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How to Apply Stone Veneer to an Outdoor Cabinet

The Tennessee blue stone is applied to the surface of an outdoor kitchen cabinet and fire pit.

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Step 1: Wrap the Seams

Before applying thin-set mortar to the cabinet exteriors, wrap the seams and corners of the cabinet unit with fiberglass mesh tape (Image 1). Similar in function to tape used on drywall, the fiberglass mesh improves adhesion and makes it easier to achieve a good transition at the corners. Cut away any excess tape using a razor knife (Image 2).

Step 2: Mix the Mortar in Small Amounts

Attach the stone veneer with thin-set mortar. The epoxy-based mortar should be mixed with a regular mortar to achieve the consistency of cake frosting. Since this mortar sets up quickly, mix up only enough to set one or two stones at a time. Begin with enough to cover the fiberglass mesh tape.

thin set mortar mixed to consistency of frosting

Step 3: Cover the Tape With Mortar

Now cover the fiberglass tape with a layer of thin-set mortar. Make sure you get good coverage. Repeat this process on all of the corner joints and seams.

cover tape with thin set for good coverage

Step 4: Place the Shims

Before placing the stone, place 1/2" wooden blocks along the perimeter of the cabinet. The shim blocks help keep the stone in place as the mortar sets, and provide the 1/2" gap that will form the grout line.

wooden shim blocks are laid to support stone

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 5: Spread Mortar on a Stone and the Backer Board

Spread a thin layer of mortar over the entire back surface of the stone and the portion of the counter wall where the stone will be placed.

spread mortar on surface of stone and wall

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 6: Position the Stone

Once the mortar is applied, carefully lift the stone into position. Once it's in position, move the stone back and forth slightly to solidify the mortar seal. Then check the final position.

Step 7: Pace and Repeat

Applying stone veneer is not difficult. Just remember to work on just one or two stones at a time. In that way, you can plan and custom cut the stones needed as you work. It also will prevent excess mortar from setting up too early.

stone veneer is set a few stones at a time

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 8: Create a Lintel

Because spacers can't be used to position the pieces of stone that run along the top of the cabinet unit, you'll need to create a lintel to hold the upper stone in place. We created ours out of a sheet of aluminum. Using deck screws, fasten the aluminum lintel around the cabinet openings. This will provide a ledge for the stone to rest on.

fasten aluminum lentil around cabinet opening

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 9: Switch Mortar to Apply Stone to a Fire Pit

Applying stone veneer to the fire pit in our project is done following the same basic techniques that were used to apply the stone to the counter — except for the mortar used. Since these stones are applied directly to brick (rather than backer board), use standard brick mortar not thin-set mortar and apply it loosely to the stones.

standard brick mortar used to set stones to bricks

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 10: Use Shims as Spacers

Once the mortar is applied, position the bluestone sections in place, using wood shims as spacers as was done earlier. It's not necessary to spread mortar onto the fireplace surface; it's sufficient simply to apply it to the stone.

position blue stone pieces using shims as spacers

Courtesy of Lucie Rowe

Step 11: Let Mortar Cure

After applying the stones to both the counter and fire pit, leave the shims in place and allow the mortar to cure for 24 hours. Then apply grout.

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