How to Create a Custom Limestone Fireplace Surround

Last Updated on January 24, 2024 by SampleBoard

There's nothing quite like a crackling fire on a chilly night. But a basic fireplace can leave something to be desired when it comes to ambiance.

An upgrade that provides elegance and warmth is a natural stone surround.

Limestone is a top choice for DIYers wanting to create a custom look without breaking the bank. It's budget-friendly and easy to work with, and stone suppliers usually have lots of stock options.

Transforming your plain fireplace into a showstopping focal point is very doable, even for someone who has never tackled a stone project before. The process does take some time and effort, but the end result is well worth it.

We'll walk through choosing a stone, building a secure frame, cutting and placing the limestone pieces, sealing the gaps, and protecting the finish.

Follow these steps correctly, while adding your own creative twist, and you'll have a custom limestone fireplace surround that looks like it cost thousands. 

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Choosing and Buying Limestone

The first step in creating your custom limestone fireplace surround is picking out the perfect stone. French and Texas cream limestones are popular choices that come in a range of creamy whites and beiges.

Or go for something more unique like a blue or rustic brown limestone. Browse stone supplier websites to get a feel for color variations. Also, decide if you want stones that are relatively uniform or a mix of patterns.

When it comes to purchasing, you can find limestone at local stone yards or home improvement stores. Consider reclaimed limestone for more character or buy new for consistency.

Limestone can be purchased in large slabs that you'll cut yourself or in 12x12 tiles for easier installation. Estimate the square footage needed, measure your fireplace, and add 10% extra to allow for overage.

Prices average $8-$12 per square foot. Make sure to inspect stones carefully before purchasing. 

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Building the Framework

A sturdy framework is crucial when installing a custom limestone fireplace surround. The frame must be securely attached to the wall around the entire fireplace opening to properly support the weight of the stone.

Most pros recommend using 2x6 boards instead of 2x4s to handle the load. Plywood or OSB can be used to build the frame. Use 3-4 inch screws if possible, rather than nails, for the strongest hold.

Start by attaching a frame directly around the fireplace opening. Check for level and plumb as you go. Secure it into the floor and wall studs, or use masonry anchors for added support.

Then build a second frame that sits a few inches in front of the first. This offset frame will hold the full weight of the limestone.

Take care to build an even, sturdy frame, as any imperfections will transfer to the stone surround. Search for "custom stone cutting near me" to have your lumber cut precisely to size. 

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Cutting and Placing the Stone

Once you have your limestone slabs or tiles, it’s time to cut and place them onto the framework. You can have your stone supplier cut the pieces to your specified sizes.

Or rent a stone-cutting tool and do it yourself for greater customization - just practice first!

Start your layout from the center and work outward. Dry fit the stones first without any adhesive to ensure your planned design and sizing are accurate. Use stone shims as needed to stabilize stones and fill in small gaps. 

Adhere to the stones using stone dust or mortar. Stone dust alone provides less holding power but allows easier adjustments. For a permanent bond, use mortar.

Mix it fairly dry and apply a thin 1/4 inch layer on the back of each stone. Too much mortar will come out of the edges when you tap the stone in place.

Gently tap the pieces into place using a rubber mallet, checking regularly that your lines stay straight and the stones are level.

Once positioned, the mortar needs 24-48 hours to fully set before grouting. Take your time placing each stone for the best results.

Grouting and Sealing

Once the mortar has cured, it’s time to grout the joints between the stones. Mix the grout as directed then work it into the crevices with a grout float.

Let it sit briefly until slightly firm, then wipe away excess grout with a damp sponge. Allow 72 hours for the grout to fully cure before sealing the limestone.

Apply 2-3 coats of stone sealer, following the product directions including dry time between coats. Sealing is important to protect the porous limestone from stains.

It also makes ongoing cleaning and maintenance much easier. The sealer creates an invisible barrier that repels spills, grease, and dirt.

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Finishing Touches

Add the final details like a wood mantel, extending 4-6 inches wider than the total surround width. Consider gas inserts, decorative logs, or other fireplace accessories to complete the look.

Now relax and enjoy the warmth and beauty of your stunning new custom limestone fireplace surround. Don't forget to share photos of your completed focal point.

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Installing a natural limestone fireplace surround adds elegance and value to any home.

While a custom stone surround takes time and skill, it can be a very worthwhile DIY project for experienced homeowners.

Visit Stone Center Dayton to choose the perfect limestones to perform your stonework. With proper planning and patience, you’ll love enjoying your new focal point for years to come.