Getting Stoned – Tips for Installing Stone Veneer for a Stacked Stone Fireplace

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Faux Stone Fireplace

You don’t need a medical marijuana card for this project (although it may help). With a few tools, a few materials and a few tips, just about anyone fairly handy can install manufactured stone / stone veneer, in the interior of their home. So, break out your concrete trowel, wet saw and roach clips level and get ready for your fireplace to get stoned with stone veneer!

New Look, Surprisingly Old Techniques

Cultured, manufactured, faux or stone veneer – call it what you will, manufactured stone has been around for quite some time. In fact, it was first used in French castle fortifications that pre-date medieval times. What the Franc?! To think this was a recent style trend!

That's Ugly Randy, the Go To Guy for Manufactured Stone
That’s Ugly Randy, the go-to guy for stone veneer

Fast forward a few hundred years to the industrial revolution. By the early 1900’s, the British had tweaked the process by using fired ceramic to create their own version of manufactured stone called Coade aka Lithodipyra (say that in an English accent if you dare).

By the early sixties, two Americans (Garret and Floyd Brown) took over the process and tweaked it even further. Using a series of rubber injection molds and lightweight polymers, they began mass producing the stuff in a process that’s very similar to modern day stone veneer manufacturing.

Many of today’s manufactured stones use cementitious materials, plasticizers and minimal amounts of water to create a material that’s moisture resistant, lightweight and easy to inject into high pressure mold machines. Throw in some coloring and out comes something that looks and feels just like real stone, only it’s not.

Stone Veneer Prep Work
Stone veneer is commonly installed on the outside of the structure, but can easily be installed inside any structure as well. Installing manufactured stone indoors is much easier than outdoor installation, simply because it requires less work and materials (no flashing or waterproofing sealants). This is the approach we’re taking with the stone veneer for the stacked stone fireplace in our project.

Some installation techniques I’ve viewed on the internet have installed stone veneer without using lathe. I personally wouldn’t recommend installing it against anything but lathe or use anything less than a 3.4 lb. 3/8” ribbed paperback galvanized metal lathe. With that said, best practices can vary and there a lot of different products on the market. Take heed of the recommended install from whoever manufacturers the product you wind up using.

Metal Lathe-not a heavy metal band name
Metal Lathe – not a heavy metal band name

Be sure that you use galvanized staples or nails to hold the lathe in place. Nail/staple every 6” and use a minimum of 2” overlap between sheets. Don’t forget to keep the metal cups facing up or the mud will just fall out of the lathe when it’s applied. In some areas, (mine for example), metal lathe needs to be inspected by a building inspector prior to adding the scratch coat. Be sure to consult your local codes and inspector to verify materials, spec’s and code requirements before you have a headache on your hands.

Now, cover everything you don’t want mortar on with plastic and painters tape. A good drop cloth (actually made of cloth like canvas) on the floor can help prevent slipping.

Stone Veneer Scratch Coat

To get the stone to stick to the wall, you’ll need to add a rough coat of mortar to the lathe called a scratch coat. Mix a bag of type N mortar to a firm consistency. You’ll also need to add a pigment to the mix to match the color of the stone. Don’t try this process when it’s cold outside because you can’t add anti-freezing compounds to the mud or the stone will end up falling off later on down the road.

Once the mix is ready, apply it to the lathe with a stucco trowel. Keep it about 1” thick on the wall and make a nice smooth, flat surface for the stone to rest against. Once it stiffens up a bit, run a stucco scratcher horizontally across the face to create the scratch coat.

You can let the scratch coat dry overnight or apply the stone when the scratch coat has dried enough that when you touch it, you don’t leave a fingerprint. Either way, make sure the mud is damp before you start stacking stones against it.

Stacked Stone Fireplace Layout

Ugly Randy is laying out the stones on the floor before he puts them on the wall
Laying out the stones on the floor before putting them on the wall

Laying out the stones on the ground in front of the wall is crucial to ensuring you get a tight, aesthetically pleasing fit on the wall. While laying out the pieces on the ground might seem like twice as much work, it’s definitely necessary to ensure the stones all fit tight and pretty.


Ugly Randy loves to back butter his stones
Backbuttering the stones

Start by applying a 1 ½” layer of mortar to a small 3’ area around any openings or edges first. Working with the bottom stones first, back butter the stones and press them firmly into the wall until a bit of mortar squeezes out. Use a margin trowel to wipe away any excess.


Ugly Randy cuts stone on a cheap tile wet saw
Cutting the stone veneer on a cheap tile wet saw

You can either gap the stones or butt them tight to one another. If you butt them tight (which I prefer) you won’t need to strike/point the seams. However, your choice here affects the overall look of the stacked stone fireplace significantly. I’d recommend looking at both methods in photos or the real world to make sure you’re going with the style you like.

When you get to the edge where you need to make a cut, you can use a masonry hammer, tile nipper or wet tile saw to make the manufactured stone fit. All cuts should be covered with a thin layer of mortar to hide the cut. Any cuts that are below eye level should be faced down, while cuts above eye level need to face up to keep them well hidden.


Ugly Randy knows how to strike joints and brush the stone well!
Strike joints and brush the stone well, without water!

Once you have the stone on the wall, its cleanup time. Point/strike any seams with a brick pointer to smooth out any rough mortar joints. Clean away any excess mud with a dry brush. Never use water to clean mortar from stone veneer or you’ll have a nasty stain that won’t go away.

Know any more tips/tricks/secrets about installing stone veneer? Share them with us in the comments below. Enjoy getting stoned with your stone veneer project!

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About Eric

Since Eric built his first skateboard ramp in his parents driveway; he’s breathed, slept and eaten DIY construction. As a second generation master carpenter who runs two Florida-based construction firms, Eric’s had the chance to work on everything from Mcmansions to your local mall to the cat lady’s bathroom. So when it comes to dealing with construction s@#t; he’s the man—literally. There isn’t a tool or construction material that Eric hasn’t used and abused, and if there is; it’s rocking in a dark corner nervously waiting for him to show up for work.

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9 thoughts on “Getting Stoned – Tips for Installing Stone Veneer for a Stacked Stone Fireplace”

  1. Hi, we bought a new house which was half way into construction when we signed. So unfortunately the builder was unwilling to change anything whatsoever. The house comes with the normal marble fireplace in the living room. When we signed, the fireplace was not even installed yet. But the builder did not accept our several requests to change the marble fireplace to manufactured stone. Though we love the house, the fireplace is not what we had hoped for.

    Could you please give me an estimate to change the fireplace to stone.


  2. I’m putting my stone veneer on cement board over my fireplace, cathedral ceiling high. Do I really need to put on lathe and a scratch coat? How does mortar stick to Durock? Thanks for any advise, Gary

  3. Great article. I like that look. Years ago I built a brick mailbox and made the mistake of using a wet sponge to clean off the excess. Idiot. It stained and looked amateur. I wish I’d done the dry brush technique.

    • It’s an easy mistake to make. Bummer we hadn’t published the tip before your project! DIY (at least for us) involves a lot of learning from mistakes. . . not a horrible thing as long as no one gets hurt and the house doesn’t crumble to the foundation! 😉


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