If you are thinking of remodeling your fireplace surround with a stone façade, it helps to know all of the work that goes into building one that is really worth the investment. The process tends to be a bit more involved than people expect, if only because of all the structural work that takes place before a single stone is mortared to it. But when it is done right from beginning to end, a new surround will very noticeably improve any home.
Whether the stone is being attached to brick or wooden framing/substrate, there are a number of steps that have to be taken to make sure that the end product is as durable as it is beautiful. This involves the installation of some kind of reinforcement – either a steel lathe material or in the case of a full-thickness stone veneer (around 4″ thick), the use of steel strips known as “wall ties”.
This reinforcement is what achieves a positive and reliable bond with the base material, whereas if you simply mortared on to a surface with no firm attachment, the entire veneer could some day peel off in chunks. Not what you want.
Likewise, if a wooden mantel is involved, the connection made with the interior framing and/or brick substrate must be built like a tank. There should be no movement at all in the piece once it is attached. Not only would a flimsy mantel be cheap and flimsy in character, the chance of it coming undone when someone puts their whole weight against it is too much to overlook.
The biggest time-consuming step though is by far the stone veneer itself. Though a well-made surround, like any work of art, might give one the illusion that it came together in a day or two – nothing could be further from the truth. If the pieces of stone on a surround that you see seem to fit together in a graceful and balanced way, I guarantee that someone spent a great deal of time achieving that look.
It is important that a fireplace look attractive, finished and professional. It is something you will see every day, up close for the forseeable future, and it will add beauty, warmth and added value to your home.
by Mark Shepherd www.ShepherdStoneworks.com
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