Q: I was at a spring home show and saw a few displays that featured beautiful stone. When I asked about it, the man said it was colored and textured concrete. Are these products durable and DIY-friendly? I'd like to build a grotto area on my screened porch.
Q: I was at a spring home show and saw a few displays that featured beautiful stone. When I asked about it, the man said it was colored and textured concrete. Are these products durable and DIY-friendly? I’d like to build a grotto area on my screened porch.
A: That artificial stone you saw has been around for decades, and each year it gets more and more realistic.
As for durability — the name-brand artificial stones are manufactured in nearly ideal conditions with top-grade materials.
They are also DIY-friendly. Just about anyone who has the physical strength to lift the small stones and mix up small batches of mortar, and has enough dexterity to glide a trowel across a surface, can install these stones.
The first thing to do is read the instructions: You’ll probably discover that you can attach the stones to both wood and masonry surfaces.
I would build a sturdy plywood-covered wall in your screened-in porch as the support for your stone grotto. The lumber should be dry. Use screws to fasten the small studs together and to fasten the plywood to the studs.
Then cover the plywood with roofing felt paper and some wire mesh. You might be able to use standard chicken wire instead of the expanded wire lath. Wear work gloves to avoid cuts.
Once the mesh is securely fastened to the wood wall, coat it with a thin layer of cement-based mortar. The rougher this surface, the better, as it will help the stones bond better.
Typically, it’s best to wait 24 hours before you apply the stones to this rough mortar surface. Before that, lay the stones out on the floor with the correct spacing between them as you might want to view them on the wall. See if you have to trim any stones.
Putting the stones on the wall is simple: You apply fresh mortar to the back of them like you might butter a biscuit.
If you want the stones to bond permanently, make sure the back of the stone is free of all dust and wipe it with a damp sponge to make it slightly wet.
Cement paint is a mixture of pure Portland cement and water. Mix it to the consistency of regular paint. Brush on a thin layer on the back of the damp stone, then immediately apply some of the mortar to the stone. Paint some cement on the stucco and press the stone onto the wall. You might have to tool the mortar between stones to get the look you want.
Before attempting to build the walls, visit the showrooms where this artificial stone is sold and study the sample panels. Take photos if necessary to remind you of the look you like.
The stones will look quite different up close than when you stand back 10 feet. Small flaws in the mortar joints may not be visible when you stand back.
Tim Carter is a columnist for Tribune Content Agency. He can be reached via his website, www.ask thebuilder.com.