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I want to put up a stone veneer surround, around a gas fireplace we're going to install. I've seen everything from using 1/2" plywood and a metal lath, to putting the tiles directly on drywall. I have everything apart so I want to do this the best way.

The tiles/stones I will be using are quite heavy as they are real stone and not "manufactured stone".

Items in play: - Weight - heavier tiles - heat - over and around a fireplace - Indoor

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Drywall is out of the question due to weight, plywood might not give you the proper adhesion.

I would start with cement board, then attach the metal lath to that. After the metal lath is secure, you'll have to apply a scratch coat of a sand and cement mix before applying the stone.

Here is a good guide for applying stone veneer.

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definitely start with a concrete board backer, avoid plywood in areas that may have heat issues, two reasons, fire danger and excessive expansion or contraction due to wide ranges of temp. – shirlock homes Jan 14 '11 at 7:30
Good point shirlock, I overlooked that he was installing it near a fireplace. – Tester101 Jan 14 '11 at 12:54
No problem tester, you are usually right on. – shirlock homes Jan 14 '11 at 19:53

If you use cement board, you'll want to use a polymer modified mortar or thinset for the installation. If you use plywood, you'll need to install a weather resistant barrier, metal lath and put up a scratch coat. They both have there pros and cons, but I would probably recommend cement board. Make sure its actually cement board and not a composite board like hardybacker. Unfortunately stone veneer tends to sheet off on composite board unless it's installed with a very good bonding mortar or thinset.

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