It is hard to know where to begin in choosing the right stone to cover your fireplace. Whether you are having one built from scratch or remodeling an existing surround, where can one find a comprehensive list of the products available?
With that question in mind, I decided to compile what products and suppliers I am aware of that are available in the Greater Seattle Area. For this article, I will stick to strictly natural stone as opposed to the faux varieties or tile.
By a longshot, Marenakos Rock Center has the greatest variety of stone products: full-thickness stone, natural thin stone veneers, capping slabs (for mantels and hearths, etc.) and cobbles (tumbled rectangular pieces for trim and accents). The sales staff there is very knowledgeable and helpful, and they have a huge indoor showroom with many impressive examples of fireplaces along with an array of sample panels of all of their thin veneers. That should be your first stop when trying to imagine what your own fireplace could look like.
One of their most popular thin stone varieties is called Ocean Pearl Ledgestone which is quarried and fabricated on Vancouver Island in British Columbia by K2 Stone. I have done several surrounds with this material, at times incorporating some of their other varieties like the Ocean Pearl Cobbles and the Rustic (also called Arbutus) which has more of a random shape to it. The quarry’s website has a huge gallery of photos showing all the different available styles used in a variety of different applications.
Marenakos also carries several other brands including Buechel Stone, based in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin. They specialize in various limestone strains that are common in the midwest. Another brand they carry is Stone Solutions out of Arizona. Some of these products are special order only, so be sure and ask a salesperson if you are interested.
When it comes to sourcing custom-made capping stones, it is also hard to beat Marenakos who operate a full fabrication shop. They can cut, split, and tumble a decent variety of materials to order, plus they can hand-tool the surfaces to your specifications. For instance, a smooth, saw-cut edge can be textured by “thermalling”, a process by which water followed by a welding torch leaves behind a rough surface that mimics a more natural exterior. Local granite and sandstone are their main capping choices along with the ready-to-go Pennsylvania Bluestone, of which they keep a large supply. They recently started carrying Texas Limestone, which is quite beautiful.
Another choice nearby is Lakeview Stone and Garden in University Village, Seattle. While most of their inventory is focused on landscape-related stone, they do have their own unique selection of varieties, particularly useful if you are going for a traditional, full-thickness veneer. Though they do not have fabrication services, they do have quite a lot of imported, hand-tooled capstones that have an interesting look to them. And if you are looking for Pennsylvania Bluestone, they have just about every dimension available including thin tiles of various sizes.
A couple of times I have bought veneer stone from a place in Burlington, WA called Cascade Stone Supply who carry product made by Natural Stone Veneers International (NSVI). I like the variety that this company has to offer, and the example photos on their website are attractive. However, something to consider is that the material must be picked up, and Burlington is no short journey, especially if you end up needing to go back for more or to return your leftovers.
Looking at photos online can be a great help in deciding what direction to go, but remember that it is always best to see these things in person as stone is very hard to photograph successfully. It can look vastly different depending on how it is lit and the context in which it is placed. Be sure and take a look in person when you get the chance – most stone yards will give out a free sample that you can take home and see in its proposed environment.
by Mark Shepherd www.ShepherdStoneworks.com
Bringing the finest in Stone Masonry to the Greater Seattle Area.
Natural stone walls, patios, steps and rockery of all sizes.
Mortared stone veneers, fireplace surrounds, and interiors.
Integrated landscape design and installation.