Stonemason Stewart Anderson from Highland Stone speaks to Escea about stone fireplace surrounds, the best stones to build one with, the design process and more.

What are the different stones you have available and which installs do they work best for?

I use a wide variety of stones from around New Zealand. Schist is very popular in this country and I currently have fourteen different types sourced from various South Island quarries. Each type has a different colour but the most popular is probably the Hyde Grey from Dunedin.

Generally speaking, the brown schists work well for getting a rustic look while the greys tend to have a more contemporary style. That being said, schist is very versatile and can be dressed up or down depending on how it is laid and the client’s own interior (or exterior) design style.

The local Waikato stones such as Basalt, Andesite, and Graywacke are all great for getting a rugged rustic look whereas Limestone can help create more of a Mediterranean style. It really just depends on what the customer likes and will go best in their dream home.

What part of the fireplace design process do you come in?

Ideally, I will be involved from the start of the design process. This is because using natural stone requires strong foundations and for the appropriate space (width and depth) to be provided at that design stage. Different stone varieties require different spacings and not all architects are familiar with these requirements. It is much easier to get it right from the outset than try to work around plans and specifications that have not allowed quite enough space (or too much).

How long does it usually take?

Every fireplace is different but for an average fireplace, I would generally allow 5 days.

Talk us through your process.

If I am using local stone I will go to the quarry and handpick every stone so I can select the best stones and know what I have to work with when I get back to site.

Then I will set up my profiles so I can get a good straight line when I build my corners.

I make my corner stones as I go and lay the other stones in between shaping each stone with hammer and chisel.

For laying the stone I use sand and cement and bed down each stone, I also use brick ties for extra support; these are screwed into the stud and on top of the stones.

Can you give us a ballpark figure for the cost of a fireplace surround installation?

For an average sized fireplace of 4m², it would cost around $2,500.00 (plus GST). This includes all materials and labour but the price really depends on the type of stone the client chooses.