DIY Fireplace Makeover with a Floating Beam Mantle and Real Stone

Hello and welcome back to our home reno story. I’m so excited to show you what we have been working on! We have finally finished ALL of our fireplace projects; ripping out the existing wood and tile, raising it, continuing it up to the ceiling, making a faux floating beam mantle, placing stone and grouting, grouting, grouting. We now have a completely finished fireplace we are proud of.

Check out this side by side of what it use to be and what it looks like today!

So it all began with the original fireplace that came with the house, floor level in a sunken living room.

I don’t even recognize this fireplace anymore after all the time I’ve spend on it.

We basically started from scratch…

We planned on raising the sunken floor and raising the fireplace not only to the new floor level, but above it so we could have a hearth that someone could sit on if they wanted to.

After raising it, we built up the floor.

So far, here was our progress. We also took out some half walls to open up the space.

The window trim was painted white to lighten up the space and make it feel more airy.

Then the fireplace was continued up to the ceiling, look at all those nails!

A scratch coat was applied in preparation for stone later.

We decided between a few samples of stone. We ended up not choosing either of these. I was looking for a natural stone that wasn’t square, with grey tones and big and small pieces for interest.

Next, we finished our wood floors.

And got some furniture…

And hung curtains…

And the fireplace sat like that for a long time.

Finally, we added a mantle.

And then it was Christmas.

Then in January, we picked out our stone and a hearth.

We opted out of paying $100 for delivery, so we ended up having to make a few trips to get everything home. In hindsight, paying for delivery probably would have been the smart idea. Next time, right?

As soon as the boxes of stone made it home, I laid some out by the fireplace to get an idea of what it would all look like.

We glued the hearth down first.

And then we started bringing in boxes of stone.

We measured and taped off a section of the fireplace to start on so we could lay the stone out on the floor first to make sure it fit together. This part was like putting a giant, heavy puzzle together. But it was exciting when you could find pieces that fit together.

Although we got a lot of pieces to fit great, some just didn’t work or there wasn’t a piece small enough, so all the parts that went over the tape line got cut.

Much better!

After that, we decided to wash all the stones in this layout before putting them up on the wall. They all were very dusty.

We filled the tile saw basin with water and used a nylon brush to give each rock a quick dunk and scrub.

Then it was time to put the stone up!

We started right above the hearth, and built up. This process took a lot longer than I was picturing. Applying mortar on the back of each stone was an art that had to be learned by trial and error, since we had no prior experience, as well as sticking the stone to the fireplace. You’d think they would just stick, but it was more complicated than that.

Gravity also made this difficult, so we got creative with stone spacers.

Once we got to this part, we built a wood support to hold up the stones so they wouldn’t slide off and would stay lined up.

Now we completed the section we laid out on the floor, with the exception of 3 tiny stones on the left side that didn’t quite fit and would need to be cut. It’s hard to copy the spacing on the ground once you are placing stone on the fireplace, but for the most part things lined up pretty well.

Next, we decided to trace out the upper part of the fireplace on the ground so we could puzzle together stone first. This time, we used a wood outline so we would keep the stone inside it. We traced out where the circle mirror would hang, since it would hang there after the stone was up and need a nail to hang on.

We started from the top and bottom at the same time and ended up meeting in the middle. We tried to space out the larger, more colorful, and interesting stones so it looked uniform.

We ended up needing to cut a few to fit better, then we washed these stones. Washing them really brought out different colors and was easy to do on the floor. I could imagine the mess it would make if you tried to wash it all on the wall.

All washed and ready to place!

We next removed our spacers from the part that was done.

And began to place stone starting from where we left off.

We worked across in rows so we wouldn’t mess up the stone placement.

This didn’t always work, though, because the rows weren’t even and we needed to cut a few stones to fit better.

At this point, we mixed up one bucket of mortar a night and once Louisa was down for the night, we placed stone until the bucket ran out.

I put mortar on each rock, handed it up to Brian, and he placed it and added spacers to hold it.

We would get a couple rows done a night. Some of the large stones took a while to place, so I laid out the last part of the fireplace – below the hearth – and started placing stones instead of waiting.

We must have measured really well, because everything lined up in the end.

Once all the stone was placed, we began grouting the same way, one bucket a night until we finished. Grouting was also much more work than I thought it would be. It was very tedious. The grout had to be just the right consistency. If it was too thick, it wouldn’t come out of the grout bag and just fall apart, but if it was too thin, it would run right out and splatter everywhere. At the right consistency, it would get squeezed into a crack with some effort, have to be smoothed onto both sides to touch the stones, then left to dry a bit before you could really smooth it out well.

FINALLY we were DONE!!! We couldn’t wait to get our living room back in order. I joked about how I forgot what our rug even looked like since it had been rolled up for so long.

What do you think? It definitely took a long time and a lot of effort, but I think it was worth it.

We still have many project to go on our house, but the main floor it really close to completion. The major things left are the stair banister (paint it or replace it?) and the kitchen lighting (take out old track lighting, put in new can lights and a few island pendants). We would also like to put a fan in the middle of the space, finish a few paint projects, like the underside of the cabinets, and get a better faucet you can wash big pans under.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope you enjoyed our fireplace makeover!