Once Andy finished with all of the back breaking work I was ready to step in and help with the stack stoning progress. We thought, and talked, a lot about how we wanted to finish the facade of the outdoor firepit. It was a pretty unanimous and quick decsion to use stack stone as the finish. We went to a local stone yard to take a look at our options and ended up buying 7 boxes of a man made stone. I had searched craigslist for months looking for good deals on stack stone, but more often then not I found 1 box of leftovers someone was trying to sell. My fear is that we would buy it and never find a good match. So we bit the bullet and bought it all from one place.
In this photo we are pretty far along in the stack stoning process, we had learned soooo much by this point:
Professionals will tell you that your should start from the top and work your way down, this avoids mortar, or thinset, from driping onto bricks below. We tried that…epic fail! Let’s just say as soon as we pushed the stone against the wall it started slipping down the face of the CMU, not pretty. We realized that the only way we could get this project done was by building from the ground up, that way the bricks could rest one on top of the other. We started with mortar to adhere teh stone to the CMU…another Huge fail! The mortar is dark grey, dried too quickly and was super watery and hard to work with. Within 20 minutes we were both covered in mortar and over IT. A friend suggested we use thinset…what a huge difference. Here is me with a bucket of thinset, mixed per the directions on the bag.
For stack stoning here are the tools we needed: 5 gallon bucket, water source/hose nearby, Trowel, pencil, bags of thinset, tape measure
Step 1: Mix thinset in a 5 gallon bucket per directions on bag.
Step 2: Grab a stone in one hand and the trowel in the other. Dip the trowel in the thin set and smear the thin set across the back of the stone like this:
Make sure to cover the entire back side of the stone, then move on to the bottom and sides:
I believe they call this process back buttering. Once you are ready to go the stone shoudl be covered on three sides.
Okay…so I admit… I was a little gratuitous with the thin set. I managed to get this crap Everywhere. Looking back I probably could have used half the amount, I just really wanted to make sure it stuck So, learn from my experience, not quite so much thin set! Once it is in place you slap it on the wall in the desired spot:
Before you place the piece on the wall you want to make sure you have put a thin layer of thin set on the surface the stack stone is adhering to. After much trial and error I found that this was the best way to go about it.
Step 1: Dip your trowel in the thin set and pick up a blob of it
Step 2: push the trowel against the wall, or surface you plan on adhereing to, at approximately a 45 degree angle, kind of like this:
Step 3: start pulling the trowel upward smearing the thinset in an even layer up the face of the brick.
Once you have evenly spread the thin set it should look a little like this:
Step 4: Make sure you have spread thin set over a large enough area that the next stack stone will be completely covered. However, be careful not to spread too much thin set or it might start drying. We learned this lesson the hard way and had to chip some off to continue stack stoning.
Step 5: Back butter your next piece and place it on the wall.
Step 6: Clean up any excess thin set drips with a sponge before it drys.
Step 7: Repeat ( about 100 more times)
At the end of a long day ( stack stoning from 6-10 pm after work) this was what our fire pit was starting to look like:
I am a hot mess in this picture and look at the disastor on the ground below me! If anyone is reading this who has worked with thinset they will probably laugh their ass off when they see what a mess we made. Regardless, I was very proud of my mad stack stoning skills that night.
Things we learned:
Don’t rush ahead and stack stone areas you can’t finish. Once it sets it is a nightmare to place stones in between. We found they tend to shift a little as they are drying. The stones are all the same exact width so if one are ends up being too skinny you have to cut the next stone down along its entire length.
WEAR Gloves… I literally rubbed my fingertips off. I had to wait a week before I could continue stack stoning it was so bad.
Be prepared to have to cut stones to fit corners and awkward areas near the top and bottom. We used a diamond blade on a hand held grinder…not the safest option, but it was what we had. Ideally you would want a wet tile saw, you can rent these at Home Depot. Coulda, Woulda, Shoulda…
Overall stack stoning was an awesome DIY project that takes about a weekend. I will definitely do it again when we work on the matching BBQ pit in out future “Outdoor Kitchen” area. Until then I am glad to put the stack stones away and work on a few other projects…Like concrete countertops….