When picturing a stone, concrete block or brick structure, many people, even professionals within the building industry, visualize buildings or façades bound by mortar. Masonry with mortar, whether it be stones, veneers or brick, is commonly used worldwide because its non-combustible (think of a traditional brick or stone fireplace), it resists rot, pests and harsh weather. It can increase the thermal mass of a structure, withstand large compressive weight loads and can be visually breathtaking. But masonry with mortar has distinct disadvantages, too.
Masonry with mortar is often troublesome during heavy precipitation or freezing conditions, as mortar is negatively affected. According to the Portland Cement Association, mortar can be fussy in less-than-perfect temperatures, so masonry with mortar work in certain weather conditions may be curtailed and the final mortar set may be compromised.
“Ideal temperatures for the placement and curing of masonry mortar is the range of 70°F + 10°F,” according to cement.org. “In cold weather (40 degrees Fahrenheit and below) mortar materials need to be heated, otherwise the mortar is likely to exhibit slower setting times and lower early strengths.
Stone or brick walls with mortar also tend to have high wall weights and low flexural and tensile strength (their ability to bend without suffering any major deformities and a measurement of the force required to pull them to the point where they break). They also can have poor seismic resistance, as earthquakes in Turkey and Syria demonstrated.
To be clear, mortar is not synonymous with cement, concrete or grout. Cement is the binding element used in modern-day mortar. (Mortar also has lower strength than concrete, can retain water and has a high air content.) Concrete is a mixture of cement, as a binding agent, sand or other fine aggregate. Grout doesn’t have the lime additive found in older mortar compositions. Grout also doesn’t bind materials together, but serves to fill the gaps between bricks, stones or tiles (think bathrooms).
When deciding whether to use traditional stone, brick or stone veneer masonry with mortar—or not—in any new or renovation effort, it’s smart to have an answer to the “to mortar or not to mortar” question.
Now that the advantages and disadvantages of mortared stone are laid out (albeit briefly), let’s look at the benefits of mortarless stone. By understanding the options, homeowners and builders can make knowledgeable decisions when planning projects.
What is Mortarless Stone Veneer?
Mortarless stone veneer is faux stone that does not require any mortar. This means no mixing, grouting, masonry tools, or metal lath in the installation process. The stones are dry-stacked tightly, minimizing the joints between them and eliminating the need for grouting. See the Evolve Stone’s quick guide to mortarless stone veneer here.
Advantages of Mortarless Stone Veneer
Let’s take a deeper look at some of the advantages of mortarless stone veneer:
All mortarless stone veneer has some version of a simple and straightforward installation process. Without needing the time required for the process of mixing and applying mortar, the application of mortarless stone veneer immediately reduces time consumption, which usually reduces the cost of the project overall.
Other time savings are associated with its weight. Moving, lifting and holding are all easier and faster to do with lighter materials. For example, Evolve Stone mortarless stone veneer installs up to 10X faster, in part because it weighs approximately 2 pounds (0.907 kg) per square foot. Other mortarless stone veneers can weigh, on average, 18 pounds (8.165 kg) per square foot.
Any masonry done with mortar requires experienced masonry expertise and specialized equipment. With mortared stone veneer, installers need notched trowels, tile spacers, a grout bag or piping gun, sponges, a masonry hammer or angle grinder with a diamond blade and, of course, mortar. Mortar is messy and errors in placement or consistency can significantly increase a project’s time-to-completion.
Mortarless stone veneer may be installed with a saw (with masonry blade), measuring tape, level, proper sized screws or nails and, with Evolve Stone, a nail gun. Remember, safety glasses are a necessary item anytime a saw or nail gun is in the mix. Because there is no mortar to blend, apply or correct, mortarless stone veneer provides the flexibility needed for quicker adjustments and modifications during installation.
Mortarless stone veneer also minimizes the labor-intensive task of individually placing stones. With some mortarless stone veneer materials, installation is streamlined with interlocking or panel systems.
Remember that reference to mortar not setting in certain weather conditions? That creates another opportunity for mortarless stone veneer to excel. With mortarless stone veneer, few weather restrictions apply to prep and construction. With Evolve Stone specifically, there are no weather or temperature-related installation restrictions. (With the caveat that installation during hurricanes, blizzards, floods or tornados is discouraged!)
Simplified installation with clear guidelines speeds the installation of mortarless stone veneer for contractors, but also encourages enthusiastic DIY homeowners to embrace it as an option. And because expertise and workforce shortages can affect projects on tight timelines, using mortarless stone veneer can make the difference in delivering a project on-time, on-spec and on-budget.
For homeowners who want additional insights on stone veneer, consider this quick buying guide from building supply retailer Lowe’s or the Family Handyman’s guide.
The need for minimal maintenance is part of the beauty—and time savings—of mortarless stone veneer.
Although it is low maintenance, quality mortarless stone veneer deserves the attention needed to help keep colors rich and the stone surfaces free from dust and grime. When homeowners take the time to clean and care for their stone veneer, they also protect their initial investment in their home project, which can help them be more satisfied with their homes for longer and increase property values through time.
