With more and more homeowners turning to natural materials for kitchens and bathrooms, one material that has remained popular many years now is river stone mosaics. Made of stones found on the beaches of Indonesia, these smooth round stones are usually sold on interlocking mesh sheets for easier installation. Despite the fact that manufacturers do their best to ensure that the sheets install seamlessly, many people installing them for the first time end up having some small issues.
River rock installation is similar in many ways to other stone mosaic installation. The key is in working slowly to ensure that the stones end up looking as they are intended; as a smooth, uninterrupted field of stones whose surfaces gently rise up out of the mortar.
Like all stone mosaic installations, river rocks should be set in a bed of white, latex additive thinset mortar. The mortar should be smoothed out after it’s been keyed to ensure the best coverage and the least amount of mortar coming through the mesh into the grout joints. Each sheet should be carefully pushed together with the next so that no lines can be seen around them, then each sheet should be beaten into the mortar to ensure the stones are level.
Once the mortar is set, the stones should be sealed, then grouted. Grouting is the real secret to the stone’s appearance; river rocks require a lot of grout, far more in fact than other stone mosaics of similar size. It is not uncommon to need to make several passes with the grout and grout float to get the right amount on the stones. This is where it pays to go slowly; if you go too fast and apply too much grout at once, you may swamp the tops of the stones and negate the soft rounding effect they otherwise make.
When installed properly, river rocks can provide a massage to the feet or a natural wall material that enhance spa showers. Take your time putting them in to ensure they always look their best.