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1840's Slate Fireplace Installation

Old farm house in Lexington Va circa 1846. The former owner had heavy metal formed into a firebox to save wear on the existing walls of the fire space. Unfortunately they chose a bad aggolmorate marble tile and tilesetter that couldn't end his installation properly. The fireplace is not worthy of the house and the new owners wanted to change the material into a more period dated and redo the fireplace.


I enjoy demolition, especially when it is so easy. The 1840 bricks were very sandy and no way cheap polimer added mortar was going to stick very well.


A 6 lb hammer and the tile is off in no time.


Now to take out the existing 1840 brick which was installed on a sand bed. All had to be removed, down to wood.


What I found was 1" x 8" boards holding up the hearth. There is a basement under the room. Almost 6" deep, I took up some of the room with gravel to the level of the firebox.


The idea was to bring the sand/cement base flush with the wood. The edge of the existing wood was bad and fragmented so we wanted to cover the edge with the new slate. In newer homes you might want to butt the hearth tile to the wood for a smooth level transition.


Well my mud bow was not big enough and I needed to mix more mud to be almost flush with the wood. The mud can be down a little to allow for Kerabond/Keralastic mortar that will bond the Slate. We need to raise the mud about 3/4".


I just went out to mix more but before I added it I troweled a thin layer of Kerabond/Keralastic to bond the 2 layers of water mixed sand/cement.


Here we go, we're ready the next day to install the thick slate.


Prior, we had already made the surround better by using 1/4 Durock to receive the finished slate. You make the Durock bond to the sandy brick by first using the flat side of the trowell, putting a thin coat of mortar and allowing to set up. Then you mortar both the brick again and the Durock and compress together. Remember you always backbutter everything. Kerabond/Keralastic joins and smooths pieces and ready for the slate.


Bullnosing the Slate.


Lay all your tiles loose before you ever mix mortar. Make all your bullnosing. I mark with a piece of blue tape to let me know how they fit together when setting with mortar. I remove all the tiles and keep in order for setting in mortar.


I make pencil lines to help me in trowelling mortar.


I set the hearth and allow to dry overnight.


On the surround, once again you fabricate the slate dry leaving one piece on each leg a little long so the final cut can be very tight.


The flange of the metal hides the inside edge of the slate. On top it needed a little more support for this thick and heavy slate.


The leg pieces supported each other until they dried and the wood held up the 3 middle pieces. Allow to dry overnight.


The blackest unsanded grout is used between the tiles.


The new slate fit this 1840 house.


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