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Stone veneer is one of the most sought-after naturalized stones on the market. And for good reasons too. With its incredible natural texture, stone veneers deliver the rugged beauty of the outdoors. Additionally, installation is relatively easy, making for a DIY- friendly project.
Stone veneer comes in several different types, and the exact preparation and process will vary somewhat depending on the product. The manufacturer's instructions are the best source of precise directions on preparation, installation, and maintenance.
Many tools and materials can aid in installing your stone veneer project. You can get most of your tools from various hardware stores or specialty masonry vendors/stores. Ask any honest contractor, and they will tell you that they're only as good as their best tools. Below are a few basic installation tools needed for a stone veneer project to enhance your home.
Notched trowels come in different sizes based on the type of product being installed and how big a notch it requires—wondering what size is best? Most stone veneer panel guides have a trowel size recommendation listed.
Notched trowels are used for spreading scratch coat and bond coat mortar. When it comes to the size of your notched trowels, the important thing is if they leave a consistent amount of mortar down to set your tiles. The main purpose of the notches is to give the mortar a place to adhere to once the tile is installed and compressed down.
A notched trowel often has at least one or two sides of the trowel cut out with a certain shape, creating the trowel’s teeth to butter or spread mortar and create a pattern. This pattern and the dimensions of the teeth dictate what kind of indent the trowel creates when smoothing the setting materials.
A masonry hammer is an ideal tool if you'd like to chisel or finely shape any stone edges to your exact liking. But perhaps the most efficient method for trimming veneer is through an angle grinder equipped with a diamond blade, making it easier to cut off any loose ends and ensuring a smooth installation.
Pro tip: cuts made at an angle from the backside at a ½” (12mm) depth will allow the stone to be broken easily with a small hammer along the cut line, leaving a more refined natural edge on the front side. Before installing, ensure that pieces are free of any debris or loose concrete that could impede the bond. For best results, use a 4”-9” grinder.
More a workable paste than a tool, Mortar is the adhesive to which the stone veneer sticks. A mortar scratch coat is the foundation of any stone veneer wall. Veneer stone mortars can be mixed by hand or machine. The size of the project will determine the best method for mixing. If it’s a small project like a fireplace or an accent wall, then mixing by hand is best practice. Mix a batch of mortar to a firm, workable consistency.
Pro tip: properly prepared mortar will hang steadily on a trowel held at a 90-degree angle. The best mortars to use are type N or S mortars with varying strengths. Type N is the most commonly used mortar for general purposes such as soft stone masonry,above-grade walls, and chimneys. Type S mortars are a powerful blend. So strong they are soil, wind, and seismic load resistant, making for an ideal choice for brick patios, sewers, maintenance holes and other exterior masonry projects.
Working with mortar and using a grinder or masonry hammer can be a messy job. Mortar can be hard to work with when it oozes through the cracks or onto other stone pieces. The filmy residue that mortar leaves behind can dull the appearance of the stone and should be removed immediately with sponges. Use a stiff bristle brush and water to clean the area of debris.
Pro tip: do not allow mortar to dry on the face of the stone. Keeping your hands and your stone veneer clean is the most important tip on this list. Brushes and sponges should be used throughout your project for a clean, professional look.
And finally, what would our list be without the sealant and tool of all tools, the joint tool. Once your stone veneer is laid nicely, use a piping bag or a grout bag mixed with the mortar solution to fill in the gaps between the stone. You can use whatever pre-blended mortar you used before to make a scratch wall. Applying grout helps to hold the veneer in place over time. Think of it as an extra layer of protection. As the grout begins to dry, smooth out the path with a joint tool.
Pro tip: Once again, try not to smear any grout onto the stone face. You’ll know the mortar is ready to be smoothed when it falls away like sand. If, by chance, some mortar gets onto the stone, allow it to dry, then brush away with your stiff brush.