
Veneer mortar should be mixed until it resembles peanut butter. Use a trowel to apply the mortar over the metal lath. Build the mortar up until it's about ½-inch thick. Before the mortar has dried, use the tiling trowel to create a textured groove. This is necessary to ensure the veneer will grab on and stay in place. Allow the mortar to dry overnight.
Step 4 - Create a Template
Lay your drop cloth in an area where you will have plenty of room to work. Lay the stone veneer out on the drop cloth in the pattern you are wanting to create the fireplace surround. Play around with this until you have a template you like. Use the masonry drill with a grinder to score the back sides of the corner pieces. You may have to remove excess material on the corner pieces to get an accurate fit. A brick hammer can be used to do this.
Step 5 - Prepare for Installation
You will want to install the header first, starting with the left corner piece. Use a spray bottle and wet the back of the stones and the area where the stone will be installed. The dampness will help create a stronger bond by slowing down the mortar curing process.
Step 6 - Install
Mix more mortar. This time it needs to be the consistency of pudding. Use the finishing trowel to apply the mortar to the back of the stones. Each stone will then be placed on the fireplace. Be sure the mortar isn't allowed to drip on the front of the veneers because it will stain. If this does happen, allow it to dry and use a broom to brush it off. Wiping it away while it's wet will cause it to be pushed further into the veneer stone and create a permanent stain.
Start with the header stones. Press the stone and wiggle it slightly until you can feel it connecting with the mortar you grooved earlier. Continue this throughout, leaving a space for the joint between each stone. Allow the mortar to cure for 24 hours.
Step 7 - Grout
With the mortar dried, you can begin to add ground in the finger joints between the stones. The grout should cure for about an hour. You can then sand it down to create an even finish. Allow everything to set for at least 48 hours before you use the fireplace.
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