One thing that I love about our backyard is this outdoor fireplace. It is perfect for s'mores in the summer and in the winter, I love to wrap up in blanket and bask in the warmth it produces. The fireplace is from the previous owner, it was one of the things we liked about the house when we bought it. At one point, we painted it black.
But I wanted a bit of a change. Ideally, it would have been cool to have a professional mason come out and 'stone' the entire thing. We looked into it- but it was $$$$. So instead we decided to do a 'modified' version ourselves! We went to a local store and bought about 600 river rocks. Then we picked the brain of a lady at Lowes who gave me a mini-lesson in masonry.
Turns out, to hold rocks onto a surface like this-- you need a lot of thin-set. You must also use a trowel to create deep grooves in the cement. The grooves create air pockets which suction the stones to the fireplace. If you have ever tiled a floor, you know about the grooves. Small grooves hold small tile, big grooves are used for big tile.
This was one of those projects that seemed SO easy at first. I told Jeff "I've got this!". He went off to paint the patio furniture while I did the fireplace.
After about an hour. I realized this was going to take a long time. And it did.
But it was fun working outside and I felt pretty proud to finally be doing some of the 'manual labor' by myself for once :)
After all the stones were in place and dried for 24 hours, I grouted the entire thing. Then, I went back and wiped off the excess grout. The grouting was my least favorite part. I ended up ditching gloves and doing it with bare hands. Hint: Wear gloves, the skin on my both my palms peeled off after the 'grout exfoliation'. :)
We also added some glass tiles around the top. I put these on at the same time that I did the grouting on the rocks. Which turned out to be a mistake. When I rinsed the grout off the rocks, the water loosened the glass tiles (because I didn't let them dry for 24 hours!) and I had to pull them off. I re-attached them with thin-set once everything was nice and dry. Live and learn.
Finally, we painted the bottom of the fireplace a terra cotta color. It is actually two colors. The first was too orange...
so we added another coat of paint that was more brown. Together, they made the perfect shade for us.
And then we placed a painted pot filled with sweet potato vine inside. We will remove it when using the fireplace, it is just a fun decorative accent when we aren't cooking s'mores.
Doing this project taught me two things:
1. Ask questions. You can learn so much from others-- the people at Lowes and Hobby Lobby know a lot. Don't be afraid to say "I don't know how to do this, can you help me?"
2. I never want to be a professional mason!
Have you ever done a big 'manual labor' project?
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