Drystack Stone Fireplace
The good news is that over time, the daily page views of my blog is growing. The bad news is that roughly 2/3 of the traffic comes from keyword searches related to the various topics I write about. So, perhaps 1/3 of the people that visit my blog do so deliberately. While my end objective isn’t to have throngs of people reading my blog, it is helpful to know that somethings one writes about are more worthwhile than others. In this regard, the more “how to” posts related to construction seem to get more visits overtime.
That said, time for the next installment. We are finishing our fireplace and chimney inside the house. Due to time constraints during the primary construction period, the fireplace and chimney were completed to functional specs inside the house, which amounted to brick and block. Now, we are completing the cosmetics by mortaring in place, cultured ledgestone in a drystack appearance. The drystack term implies that there is no significantly visible mortar surround for each stone, as say, with brick. This gives the illusion that the stones are just carefully piled, or stacked in a roughly interlocking fashion.
The fireplace and chimney is roughly six feet wide , 2 and half feet deep (less hearth) and about 21 feet high due to the two story great room, and the sunken floor area. This picture below, taken from the second floor loft gives perspective on the relative scale. The ladder to the right is eight feet tall.
As seen, the hearth and some stonework had been completed at time of this picture. Here is a closer view showing a little more progress.
The “stones” are actually molded and colored concrete cast in silcon molds to very closely resemble actual rocks. The corners are “L” shaped pieces, and example resting on the middle of the hearth area. These stones are installed with type S masonry mortar just as brick or block. I back butter each stone, and allow a very small amount of mortar on the course below the stone I’m placing to help shim it in place. I use a 1/2″ tuck pointing trowel to pack the mortar in behind the stone from the top while holding it in place, and to clean up any mortar that is oozing out between the stones. A stiff, dry paint brush is useful to brush away excess mortar after it begins to dry. Brushing away wet mortar smears it on the stones, and when it drives, it leaves behind a light grey haze. I found acid cleaners to do a great job in subsequently removing this residue. To support the stone over the opening, I have bolted a 2″ x 2″ x 1/4″ thick steel lentil in place using expanding anchors drilled into the block and brick. After about six feet in height, I’ll have to set up scaffolds and planking to continue the work. I’ll cover that in my next update on this project. The hearth is comprised of 4 precast stones, the center two I cut down in width using a segmented diamond blade in a Stihl contractors saw. Stones are selected by size and color variation to produce the desired random appearance of the coursing, and to maintain a visual horizontal pattern. Care must be taken in selecting various pieces to arrive at the required row widths. Small amounts may be chipped away with a hammer, but the nature of the concrete makes it just as likely to chip the end as to break it in half. The saw can be used to cut to exact size, but natural stones don’t have perfectly square ends, so some artistry is required to achieve a more realistic appearance.
While I’m generally pleased with the effort so far, this being my first experience with the product, I’m hopeful that as the work progresses and visual mass is added, that the eye will focus more on the whole and less on any individual anomaly.