Stone or rock fireplaces can give your home or the area they’re built in that amazing look that makes you feel like you’re in a lodge with friends, gathered round the fire, singing songs and drinking hot cocoa.
The value they add to the look and feel of your home or space can’t be measured in only dollars and cents. It’s a feeling that you just can’t get any other way.
Our discussion here today is all about how to do it yourself. We won’t go into the simple things like how to mix your mud or other steps that are rudimentary. Instead, we will discuss the things that really matter — the stuff a lot of books, videos and even courses leave out.
Your Two Types of Stone
Mountain rock will generally be pieces that have fractured off the side of a mountain. They have all kinds of odd shapes that you’ll have to pick and choose through later as you build your fireplace, piece by piece.
They create those ultra-rustic fireplaces that look straight out of an old-time Western or an episode of Grizzly Adams that so many people loved.
The other is river rock, which will give it that Colorado, Montana or Idaho fishing lodge look with its smooth stones polished over time by ice-cold cascading waters.
If you’re using river rock, here’s a great tip: Build a decent-sized bon fire with all of your river rocks in the center to see if they pop open on you.
Some river rocks can hold moisture for years inside of them. You don’t want to build a fireplace only to have several rocks pop and burst open from the water pressure expanding inside of them.
Build your fireplace out of the ones that don’t split.
Select Your Face Type
If you’re doing mountain rock, you’ll need to select whether you want your fireplace to have the full grout look or a stacked stone look. The stacked stone effect takes a lot more time and effort and is generally only used in a few fireplaces in the southwest.
They both look good, so it’s just a matter of personal preference.
If you’re building a kitchen fireplace and want an arch, then you can place an old tire in position and build your arch on top of it. They are perfectly round and the mortar won’t stick to them. Building a round arch mold can be difficult, and this solves that easily.
You can build a platform to elevate it into place and then use curved tire chalks on either side to hold it. Once it sets, just remove it and you’ve got a great-looking arch.
Is fire brick required? No it’s not, but it is highly recommended. Here are a few reasons why:
- You’ll get more heat directed out toward your living space, because fire brick is designed to buffer heat and not actually to absorb it.
- They help safeguard your rock work, grout and walls from overheating and becoming damaged.
- It will give yous fireplace that nice finished look that’s squared off and has a traditional or herringbone brick pattern.
- It’s a whole lot easier to clean the soot off of than uneven or jagged rocks and grout.
You can choose from many different colors such as black, ivory, red, old world red, buff and antique. There are likely even more colors if you go to a specialty outlet.
Your Fireplace Has an Anatomy
There are several pieces that go into the building of the actual fireplace, and you’ll need a more detailed guide than we offer in this overview.
The basic elements that make up a fireplace are the damper, smoke chamber, smoke shelf, fire box (with fire bricks), lintel, throat, flue, roof line, flashing and cap. As discussed earlier, in this article we will be focusing on the tips that you generally never see in most of the books and videos. But, that can make or break your project.
Your Chimney Flue
Your best bet is to have a clay chimney flue liner so that it’s smooth and doesn’t collect pockets of soot that can cause chimney fires.
One easy way to do this is to build your flue from clay flue liner sections.
They are essentially large clay pipes that come in sections. Most of the time you’ll find them in two- and three-foot sections.
One way to do this easily is to prepare your flue seat (the area where the flue continues up from the smoke chamber) to accept the flue to be seated on it.
Then, build your flue on the ground or on the roof if you can and put your mortar in the seated area so that it will bind with the flue. Then, lower your fully constructed flue down your chimney from your rooftop right into place, all as one unit.
It’s SO much easier than attempting to grout and stack each clay flue section one at a time as you build them up through your chimney.
Scrape any excess mortar from where the flue stack is seated so that it’s smooth, or you’ll be making a place for soot to form.
We hope that what you’ve discovered here will put you on the path to build the mountain or river rock fireplace of your dreams.
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