I meant to post this tutorial back around when I revealed my fireplace makeover but somehow it got pushed to the back burner. Thanks to a reader for reminding me that I hadn’t posted about it yet! This post contains affiliate links. You can read my full disclosure policy here.
In my post about the fireplace plan, you can read why we decided to go with the Desert Quartz Ledgestone from Lowe’s.
Because of the damage to the drywall we decided to cut out the area around the firebox and replace it with cement board. The cement board is better for holding tile and stone anyway, because it can hold more weight than regular drywall. With the cement board in place it was time to get down to business.
First, we applied a skim coat of stone adhesive. Basically you just blob the adhesive on the wall and smooth it out with a trowel. Let it dry completely. The guy at Lowe’s recommended the product below.
It’s already mixed and ready to go. I was a little anxious about using it because while I was researching for this project, I read a few comments where people suggested using a powder mortar and mixing it yourself. But I have been really happy with the performance of this adhesive. It was super easy to use and we have had no problems with it not holding. You will want to complete all of the steps below while the adhesive is still wet.
To apply the adhesive we used a trowel to plop large blobs onto the skim coat, smoothing it out as we went. Then, we went back over it with the teeth side of the trowel to make lines of grooves. Of course I don’t have a photo for you, though. This job was pretty messy and the last thing I wanted to do was take a break to go grab my expensive camera and shoot photos. #bloggerfail Just imagine what wet mortar would look like with little notched lines running through it. Kind of like running your fork through your mashed potatoes, right?!
After making the grooves with the trowel, we buttered the back of each piece of stone and pressed it into place on the wall. I love that these stones came in pre-glued sections. It would have been a nightmare to have to glue every single little individual stone in place. You just fit them together like a puzzle piece. I recommend laying out all of your tiles and mixing them up instead of grabbing each one straight out of the box since the colors do vary from box to box. It’s kind of like laying wood flooring in that you don’t want to have the same tone or color all together in one area. The piece below is an example of one of the stone sections. It was a leftover piece, that’s why there’s a broken section.
We worked from the floor up so that we would have a surface to brace the stones. This project took us two days to complete because we wanted to let the bottom layer of stones set before adding even more weight from the top. On the second day we clamped a support bar to the firebox so that something would brace those stones.
To get the stones to fit perfectly around the pillars and by the base of the pillars, we cut the stones with a wet tile saw. This was by far the most time consuming part. We waited 48 hours before removing the brace and grouting.
You don’t have to grout between each stone but there were some spaces between the stones and the firebox that needed filling. We used MAPEI Sanded Grout in the color Biscuit. You can grab it at Lowe’s. This one did require mixing but it was really easy. Just add water! I applied it with a small putty knife and smoothed it out with a wet finger. I let it semi-dry for a few minutes and then went back over the grout with a moist sponge to remove the big globs. Once again, messy job. No photos.
Once the grout was dry it left behind a cloudy haze on the firebox. To remedy this I painted a fresh coat of Rust-Oleum high heat paint that is made specifically for fireplaces and barbecues.
I am so happy with how everything turned out. It was well worth the time and labor. Every time I look at my fireplace now it makes me want to take a sledgehammer to my dingy kitchen counters or knock down a wall somewhere in my house. This DIY thing is addicting.
Let me know in the comments if you have any questions that I didn’t answer!