Need advice on refacing huge stone fireplace

abundantblessingsAugust 14, 2008

Our home has a huge 15' tall rough rock- not stacked stone- fireplace. Not only do we really not like its rustic appearance with large mortar joints, but it is much too large and overwhelming in our modest-sized family room. In a previous home we drywalled over a brick fireplace and installed marble surround and hearth. We'd like to get a similar look here, but the large, chunky rocks unevenly butt against built-in cabinets to either side with very little clearance to open the cabinet doors.

A couple of contractors think the rocks are real and not a facade since similar rocks are on the exterior. Can't afford a huge remodeling job so I thought perhaps a plywood or decorative paneled box could be built in sections and placed over the rocks. Some type of decorative tile surround will be used for appearances and to comply with code.

Any suggestions how best to proceed?

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You can do it the way you suggest although it may be difficult to attach the plywood (near the firebox opening you can use cement board which meets the code requirements for non-combusitble materials). However, I would suggest that you use mortar, and trowel it on in a sufficient quantity so that it fills up the irregularities and mortar joints and you end up with a reasonably smooth surface. You may have to do it in two coats - first partially filling in the recesses and then a finish coat - the reason is that otherwise a thick coat may sag before it dries. Then you will end up with a surface that is perfect for adhering stone or ceramic tiles to (and it won't stick out into the room as far as a plywood overlay), or even dry wall if you use lead or plastic anchors. This assumes that the existing stone has not been coated with something that will cause the mortar not to stick. If it has, you can use fortified thinset mortar, although it is messier to work with. Hope this helps. Also, since it's 15 feet high you will need a sturdy ladder or even scaffolding (cheap to rent) since the mortar is heavy and you need leverage to apply it.

    Bookmark   August 15, 2008 at 8:20PM
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Thanks. I hadn't thought about mortaring it in since the stones are so irregular with some projecting 3+". I'll check into it. The overlay approach seemed easiest -- in theory at least.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2008 at 12:01PM
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