Mortarless stone veneer should be inspected at regular intervals, but without mortar to evaluate or repair, mortarless stone veneer can wait to be inspected every spring and fall (make it a routine connected to changing smoke alarm batteries, or whatever regular schedule works. Mortarless stone veneer does not require repointing.
Because mortarless stone veneer is resistant to stains, mold, and mildew is easy to clean with a solution of mild dish soap, white vinegar and water. Avoid harsh chemicals, hard-bristle brushes and power washing overall. Although there’s a low risk of cracking or chipping, stone veneer warrants a softer touch than the blast of a power hose.
Although Evolve Stone does not require sealing or resealing, contractors and homeowners should check manufacturers’ recommendations for other mortarless stone veneer, as resealing can be dependent on the material used to produce the stone.
Mortarless stone veneer retains its beauty and durability over time and generally resists fading, even in direct sunlight, but check with the manufacturer for specifics.
For example, although Evolve Stone’s color throughout material is UV resistant, but does fade over time.
“It would be normal for the product to undergo a UV shock phase within the first three months to three years dependent upon UV exposure levels,” according to Evolve Stone. “Adjacent reflective surfaces and extreme environments may intensify it. After this phase, we find the material becomes stable and continues to be UV resistant. After an extended period, color may be revitalized using masonry staining techniques, if needed.”
Mortarless stone veneer offers vast design possibilities because its adaptable to various architectural styles and suitable for both interior and exterior applications. It can be used on walls, facades and fireplaces. (With fireplaces, make sure the stone veneer is fire rated, such as Evolve Stone, which is ICC-ES listed as a Class B fire rating.)
Mortarless stone veneer is compatible with other materials, colors and textures for distinctive designs, such as those seen here in Architect magazine. It can also be installed on curved or irregular surfaces. Without the cost and work involved in stone upgrades, mortarless tone veneer provides the ability to create focal points and visual interest.
Although using mortarless stone veneer is cost-effective because there is no cost associated with mortar, grout or lath and it offers lower material costs because of reduced stone usage, stone veneer helps contractors and homeowners save in other ways.
When selecting a stone veneer product, figure the waste factor, which is one of the biggest differences between traditional and mortarless manufactured stone veneer. Most stone systems recommend an additional 5-15% of product to account for waste and breakage, but with a mortarless product like Evolve Stone, there is as little as 1-3% of waste because of the product’s durability and workability.
No renovation or remodeling project is cheap, but when mortarless stone veneer use maximizes value for the money by delivering a high-quality aesthetic result, it is easy to see a clear cost-benefit ratio. Also, the potential for increased return on investment for property owners is attractive.
Superior Strength, Durability and Weather Resistance
The quality of the installation leads to the quality of a mortarless stone veneer’s weather resistance. With an uncomplicated installation, such as with Evolve Stone, there are fewer chances for water from rain or snow to create mayhem where the stone is applied to the substrate. When installed properly, stone veneer exhibits exceptional strength and durability and resists cracking, chipping, and breaking.
Most mortarless stone veneer products are manufactured to withstand heat, cold, rain and wind and all stone veneer products have an ASTM rating. (ASTM International, formerly known as American Society for Testing and Materials, rates construction materials). Evolve Stone scores well against salt-spray, humidity, heat and cold, as do other products, so be sure to evaluate the manufacturer’s specifics and ASTM ratings.
Increased Property Value
Since 2015, when stone veneer first showed up in home improvement ranking, it has continued to improve the ROI of a home. It enhances the overall aesthetic appeal of the property, adding a touch of sophistication and timeless appeal. Realtors use stone veneer as a distinctive selling point in listings and it boosts the curb appeal and market desirability of homes and commercial buildings, as well.
Because stone veneer elevates the perceived value of the property and sets the property apart from neighboring structures, using stone veneer continues to be a renovation that delivers highest at resale.
Now that the advantages of mortarless stone veneer for homes and commercial structures are laid out, the benefits are innumerable. By understanding the scope of options, homeowners and builders can make knowledgeable decisions when planning projects.
FAQs About Mortarless Stone Veneer
The main difference between mortarless stone veneer and traditional stone veneer is the method of installation. Mortarless stone veneer does not require mortar for installation, while traditional stone veneer is installed using mortar.
Yes, mortarless stone veneer can be installed by DIY enthusiasts. It is designed for easy installation without the need for professional masonry skills or specialized tools.
Mortarless stone veneer is designed to resist weather conditions due to its durable and weather-resistant materials. It is engineered to withstand moisture, temperature changes, and other environmental factors.
Yes, mortarless stone veneer is suitable for both interior and exterior applications. It can be used to enhance the aesthetics of interior walls, fireplaces, and accent features, as well as exterior facades, columns, and outdoor living spaces.
Mortarless stone veneer requires minimal maintenance. Regular cleaning with mild soap and water is usually sufficient to keep it looking its best. It does not require re-pointing or mortar repairs like traditional stone veneer.
Using mortarless stone veneer can potentially increase the value of your property. It offers a high-end and visually appealing finish that can enhance the curb appeal and overall value of your home or commercial property.