Stone Fireplaces

A Stone Fireplace provides Warmth and Old World Charm to a Home

By Mark J. Donovan

A stone fireplace can add beauty and ambiance to a home, particularly if it is centrally located in large cathedral ceiling great room or other large living space area. Due to the fact that stone is a natural material, stone fireplaces never seem to go out of style. Also, stone, like water, represents one of the basic components of nature, and as a result, I think deep down all of us gravitate towards these basic elements.

Natural Stone Fireplaces

Stone fireplaces are constructed out of natural stone or faux stone. A natural stone fireplace frequently uses stone material found around the job site or area.

Years back I had a stone fireplace constructed in my home on Lake Winnipesaukee in New Hampshire, and all of the material used was fieldstone picked out of local fields. Using local stone helps to save on the construction costs, but that said a natural stone fireplace still costs several times more than a standard brick fireplace.

Faux Stone Fireplaces

Faux stone is also commonly used today for stone fireplaces. Faux stone comes in all shapes, sizes, colors and patterns and does a great job of mimicking the look and feel of real stone. Faux stone is available in river rock and flagstone appearances, as well as many other types and sizes. Faux stone is also less expensive and easier to install as it comes in consistent shapes and sizes. Stone fireplaces constructed out of natural stone on the other hand, require a significant amount of extra work cutting and/or shaping the stones to fit.

Stone Fireplace Construction

Stone fireplace construction is done very similar to a standard brick fireplace. Cement block is used to construct the chimney, and brick and/or cement block to construct the firebox area. The stone is then added as a veneer to the surface of the chimney and hearth area to create the finished stone fireplace.

Stone fireplace fireboxes can be constructed in a variety of shapes and sizes, however the Rumford style firebox is quite commonly used.

A Rumford style helps to eliminate deep dark corners and display more of the flames associated with the fire.

In regards to stone fireplace hearths bigger seems to be a common theme, however it doesn’t have to be. This said, it is a nice touch to have a large hearth that is elevated up a foot or so off of the floor to allow people to sit comfortably next to the fire. I used a large slab of bluestone for the actual hearth cap as it created a comfortable seating area and complemented the fieldstone.

Stone fireplace with Rumford style firebox.

Likewise stone fireplace mantles are typically larger than the standard brick fireplace. Again, this doesn’t have to be the case, but because the stone used in stone fireplaces is typically larger than brick it only makes aesthetic sense to include a larger mantle.

Depending upon your budget and personal preferences, inside the home the stone fireplace can be constructed to either go all away up the height of the back wall, or only partially up.

Stone fireplaces can be more porous than brick and a little more difficult to seal around on the exterior of the home, however this said with the proper use of water sealers and caulk you should be able to prevent any water leakage or seepage into the home.

So when interviewing potential stone masons talk with them about the appropriate size and scope of your stone fireplace. It is important not to create an albatross within your home, but on the other hand you want the stone fireplace to be a focal point in your home. Make sure to also include conversations with the stone masons about local building and fire codes for stone fireplaces so that you don’t run into any negative surprises with the building inspector after the stone fireplace is constructed.

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