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Timber Home Living - - Contents -

Most tim­ber homes just wouldn’t be com­plete with­out a fire­place, and stone fire­places are of­ten home­own­ers’ first choice. If your new tim­ber home will in­clude a stone fire­place, here are the ba­sics be­hind the hearth.


Stone fire­places can look rus­tic or el­e­gant, con­tem­po­rary or tra­di­tional. Stones can be stacked with mor­tar or with­out. Dif­fer­ent types of rocks of­fer dif­fer­ent col­ors and tex­tures. Nat­u­ral stone can be carved or shaped to re­flect wide-rang­ing styles. So, how do you sort through the op­tions?

First, when you’re work­ing with your de­signer, bring pic­tures and files show­cas­ing the type of fire­place you have in mind. From there, your ar­chi­tect or de­signer can sketch ideas based

on looks you like, or may rec­om­mend that you visit pre­vi­ous home projects or lo­cal stone yards to see more op­tions.

As a fo­cal point, the fire­place will set the tone for your home’s in­te­rior decor, so take the time to be sure the sketched de­sign per­fectly il­lus­trates the style you want. Where you put the fire­place in your home is an­other topic to dis­cuss with your ar­chi­tect or de­signer, keep­ing in mind your home’s views, cli­mate and what time of day you’ll use the room with the fire­place.


Once you de­fine a style di­rec­tion, you’re ready to choose be­tween full stone, thin ve­neer stone or ar­chi­tec­tural ve­neer (man­u­fac­tured) stone. Each choice of­fers its own ad­van­tages.

Truly dis­tinct and true to tra­di­tion, full-stone fire­places can in­clude very large stones and of­fer a mul­ti­di­men­sional look. The draw­back of full-stone fire­places is the mas­sive weight of the fire­place, which in turn re­quires a built-up foun­da­tion and sup­port struc­ture. Larger stones are heav­ier to trans­port to the build­ing site, take up more space on the job site dur­ing con­struc­tion and are more time­con­sum­ing to erect.

Thin-stone ve­neer is rapidly re­plac­ing the use of full stones in fire­places and other res­i­den­tial ap­pli­ca­tions. With the ve­neer prod­uct, stones are sawn to an ap­prox­i­mately 1-inch thick­ness. Lighter weight makes them less ex­pen­sive to ship and makes bet­ter use of a nat­u­ral re­source — split­ting a stone in two dou­bles the amount of usable stone face. Ninety-de­gree out­side cor­ners and ac­ces­sories, such as full-size hearth stones, make to­day’s thin-stone ve­neer fire­places vir­tu­ally iden­ti­cal to full-stone fire­places. Still, the fin­ished look of the stone cladding will be smoother than full stone. For a more nat­u­ral fin­ished re­sult, some peo­ple mix full stones with thin ve­neer.

Ar­chi­tec­tural-stone ve­neer is man­u­fac­tured by com­bin­ing light­weight ag­gre­gates and pour­ing the mix­ture into molds to ob­tain the de­sired stone shape. Col­ored pig­ments are used to cus­tom­ize the prod­uct’s ap­pear­ance and high­light its tex­ture. The fin­ished prod­uct ranges in thick­ness from less than 1 inch to 2 or 3 inches, and is ap­plied in a sim­i­lar fash­ion to thin-stone ve­neer. It’s light­weight, easy to in­stall and easy on the wal­let.


Dif­fer­ent stone op­tions come with dif­fer­ent price tags: It’s im­por­tant to look at the project in its en­tirety, not just at the cost of ma­te­ri­als. Thin-stone ve­neer, for ex­am­ple may cost more upfront be­cause of man­u­fac­tur­ing costs in­volved with cut­ting and shap­ing the stones. Still, the sav­ings are found in ship­ping, la­bor and lower struc­tural re­quire­ments, ac­cord­ing to the Nat­u­ral Build­ing Stone In­sti­tute.

Whether you choose full stones or thin-stone ve­neer, one way to save money is to se­lect a type of stone that’s lo­cal to your re­gion, sav­ing you on ship­ping costs. Choos­ing a lo­cal stone will also make your home look more nat­u­ral in its en­vi­ron­ment.

Ob­vi­ously, la­bor costs add to the fire­place bot­tom line. Us­ing full stones will in­crease the time re­quired to build your fire­place. (Full-stone ma­sonry will also im­pact your build­ing site, as more tools, like large wet saws, are needed for the job.) Your gen­eral con­trac­tor should be able to rec­om­mend a fire­place ma­son, or you can con­tact lo­cal quar­ries or ma­sonry sup­ply com­pa­nies for rec­om­men­da­tions.

Fire­places serve as a fo­cal point in what­ever lo­ca­tion they may find them­selves. Here, the unique stone de­sign on this fire­place draws eyes from both the liv­ing room and ad­ja­cent out­door space.

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