Check out these pictures of a one of our stone fireplace projects. Details on our process are below.
#1 Here the firebox base is finished with a hole for the ash dump door in the middle. We have also laid out the arc for the curved walls and have a few courses up.
#2 The firebox is 2/3 of the way up and we’ve started laying the block behind leaving an air space to the wall. I use a squeeze bag (a giant cake decorator) to fill the joints between the firebricks with refractory cement.
#3 Here the firebox is done, ready to receive the concrete lintel.
#4 This is the form ready to pour the lintel which also creates the Rumford curved throat.
#5 Lintel in place, smoke shelf started.
#6 Now we get to the fun part – the first stones are laid at the base of the firebox.
#7 Here is the arch stones laid out on the floor. Out of the 8 to 15 tons of stone we gather for a fireplace, there is only 1, maybe 2 stones suitable to become a keystone. Then we scour the rock pile for some likely candidates to use for arch stones.
#8 The arch form temporarily holds the arch in place until the mortar sets.
#9 The arch is done!
#10 Look Mom! No arch form!
#11 We’ve begun work on the upper stack, leaving room for the mantle which we’ll add later.
#12 For more pictures of the finished fireplace, go to the Richardson job on the gallery page. The cement blocks on the bottom right are for built in bookshelves added later.
Here is the process we like to use. Establish a relationship with the client, get an idea of the general feel they want the stone fireplace to have, look at the available resources, start building the thing, and then see what happens. This can be a little different process from what they are accustomed to. We have found that if they are willing to trust us, and themselves, what they wind up with is something that is uniquely their own.
Quite often when people first contact us about building a fireplace, they’re not really that sure of what kind of look or style they want to achieve. That is why we usually spend about half a day with them actually looking at stone fireplaces. Most of our former clients are kind enough to let us take a look at their fireplaces. We also look at fireplaces by other masons long ago. When people can actually put their hand on a fireplace; feel the texture of the stone, the depth of the joints, and general sense of the mass of the thing, they can get a better idea what they do and do not want to in their own fireplace design. By the end of the day we usually have a pretty good sense of what they’re looking for in a fireplace and are able to sketch something that when they look at it they can say, “Hey, that’s it!”
You might think that would be the end of the process, and that the plans are made and ready to go. Actually what we have found is the time we spend together really helps the client focusing on stonework so that over the next few weeks as they’re thinking about their stone fireplace and seeing other styles or even what type of stones they have on the job site, the design is likely to change again. By the time we actually start the job we have a pretty good idea of what they’re going to end up with.
So that’s the end, right? Not necessarily. As we get started and they can see the stone fireplace taking form, it might be a good time to change again, We might start digging through the old stone wall that’s going to be their supply of stone and find a huge keystone that we just HAVE to use or perhaps we will find some very nice flat mantle stones that are going to replace the wood mantle they were thinking of originally…