Stone veneer is a dynamic choice for homeowners and builders looking to enhance the aesthetics of a home or structure’s exterior or interior. It provides the timeless appeal of natural stone, while it offers greater flexibility and ease of installation compared to full-thickness stone. Within the realm of stone veneer, traditional stone veneer and mortarless stone veneer are two primary categories.
Let’s look at the pros and cons of these two options, examining their composition, installation methods, durability, cost and aesthetic variations.
Traditional Stone Veneer
Traditional stone veneer, also known as natural stone veneer, is created from genuine stone quarried from the earth. It retains the organic texture, color variations and authenticity of natural stone, making it a sought-after choice for those seeking a natural and authentic appearance. The main features and differences of traditional stone veneer include:
Composition and Weight
Traditional stone veneer is composed of natural stone slices or pieces typically 3/4 to 1.5 inches thick. These slices are cut from quarried stones such as granite, limestone or slate, preserving the authentic characteristics of the original rock.
Traditional stone veneer is heavier than mortarless stone veneer due to its solid stone composition.
Traditional stone veneer is installed using mortar or adhesive, requiring a skilled mason to carefully set each stone piece in place. The process involves applying mortar to both the substrate and the back of each stone piece before pressing it into position. The installation of traditional stone veneer demands seasoned craftsmanship and precision. The mason must ensure proper alignment, spacing and bonding of stones to create an aesthetically pleasing finish.
Traditional stone veneer offers exceptional durability due to its natural composition. Resistant to weather, UV rays and temperature fluctuations, it withstands the test of time. Unlike some synthetic alternatives, it won’t fade, warp or deteriorate, ensuring a timeless and enduring aesthetic that enhances both residential and commercial spaces.
It will require occasional maintenance, such as repointing mortar joints or cleaning to preserve its appearance over time (more on that later).
Traditional stone veneer tends to be more expensive upfront compared to mortarless alternatives due to the cost of acquiring and processing natural stone. Costs associated with labor, including the price of skilled labor for installation and the time required to install it. Because of traditional stone veneer’s weight, albeit less than full stone, installation is time-intensive and can contribute to higher overall costs.
Mortarless Stone Veneer
Mortarless stone veneer, often referred to as manufactured or faux stone veneer, is designed to mimic the appearance of natural stone while offering several advantages in terms of installation and cost-effectiveness. The characteristics of mortarless stone veneer include:
Mortarless stone veneer is typically made from a composite material, such as cement, aggregates and pigments. This engineered material is molded and colored to imitate the appearance of natural stone.
Mortarless stone veneer is also often thinner than traditional stone veneer, usually ranging from 1/2 to 1 inch in thickness. This contributes to its installation ease and structural durability.
Weight is a critical factor in mortarless stone veneer installation due to safety and structural considerations. Excessive weight can strain the wall or support structure, leading to instability and potential damage. Properly assessing and managing the weight ensures the veneer adheres securely, preventing hazards and ensuring long-term durability. Weight considerations are vital for both aesthetic appeal and the structural integrity of the installation.
One of the primary distinctions of mortarless stone veneer is its dry-stack installation method. Stones are designed with interlocking features, allowing them to be stacked without the need for mortar. But Evolve Stone altered the industry when it introduced the first nail-able mortarless stone veneer. Evolve Stone installs with the ease of a finish nailer.
Ease of Installation: Mortarless stone veneer is known for its DIY-friendly installation, as it does not require the expertise of a professional mason. Homeowners with basic skills can often complete the installation themselves. See the visual difference with Evolve Stone here.
Mortarless stone veneer is engineered to resist cracking, fading, and weathering. It is less prone to damage from freeze-thaw cycles and moisture that can affect mortared stone veneer, which makes it more resilient. And while they may not be as long-lasting as traditional stone veneer, mortarless varieties can still provide several decades of service when properly maintained.
Mortarless stone veneer is generally more budget-friendly than traditional stone veneer, making it more affordable for some homeowners. Lower material costs, reduced labor expenses and DIY installation contribute to its cost-effectiveness.
Both traditional and mortarless stone veneers offer a wide range of design options, including various colors, textures and styles to suit different architectural preferences. But you’ll find subtle aesthetic differences that may influence your choices.
Traditional stone veneer is prized for its genuine appearance, capturing the distinctive characteristics of natural stone. Mortarless veneer, while mimicking the look of stone effectively, may lack some of the nuanced details found in genuine stone, but offering a pleasing visual appearance, nonetheless.
Mortarless veneer may provide more design versatility in terms of shape and size due to its engineered nature. It can be customized to meet specific design requirements.
“You may have seen beautiful displays of veneer stone or natural stone on the walls of homes or businesses. If you have a difficult time telling veneer stone apart from natural stone, that is entirely by the manufacturers’ design,” according to online lifestyle site The Spruce. “The veneer stone industry is doing its best to displace natural stone as the masonry covering of choice for home exterior cladding, fireplace surrounds and all sorts of interior touches.”
Part of that aesthetic challenge has been the lack of colorfastness in the stone veneer, which can be addressed by choosing a stone veneer product such as Evolve Stone, which has color throughout each stone piece.
