Stone Installation Success – Specs & Masonry Mock-ups

Bernard M. Oliver said, “No one can deny the excitement of visiting another world.” So when an architect who had been specifying our products for multiple stone installation projects called to inquire about an impromptu visit, our #Rockstars colleagues showed him just that!

Because of the full range of architectural and specification resources on our website, this particular architect had been specifying Buechel Stone without having seen any showroom installations in person. So we set aside time to give him personalized assistance on his visit to “our world” of full wall panel displays and rotating racks of building stone veneer installations at Buechel Stone’s National Sales Hub and Design Center. (You can view some of our most recently added new products from 2017 in the below video. We’ve also assembled two Pinterest Boards for our last two waves of new product adds: 2017 New Stone Products & 2019 New Full & Thin Stone Veneers.)

Not only was he thrilled with the additional inspiration he found in our showroom; but he also ended up requesting a quarry and production tour, diving into seamless textures and utilizing even more of our online resources, and even took home some overstock and discounted discontinued items for his own personal home project.

Now you might think that’s where our story ends, but the selection process is just the beginning. What makes Buechel Stone unique is everything we do throughout your project. So along with being there from concept to completion, Mike Buechel is offering some tips and advice for best experiences beyond stone specification (below).

Mock-ups and Stone Installation Techniques

So you were awarded the project and they liked the work you did on the mock-up. Now what? Again, seems like it should be rather straightforward. On larger jobs, I’ve seen something that seems like it wouldn’t be an issue become a big deal when it’s skipped.

Buechel Stone masonry mock-up on construction site for veneer stone installation

If the mock-up panel is still on-site, make sure all the masons and laborers check it out and review with the final decision makers what they like about the panel and what is okay to do or not do. Make sure to get your own picture of the finished panel. If the panel is gone, make sure whoever installed it works with the rest of the crews to make sure everyone’s laying the stone the same. It’s not about how good or tenured all the masons are; it’s about everyone doing work that looks the same throughout the project.

completed veneer stone installation that used onsite masonry mockup for reference

Stone Installations Open to Interpretation

At least once a year, I’ll be walking somewhere and see a stone project where you can obviously see different masons laid the stone on different areas of the building. I know most people will just walk right by and think, “Wow, nice building; look at all that stone.” That’s not the point. It’s about making the job look good all around. Stone is not brick or block. The same stone piece can be open to a lot of interpretation at the time of stone installation.

Buechel Stone veneer stone installations - ashlar, castle rock, dimensional, fieldledge, ledgestone & stacked stone, panels

If the project is something other than a running bond installation, there are a few good rules of thumb to remember. First, keep horizontal joints under four feet. This is a little bit of a judgement call, but it is mostly related to larger wall areas of stone. If it’s a smaller wall, say just a four- to six-foot-long wall, just make sure it looks good to the eye and doesn’t run more than half of the length of the wall.

Vertical joints have two things that should be followed. One is the minimum recommended spacing between vertical joints. Never have them less than four inches apart. This also leads into the other – do not have long vertical joints. If joints are four inches or less apart and stack on top of each other, they really stick out. The old rule of thumb on linear stones is trying to keep a 2:1 or 3:1 pattern where the heights of two stones (or three) equal the height of one stone.

Stone Trimming and Mortar Joint Consistency

Another key thing to consider is the consistency of a mortar joint. All too often you see a project where the stone is almost drystacked on top of each other, and then there’s a one-inch joint right next to it. This happens on mosaic-style installs more commonly, as it can be difficult to have the mortar joint stay consistent without trimming the stone. So if stones aren’t being trimmed, you’ll see it in those installations for sure. (Find more details about good and bad masonry in the Press & Blog post ‘Masonry – There’s a Method to the Madness‘.)

Buechel Stone Ashlar & Castle Rock Building Veneer Stone Installation Patterns

My biggest pet peeve though is when someone is laying an ashlar style stone and trims the stone to fit the space. Ashlar and Castle Rock stones are to be laid as squares and rectangles or trapezoidal patterns., depending on how the blend is supposed to look. Trimming stone to look like an “L,” “T,” or “Z” to fit into a space is the biggest no-no. I just shake my head when I see this. There is nothing about this type of stone installation that’s okay.

improper stone trimming on stone veneer fireplace masonry stone installation

Stone and Building Material Interactions

Where masonry is located and what types of materials are used is something that should be reviewed before stone installation. One area to watch is a chimney chase. Chases framed in wood need special attention for climates that have cold winters. Wood can grow and shrink dramatically, and an icy night with the fireplace roaring can result in the wood expanding quickly.

We’ve had stone installation projects where the inside of the chase wasn’t insulated properly, and the stone cracked the whole length right through the stone at the corners. Originally, the thought was the mason didn’t wrap wire lath around the corners correctly (another common installation error). When contractors pulled some stone off, however, they found the lath was fine. The issue was there wasn’t any insulation in the chase, and the owners had a high efficiency fireplace that cranked out the heat. It wasn’t the mason’s fault, but a little consideration on material interaction with the stone installation could have saved some major problems.

Our Breakfast = Your Project Success

We live by our mission of providing the best, most dependable experience in the natural stone industry – guaranteed! In fact, providing best experiences is what gets us out of bed every morning. Then we take the advice of famous philosopher Alfred A. Montapert, “Expect problems and eat them for breakfast.” And our team of experts has seen a few problems to know what to expect, so you can leave breakfast to us and just do brunch. JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER to be notified of everything our team of Buechel Stone #Rockstars is doing to ensure a future built by your own project success stories.

Tracy Lisowe | Marketing Director
Mike Buechel | COO, Owner
Buechel Stone Corp.