Do you have an uninspiring brick fireplace? Or what about one of those ubiquitous 1960s brick interior walls? Installing stone veneer directly over the brick may be the solution for you. And best of all, you can do this without ripping out the existing brick.
For ages, homeowners have painted over the brick in an attempt to cover it up. But painted brick is unattractive, irreversible, and a deficit when you try to sell your home.
Stone veneer is a better way to dress up an interior brick, bring your home up to date, and increase your property value. But the looming question remains: does all of that brick need to be ripped out before you can install the stone veneer. Or, better yet, can you install stone veneer directly over the brick?
Stone Veneer Over Brick: Bottom Line
Yes, you can install stone veneer over brick. But it is not as easy as troweling mortar onto the brick and applying veneer. As with other surfaces, the brick must provide a stable surface for the veneer layer.
At the least, you will need to apply a wet scratch coat to the brick before you install the veneer. A scratch coat is a rough coat of mortar that does nothing more than providing a firm, porous surface for the veneer to stick. At best, you install a firm layer of cement board over the brick, then install the veneer on the cement board.
Can the Brick Take a Scratch Coat?
You cannot apply a scratch coat directly to painted brick. Painted brick will not accept the scratch coat because it is not porous. This does not mean that all unpainted brick is perfect, either. Smooth-surfaced brick or very crumbly brick still are not appropriate for a scratch coat.
Smooth brick is not porous enough to accept the mortar. Crumbly brick will not hold together to hold the scratch coat.
Surface Treatment: Porous Brick, Lath, Cement Board
Regarding surface treatment, you have two options. With the first option, you attempt to deal with the brick itself. With the second and better option, you forgo the brick entirely, essentially creating a new surface out of metal lath.
- Prepare Brick Surface: Sand- or water-blast the paint, dirt, or oils so that you have a raw, fresh, porous (but not crumbling) surface. Some masons say that this is an adequate surface for accepting a scratch coat.
- Install Metal Lath: Metal lath is an acceptable surface that will allow you to apply veneer to brick. First, apply corrosion-free 18-gauge metal lath to the brick with masonry fasteners. Make sure that the cups of the lath are pointing upward (think of the abrasive surface of a cheese grater). Overlap both the horizontal and vertical seams by 1 inch. Be sure to wrap the lath around corners (both inside and outside) rather than applying two separate pieces of lath. This gives the framework more stability.
- Cement Board: Cement board works essentially like the metal lath method, but installation is cleaner and allows you to begin veneering immediately. Cement board is screwed or nailed to the brick, basically acting as a new underlayment and ignoring the brick. Then a mortar layer is applied before adhering the stone veneer.
Which Type of Stone Veneer to Use?
You have three choices: natural stone, cultured stone, or faux stone. Listed in order of preference for the DIYer:
- Cultured or Architectural Stone: The choice of most amateur masons, the artificial stone is made from Portland cement, aggregates and iron oxide pigments. Cultured stone or artificial stone are names given to an artificial stone veneer that looks much like the real stone (Cultured Stone is also a trademark of Boral Stone Products LLC). Artificial stone is heavier and more substantial than the polymer faux panels, but not as heavy as real stone. It comes in individual stones that you fit together piece by piece and mortar into the wall, just like real stone. Diameters range from 2 inches to 30 inches and have an average wall thickness of 1 3/4 inches.
- Natural Stone Veneer: This is the real thing: carved from the Earth; beautiful, heavy, and difficult to work with. It is available only from stone yards and can be expensive. However, natural stone can be workable when cut into a thin veneer. This makes the stone lighter and easier to handle. Natural stone veneer is not common, but it is the most accurate and realistic form of stone veneer you can purchase.
- Faux Stone: Faux stone has no stone products in it at all. It is a high-density polyurethane and usually comes in panels, rather than individual stones, for quicker installation. Many faux stone products are cast in the shapes of real stones, so they are quite realistic. The similarity ends when you rap on faux stone with your knuckles—it feels hollow and fake. One advantage of faux stone is that brick surface preparation is minimal. No lath or scratch coats are required. You can even apply faux stone to painted brick.