Natural stone is heavy and expensive to build with, so artificial stone veneer is an increasingly common building material for modern homes. Unfortunately, artificial stone veneer is not without problems — usually resulting from improper installation, not the material itself.
Veneer and Moisture
Long ago, homes were not insulated and were not energy efficient. Water, cold air and hot air would naturally seep in and seep out of the walls as weather changed. Today's emphasis on energy efficiency requires a home to be nearly waterproof. Unfortunately, this watertight condition can trap moisture in the walls of the house, causing rot and mold. Homes made from artificial stone veneer are especially susceptible to this problem because stone veneer is in no way waterproof. In fact, artificial stone veneer is a cement-based product that naturally absorbs water. If the home is improperly built or the veneer improperly installed, stone veneer can allow water inside, which then becomes trapped.
The home must be weatherproof without the stone veneer. Before installation of a scratch coat or the veneer, the home must be properly wrapped with two layers of Grade D Kraft paper. This paper is known as a moisture barrier and will prevent water from seeping into the walls. This should be done before doors and windows are set, to ensure that leakage does not occur at these vulnerable areas.
Water Removal Systems
Stone veneer requires a number of water removal systems to be put in place. Metal flashing must be used under the stone to guide the water away from the house. Weep holes must be installed at the base of the walls to allow wet walls to dry. A surface called a scratch coat should be installed beneath the veneer, to which the veneer will bond. Sill stones installed beneath windows should be sloped away from the window to carry rainwater away.
Improper Installation Is Common
Unfortunately, stone veneer is not easy to install. It's altogether too common for contractors who bid low to cut costs by hiring less experienced and less expensive labor. Improper supervision may also play a role in this problem because contractors may not always be around to supervise laborers and subcontractors. This often leads to the improper installation of the moisture barrier, water drainage systems or the veneer itself.
Do not try to veneer your home on your own. This is a job best left to a professional. Research your contractor thoroughly before hiring. Read reviews of your contractor and ask to see a portfolio of your contractor's work. Discuss with your contractor the many steps to be taken to waterproof your home. Do not hire a contractor who will not be on the building site daily. Don't hire the lowest bidder; hire the one with whom you feel most comfortable. You will save yourself time, money and future headache.
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