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Drystack Stone Fireplace

January 16, 2007

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.

13 Comments leave one →
  1. January 17, 2007 12:49 pm

    I see pallets of the same stuff being used at Building One at Lenovo. I’ll have to see if I can be there to watch how they put them up.


  2. Michael permalink
    January 31, 2007 5:14 am

    Searched high and low for a how to accomplish a dry stack stone appearance for my fireplace and found your blog entry. There’s a great deal of good help here. Thanks a bunch. Could you post pic close up of the steel lentil described? Cuz I don’t follow the dimensions as you specified them.

  3. Mary permalink
    January 2, 2008 1:19 pm

    I found your pictures to be really interesting. We are building and will have a 14′ drystack fireplace. I’m just getting ideas for it. I don’t think I want a “rustic” beam mantle – any suggestions?

    Is your project finished?

  4. Bob permalink
    December 14, 2008 12:39 am

    I live in Michigan and needed some brick work done for my stone fireplace. Well, like every easy project, this one turned out to get a little more complicated than I originally had imagined. The whole plan looked great on paper, but eventually I knew the building stone I had gotten wasn’t going to be enough. I got some recommendations from a buddy of mine, but I wanted to go with a company that has been around for a while and has a reputation that they stand behind. Another friend of mine suggested Lincoln Brick and Stone. I checked out their website (, made a couple of phone calls, and they really put my mind at ease. The project, on its way to being a complete masonry nightmare, wound up ending without incident. I would say “fun”, but since when is installing a new stone fireplace fun? Just to celebrate the hard fought victory over my stone fireplace, I had them throw in some custom engraving to seal the deal. I was generally very pleased with the work done by Lincoln Brick and Stone and would recommend them in a heartbeat for anyone who wants to have a stone fireplace, but might be a little reluctant to choose a company to use.

  5. Andy permalink
    October 19, 2009 11:51 pm

    I am about to start on a similar stacked stone journey and love the look of your Pre-cast stones…where does one find such things?? HELP!! I’m hoping that they are far lighter than the real thing, otherwise i have a lot of shoring up to do underneath the house. Any info and advice would be fantastic!
    Your completed project looks great, by the way. 🙂

  6. Jeff permalink
    March 20, 2011 11:29 pm

    Gorgeous work! Thanks for the pic.
    Need help with current project. Have gas fireplace (new construction) and dry stack stone on entire wall (Artistic Stone). Want to have stone extend down over top portion of fireplace insert (still above actual firebox.) No one seems to know how to handle this part….screw in lath? heat resistant adhesives?

    Any ideas.


    • March 22, 2011 12:21 pm

      Hey Jeff,

      Can you send along a picture of your fireplace so I can see more about what you have in mind? Mind you, I’m not a professional contractor, just a guy on the internet who likes to do things himself. Off the cuff, I’d say to make sure you have an angle iron lintel under the stone, and I like your idea of using wire lathe and screws.


  7. January 13, 2013 1:33 pm

    really should be a vapor barrier along with metal lathe behing the stone. even though it is an indoor fireplace, the culture stone can still extract the salt and minerals from the concrete blocks causing effresence.

    • March 4, 2013 1:38 pm

      t sawyer,

      Good advice, though I’ve not seen any signs of efflorescence so far. I really wanted the stone and mortar to bond to the block which is why I didn’t include a vapor barrier. Although, such a barrier plastic or tar paper, along with metal lathe could have allowed the stone to float and reduce the risk of cracking. If I had it to do over, I would probably add the metal lathe but still skip the vapor barrier. I understand this may not be “by the book”, but I might want to see how that worked out. I have a small micro crack developing, running up through several stones, starting several courses above the mouth of the fireplace. I have to assume this is caused by heat cycling as the face of the rock in this area gets fairly warm when you build a large fire. The use of metal lathe might have negated this, which is why I would say I would likely try lathe if I had to do it over. Thanks for the advice!

  8. Tonw permalink
    March 12, 2013 12:09 am

    I want to add dry stack stone around my garage door (16×7) opening. Is wire mess required on black paper? Total area approximately 75 sq. ft.
    Tony in LV

    • December 15, 2013 7:59 am

      If the house is wood framed / sheathed, and you have put tar paper over the sheathing, I would imagine that yes, you would secure wire mesh to it and use that as your base. The mortar would not directly adhere to the paper. I would recommend checking with a local masonry contractor to ensure you have the right materials.


  1. Drystack Ledgestone update « markitude
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