Stone veneer is a light layer of stone that is bonded to an outdoor wall to give it the appearance of brickwork or stone. In fact, the stones are small and thin, and installers place them on a bed of mortar where they have no support function. Some stone veneers are even made of synthetic materials. When placing a stone veneer on a wall, installers must keep in mind several key factors so serious problems do not develop over time.
Stone veneer is difficult to place properly, especially for those who are not trained in installing it. Since the stones are not technically stacked, they can be placed in any order. However, simply creating layers leads to problems at the edges and the corners, where spaces are tight and installers have to use small stones to make up the difference, making the pattern look forced and awkward. For a more natural pattern, installers should start at the top of the wall and work down with large stones, then go back and fill in with small stones.
Stone veneers do not solve any foundation problems in the concrete or wall materials themselves. At most, they can only cover them up. If the wall already has slight flaws, like cracks or uneven placement, these flaws will only be magnified by the veneer. Eventually, the cracks will show through and may even ruin the veneer surface.
Before the stones are installed, a sub-bed of mortar must be troweled against the wall. This layer is thin, but very important, since it helps hold the stones in place and keeps them separated from the wall itself. However, this layer is also difficult to install without experience. It must be extremely level, or the unevenly distributed mortar will cause the stones to be uneven as well. No spaces or corners can be left without mortar.
Moisture is one of the worst things for stone veneer. Moisture seeps into the spaces behind the wall to rot away at the foundation while also creeping up and dissolving the mortar itself. This can be a big problem in wet climates, and complicated mesh or vapor barriers must be installed to protect walls, with drainage outlets included. Homeowners likely cannot install such a veneer without professional help.
Mortar Joint Problems
Mortar joints are also problematic. Ideally, the joints should be filled completely with mortar. If any cracks are left around the more complicated stones, moisture will seep in and eventually enlarge those cracks. Dry-stack stone patterns can only be used in mild climates that don't have freezing and thawing cycles because the temperature variations quickly ruin dry-stack veneer.
- Photo Credit structure, stone, wild stone image by Oleg Guryanov from Fotolia.com
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