I adored our original midcentury stone fireplace and would never dream of refacing it. BUT I was feeling inspired by old world overgrouted stonework found in sun drenched locales along the Mediterranean like Spain, the South of France, and Greece. I started thinking there was way to lighten it up, soften it, and bring in a new texture into the house.
Its great. Its funky. Its cool. But can we contemporize it ever so slightly? Yes we can.
I was sure I could handle this DIY myself after successfully tackling the Roman Clay install in my own bathroom and reading a blog post by Chris Loves Julia. They made it seem so easy. I studied their blog post and watched a few YouTube videos and thought I had this under control. I got started and tried so hard, but this was not easy at all and ended up being a major DIY fail.
1) First of all, the mess. This is a crazy sloppy messy project. Once the mortar dries and you start to smooth it, its very dusty.
2) Second, the piping bag. I was really bad at filling it and evenly getting the mortar out smoothly that it got away from me and added to the mess. Maybe in time I would have gotten better at it but with zero experience it was a frustrating exercise.
3) Physical strength, which I was lacking. Lifting the 50 lb bag of mortar, mixing it, pushing it out. All these movements required a burlier strength that I do not possess.
4) Time. The time investment. I spent a full 8 hours on the fireplace and only got about 25% of it done. It didn't look great. My muscles were aching. I wanted to cry because once you start, you can't undo the mortar that dried.
Time to admit defeat and call in professionals. I contacted a few masons and no one really wanted to take it on. Until I found a really great vendor who got what I was after and agreed to finish the job. Sometimes its ok to spend the money on a professional install you don't have the skills to complete and this was one of those times.
I took their small team a day and half to cover both sides so I didn't feel as bad that I couldn't finish it on my own. Its a bigger job than I realized. They approached it different than the DIY method and I learned that they mixed 2 bags of 90 lb Portland White cement (not one 50 lb bag of mortar) in a barrel for a larger and more consistent supply. They did use the piping bag (fill it less and constantly twist it tighter is the key) but brought more than one for the job. They also brought chisels and wire brushes to smooth the mortar into the stone once it was semi hard. A whole new ball game.
1) Mixing the cement in a barrel for a consistent supply
2) Wet freshly piped grout filling in the joints between the original fireplace stone
3) Smoothing the grout after letting it dry for about 2 hours
I'm delighted with the results but I implore you to think twice before trying it yourself. Its a tricky install no matter what Pinterest tells you. Does it look wildly different? Nah. But I think it was worth it. What do you think?