“The color-infused-throughout stone veneer adds the beauty and feel of real stone in four colors, which offer mix-and-match possibilities, according to Evolve Stone. “The customizable nature of Evolve Stone allows for endless versatility, limited only by the installer’s creativity.”
As promised, a special section on the maintenance of traditional stone veneer and mortarless stone veneer.
Stone veneer can lend a timeless and rustic charm to any setting, whether it’s a traditional stone veneer installed with mortar or a more modern mortarless stone veneer system. But, as with any other material, stone veneer requires regular maintenance to ensure its longevity and visual appeal. Let’s look at what that takes, or read about it at length in this post.
Traditional Stone Veneer Maintenance
Traditional stone veneer is typically installed using mortar, which gives it a sturdy and classic appearance. To keep it looking its best, regular maintenance is paramount.
Start by removing dirt, dust, and debris with a gentle brush or vacuum cleaner. Avoid using abrasive tools that could scratch the stone surface.
For exterior stone veneer, use a low-pressure power washer to remove accumulated dirt and algae. Be cautious not to use excessive pressure, as it can damage the mortar and stones.
Mortar can deteriorate over time, so periodically inspect it for cracks and gaps. Repointing involves replacing damaged mortar with fresh mortar to maintain structural integrity.
Applying a quality stone sealer can help protect against moisture penetration, staining, and the growth of mold or mildew. Consult with a professional to determine the appropriate sealer for your specific stone type.
If your stone veneer is located in an exterior setting, near garden beds or walkways, keep an eye out for weeds growing between the stones. Regularly remove any weeds to prevent them from damaging the mortar.
Mortarless Stone Veneer Maintenance
Mortarless stone veneer systems offer a more contemporary and simplified installation process, but they also require maintenance to retain their beauty. What does that involve?
Similar to traditional stone veneer, use a soft brush or vacuum cleaner to remove loose dirt and debris. Avoid harsh chemicals that may damage the surface.
Carefully use a low-pressure power washer to clean the surface. Ensure that water does not penetrate behind the stones, as this can lead to moisture-related issues. The manufacturer of Evolve Stone offers a caveat to power washing the company’s products.
“The actual stone itself can handle being power washed on a lower pressure setting at a conservative distance BUT there is the chance the WRB and rainscreen could be damaged in the process, according to Evolve Stone. “We suggest cleaning with a mild detergent and soft bristled brush.”
Like traditional veneer in an exterior setting where weeds and other plants might grow, mortarless systems can also be susceptible to weed growth in gaps. Use weed barriers or regular weeding to prevent it.
Regularly inspect the stones for shifting or loose pieces. If you notice any, reposition and secure them promptly.
Sealing (if applicable)
Some mortarless systems come with optional sealants. If recommended by the manufacturer, apply sealant to protect against moisture and staining.
Whether you have traditional stone veneer with mortar or a mortarless system, proper maintenance is key to preserving its appearance and durability. Regular cleaning, inspection, and, when necessary, repair will ensure that your stone veneer continues to enhance your space for years to come.
Consulting with a professional—or the manufacturer—for specific maintenance recommendations based on your veneer type and location is always a wise choice.
A note on warranties and insurance
Warranties and insurance play pivotal roles in the installation and maintenance of traditional and mortarless stone veneer, whether the application is inside or outside. Traditional stone veneer, which requires mortar, typically comes with warranties from both the manufacturer and the installer. These warranties cover defects in materials and workmanship. Homeowners may also want to consider insurance coverage to protect against damage caused by natural disasters or accidents during installation.
Mortarless stone veneer systems, on the other hand, often come with longer warranties due to their innovative designs. These warranties typically cover product defects and structural integrity. Homeowners should still consider insurance to protect against unexpected events such as storms or vandalism that could damage the veneer.
In both cases, homeowners should carefully review warranty terms and consider insurance options to safeguard their investment.
Both traditional stone veneer and mortarless stone veneer have their own distinct advantages and considerations. Traditional stone veneer offers unmatched authenticity but comes at a higher upfront cost and demands skilled labor for installation. In contrast, mortarless stone veneer provides a cost-effective and DIY-friendly alternative with adequate durability and a wide range of design options, although it may lack the natural authenticity of traditional stone.
The choice between the two depends on individual preferences, budget constraints and the desired aesthetic. Whether you opt for the timeless appeal of traditional stone veneer or the practicality of mortarless stone veneer, both options can enhance the beauty and value of your home or building
Stone veneer is a versatile choice for enhancing a home or building’s exterior or interior aesthetics, offering the appearance of natural stone with easier installation.
Stone veneer is primarily categorized into traditional stone veneer (natural stone) and mortarless stone veneer (manufactured or faux stone).
Traditional stone veneer is composed of slices or pieces of natural stone, preserving its authentic texture and color.
Traditional stone veneer is installed using mortar or adhesive by skilled masons, requiring precision in alignment and spacing.
Yes, traditional stone veneer is highly durable and resistant to weather, UV rays, and temperature fluctuations, but it may require occasional maintenance.
Traditional stone veneer is typically more expensive upfront due to the cost of natural stone and skilled labor for installation.
Mortarless stone veneer is usually made from a composite material and is thinner than traditional stone veneer.
Mortarless stone veneer is generally more budget-friendly due to lower material costs, reduced labor expenses, and DIY installation.