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How to Apply Stone Veneer to an Existing Bar

Use real stone veneer to transform a bland basement bar into a rustic seating area.

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renovated basement bar results in rustic seating

Step 1: Protect the Work Area

We used tarps, a padded blanket and a piece of plywood. The tarps protected the floor from the stone and the plywood provided a solid protective surface for banging or cutting stone.

Step 2: Apply Asphalt Felt

The bar in this project is plasterboard. Fortunately, the stone veneer we used was only about 11 pounds per square foot, so could be applied to non-load-bearing walls. But we still needed a moisture-proof and structurally supportive surface for the stone veneer and mortar. We did this by applying a layer of No. 30 asphalt felt to the plaster with a staple gun. Note: If you need to apply multiple strips of asphalt felt to the wall, overlap the strips by 2" and secure with staples. Cover all areas that will have stone and cut out around outlets.

moisture proof barrier attached to plaster

Step 3: Lay on the Metal Lathe

Then we covered the felt with a layer of metal lathe. While the asphalt felt acts as a moisture barrier, the metal lathe provides a surface that will firmly hold the mortar and stone. The metal lathe should be applied so it is smooth to the touch going up, and rough to the touch coming down. The rougher texture provides a better hold for the mortar and cement. Cut out around outlets with wire snips and secure the metal lathe with a drill and drywall screws. Be careful around cut areas – the metal lathe is very sharp. The metal lathe should be firmly secured to the wall – no areas should give when pressed. Start by securing it to wall studs and work the way into the center. With your wall area prepped, you’re ready to begin with stonework.

metal lathe will firmly hold mortar and stone

Step 4: Lay Out the Stone

Begin setting stone by first laying out all of the stone for the project. With all of your stone laid out, it will be easier to get an even range of colors and sizes when setting out the product.

Step 5: Mix the Mortar

Mix the mortar for your project in a wheelbarrow or in buckets. The mortar mixture for this project is a 2-to-1 ration of sand to cement. We used 25 shovels of mason sand and a 90 lb. bag of Type S Mortar Cement. Dry-mix the sand and cement before adding water to ensure that the sand and cement are evenly spread throughout the mortar mixture, then add water and mix to the consistency of peanut butter. Throughout the setting process, your mortar should keep this peanut butter consistency, so add more water as needed to maintain.

dry mix sand and cement before adding water to mix

Step 6: Start With the Corners

In all stone or brick work, the first stones set should be the corners or lead edges of the wall. Choose a larger stone for the first corner (Image 1). Spread about a 1/2" of mortar on the back of the stone using your trowel — if you are starting with a corner; make sure to get the mortar into the corner of the stone. Press the stone onto the wall, holding until it doesn’t move. If you want your stonework to sit slightly off the floor, you can secure it by placing a shim underneath the stone for support. Build up your corners or edges a bit before beginning to set the rest of the stonework. Corner stones are less prone to move or fall than flats because they are supported on two sides rather than one. To secure flats, add stone shims for support (Image 2). Once you have your corners and edges partially constructed (Image 3), begin building the body of the stone work.

Step 7: Draw a Map

If you're intimidated by setting stone create a loose map of the wall and map out the placement of larger stones (Image 1). You can set these stones first and then start filling in. For this project, we pulled the largest stones and created an X-shape on the wall. The X-shape balanced out the stonework on the bar and drew the eye. Set your larger stone pattern and then begin applying the rest of the stone (Image 2). Some things to keep in mind: Mix stones of different shapes and color (Image 3) to create visual interest. Avoid cross joints and joints that span across multiple stones. Keep joints small so the eye goes to the stone and not large joints. To keep the joints small — cut stone to fit. Cutting can be done with a chipping hammer or a grinder. Mark the cut that you need to make with a pencil (Image 4), cut it, and then set the stone. (Don’t forget to wear your safety glasses and a mask if you’re cutting with a grinder.) The most effective way to cut real stone veneer with a chipping hammer is to trace the cut and then undercut the stone (Image 5). Cutting away the back weakens the top or front area and it cuts more easily to the desired shape. If two adjacent stones are different thicknesses, you can reshape the arris line of the thicker stone so the adjacent edges will match (Image 6). Chip away the top layer of stone with your chipping hammer. Your stone should be room temperature when being set. The stone can be dusty so wash it get maximum color "pop". Wash it ahead of time or after you have jointed the wall at the end of the project. To prevent heavier stones from popping off the wall, secure them with stone shims or screws placed underneath the bottom of the stone for support. If you are working with another person, periodically switch sides. Everybody works with stone in a different way and switching ensures that the wall work looks seamless, not like it was done by two people. Your wall work should be horizontally-oriented

Step 8: Joint With Mortar Mix

Before jointing, remove the stone shims (the screws can remain and will just be covered with mortar). Jointing draws the eye to the stonework and covers the visible metal lathe and metal screws. Use the mortar mixture to joint — it should be a consistency that will form a ball. Fill the joints about halfway

fill mortar into joints and gaps

Step 9: Dry Mortar, Wash Stone

Allow mortar to dry overnight. Wash the stone down with your sponges and clean water.

wash stones down with sponge and clean water

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