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How to Cover Old Brick With River Rock

Lisa East Hunter

River rocks are an attractive and natural-looking accent to home decor. Covering a fireplace or other brick wall in river rock adds depth and dimension to the space. Genuine river rock stones are heavy, cumbersome and can be difficult to adhere to a brick wall because their weight causes them to slide. Stone veneer imitations are one solution. They are lighter than their real stone counterparts and install quickly and easily on a brick surface.

Real river rock is heavy and hard to install over brick.
  1. Measure the wall and determine the size and space of the area where you will install the stones. Create a template of the space by drawing an outline on a large piece of cardboard or butcher paper. Set the paper on the ground.

  2. Place the river rock veneers on the template to determine the exact layout. Different batches of stone veneer may have differing color variations. Mix the stones to get an appropriate variation of colors.

  3. Score the backs of the veneers where you plan to make cuts with a diamond-tipped saw. Place a masonry chisel into the scored line and tap with a masonry hammer until the veneer splits cleanly into two pieces. Return the cut veneers to the template.

  4. Scoop mortar onto a trowel and spread it onto the bricks. The mortar should be 1/2 inch thick.

  5. Slide the trowel back and forth over the bricks until the mortar fills the gaps between the bricks to make a smooth mortar bed for the stone veneers.

  6. Apply mortar to the first three feet of brick at the bottom of the wall. This will prevent the mortar from drying out before you can install the stone veneers.

  7. Remove the stone veneers from the bottom of the template and press them into the mortar in the same pattern. Start at the bottom of the wall and work upward until you have covered the wet mortar.

  8. Apply mortar to the next three feet of brick and install the stone veneers. Repeat this process until the entire brick wall is covered with river rock veneers.

  9. Apply mortar to a grout float. Use the same mortar used to attach the river rock veneers. Move the grout float across the surface of the veneers to fill the space between the rocks. Apply to the entire wall, and let the mortar dry for two hours.

  10. Brush the front of the river rock veneers with a stiff-bristled brush to remove any excess mortar.

  11. Dip a grout sponge in water. Wipe the front of the veneers with the damp sponge to remove any remaining mortar.