Soapstone Fireplace Surround

By Robert Robillard on Remodeling

How To Install A Soapstone Fireplace Surround

A Soapstone fireplace surround is placed directly over an existing fireplace be it brick, stone, tile or framing studs. The article below will show you what you need in order to install a soapstone surround on a brick façade fireplace.

Choosing Soapstone

Soapstone is a metamorphic rock made mostly of the mineral talc, which is the softest mineral there is. But soft does not mean porous – in fact, soapstone, being formed through immense heat and pressure over millions of years, is incredibly dense. It also has extraordinary thermal properties. It both stores and transfer heat efficiently, and remains remarkably stable during fluctuations in heat, so it does not contract or expand nearly as much as many other materials do. Being naturally heat-proof in this sense, and beautiful in coloration, it makes a strong and attractive fireplace surround. Choosing a honed and polished finish offers a more subtle and natural look

Soapstone Colors

Soapstone colors range from white with slight marbling to charcoal gray with nearly solid color.

Durability of Soapstone

Soapstone doesn’t require the sealing, and it is far less likely to stain when wine or oil are spilled onto it. Soapstone requires is a periodic oiling that keeps it looking its best, and to keep its natural patina.

Avoid Scratches and Chips

Because the stone is fairly soft, it does scratch easily. Be careful when installing the surround and the heart, as you can easily scratch it. If you do, you can work out scratches with 120 and 220 sandpaper.

Soapstone for Hearths and Fireplaces

One of the best qualities of soapstone is its capacity to conduct heat but not expand or contract under it. It is often used in fireplaces and woodstoves and has long made it recognized as a stone almost impervious to heat.

Sourcing the Soapstone

Soapstone is easy to source, as well. Outside of South America and India, it is quarried fairly extensively in the US as well, which means it will often not be prohibitively expensive. Consult a local tile store for materials and, if you’re on a budget, ask them if they have a remnant piece large enough for your project. You can often get a discount if you work with something they already had to cut [remnant] and have siting in the yard.

Measuring For Soapstone

The first step is to measure the legs from the hearth to the top of the fire box. If the hearth and fireplace opening are level the dimensions should be the same. If not, cut your two pieces to that the top soapstone piece will sit level. You may need to drop the soapstone down past the top of the firebox a small amount to accomplish this.

Remove the Old Mantle

In order to install a soapstone fireplace surround you first need to remove the old fireplace mantle, if there is one installed. The mantle can be removed by using the small pry bar. In our situation we needed to repair the plaster wall above and on both sides of the fireplace

Dry Fitting the Surround

Make sure the wall behind the old mantel is flat. You may need to prep it with cement board, chip or make repairs to brick.

Installing The Soapstone Surround

Mix up a half bag of white thinset, create a thick paste like mix that can be troweled on the vertical wall. Make sure you install builders paper on the floor in front of the fireplace. Using a ¼” trowel, apply the thin-set to the brick façade and then to each piece of the bluestone

Attach Soapstone to Brick

Position the soapstone legs in place and press firmly into the thinset. Using a level, check both the edges and face for plumb. Ensure that the inside edges meet or slightly overlap the fireplace opening. Attach the top soapstone piece.

Adjusting the Soapstone

Using a level check that the top of the piece and the legs are flat [in the same plane] Use a rubber mallet or a block of wood and hammer to gently tap the piece to flatness.  Clean up the thin set on the edges and use a razor knife to clean the two joints between the legs an top piece. This joint can later be filled with a colored grout.

Secure the Mantle

Install or make your mantle of choice to cover the Soapstone. Check out our article on how to build a custom fireplace mantel article here:

Conclusion

Soapstone is natural stone material that has been used for centuries it’s rustic feel makes it a favorite in older colonial home. If you’re looking for a natural stone with an amazing amount of warmth, this is it.

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About the author

Robert Robillard

Robert Robillard

Carpenter / Remodeler / Editor / Writer / Video Talent

Robert Robillard is a remodeler, general contractor, and principal of a carpentry and renovation business located in Concord, Massachusetts. He also writes the "Ask the Carpenter" advice column in the Boston Globe, and serves as the Editor of Tool Box Buzz and founding editor of A Concord Carpenter . Rob is in charge of our Tool and Product Review - Tool and Product Review - Video Channel, , where we post all of our tool reviews and video tutorials. Rob enjoys using his knowledge and experience to help and educate building professionals as well as DIYers on best practices in the remodeling industry. The Concord Carpenter's motto: "Well done is better than well said!" : Read more about Rob <a href="https://profiles.google.com/concordcarpenter"

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