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Removing stone veneer from your fireplace or an accent wall is certainly messy, but it’s not so difficult to remove that you can’t make a weekend project out of it and do it on your own. All you need is the right tools, a lot of drop cloths to protect your floors, and the willingness to pour some sweat equity into your home.
Step one is having the right equipment. We recommend you wear long sleeves, jeans and closed-toed shoes when removing stone veneer. Chips of rock and mortar can get everywhere. It’s dusty, dirty work, so cover up, and cover your room with drop cloths and plastic to protect your home and furniture as well. Wearing a mask to keep all that dust out of your lungs is another smart move, as well as using work gloves and safety goggles.
Step two is clearing the area. Remove anything you can from the room so it won’t get dirty, and cover anything you can’t. Lay down a drop cloth on the floor around your stone veneer, and wear all of your protective gear. Then, use the tools of your choice and get to work.
The most basic tool you’ll need is a hammer and chisel. These, plus a scraper, are enough to remove your stone veneer. Start with that, and see how difficult the job is going to be, before you decide to buy anything else.Wedge the edge of your chisel under the mortar and, using your hammer, knock loose as much of the mortar as you can. A pry bar is a good second option if your veneer doesn’t come off easily. Using it is basically the same way as the chisel, but you have more leverage for those stubborn areas.
If manual tools aren’t enough, look to an angle grinder, but be prepared for even more dust that way. You can use a spray bottle to wet the area down a bit first to minimize the dust, but a mask and goggles are still highly recommended, as well as ear protection. With a grinder, you aren’t looking to pry up pieces of mortar, but rather to sand them down until your wall is smooth once more.
If even power tools aren’t enough to remove the mortar from your wall, you can look to muriatic acid, a form of hydrochloric acid that dissolves mortar. But beware, muriatic acid can burn right through your skin as well. It’s essential to use acid-resistant gloves along with all your other protective gear, and to ventilate your room, if you choose to use chemicals to remove your mortar. Follow the instructions on the bottle, take care, and be sure to dilute your acid before use. Wet the stone with water first, and then apply your acid solution, leaving it for a few minutes to give it time to work before rinsing the surface. It may take a few applications to get all the mortar off the wall, but don’t forget to rinse thoroughly between applications, and alternate with an abrasive pad or your chisel to scrape away the remainder.
It’s important, when removing stone veneer, to get rid of as much mortar as possible. A smooth, clean surface will make painting or applying a new veneer much easier. Take the time to get your wall pristine before you install anything new. You don’t want all your hard work removing the old veneer to go to waste by not smoothing out all of the rough patches beforehand. Make sure to wash the wall with water and to vacuum up and clean away all of the dust and debris before you start anything new. Take your time, and don’t give up - it’ll be worth all the hard work in the end!