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How to Buy

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How to Buy

The Evolve Stone Blog

Stone Veneer Installation: What You Need to Know

two men in back shirts installing stone veneer to wall

When it comes to choosing the right stone siding for your project, the most important factors to keep in mind are total install cost, install time, structural concerns, workability and the labor skill set needed. First, you’ll want to understand your stone siding options, which fall within two overarching options: traditional artificial stone veneer/natural stone and mortarless easy-to-install stone veneer.

Traditional artificial stone veneer and natural stone siding come as loose, individual stones and utilize mortar/lath as their attachment method (chemical attachment). This type of system is normally installed by a skilled tradesman, such as a stonemason.

Mortarless easy-to-install stone veneer comes in a variety of options ranging from panelized systems to individual stone systems, featuring thermoplastics, specialty composites, and concrete while utilizing screws or nails as their attachment method (mechanical attachment). These systems are installed by both DIYers and professionals.

Select a Veneer That Fits Your Needs

side by side comparison of traditional stone with mortar and grouting to dry stack mortarless veneer
The image to the left features an example of a traditional stone with mortar and grouting between the stone. The right image is an example of Evolve Stone’s mortarless veneer installed with a nail gun. There is no grouting between stone for a clean, dry stacked look.

Traditional Stone Veneer & Natural Stone Siding

The reason we group traditional stone veneer and natural stone under the same umbrella is that while there are differences between workability and material, they have a very similar installation method which requires a weather-resistive barrier (WRB), lath, mortar and sometimes structural elements such as grade beams, structural wall systems or lintels to carry the weight. Due to the nature of traditional stone veneer and natural stone siding, it often takes substantially more time to install than mortarless easy-to-install stone veneer products. With the need for lath, mortar, structural elements, and skilled labor, end-users often pay a heftier on the wall price.

Mortarless Easy-to-Install Stone Veneer

On the other hand, most mortarless stone veneer installs in the same fashion as traditional siding with most requiring a WRB for exterior applications, which is also dependent on your area’s code requirements. Since not all mortarless stone veneer is treated the same, some require screwing into the surface and hitting structural studs with the use of connection flanges or brackets, where only Evolve can be directly face nailed. As mentioned above, there are two options with mortarless stone veneer products: panelized systems and individual stone systems.

Infographic comparing the structure of panelized systems vs individual stones

Panelized Systems

  • All panelized systems use connection flanges to some degree and some have a spacer or built-in rainscreen, which would hold the panel up off the wall to serve as a drainage/drying gap. A great aspect about panelized systems is that they cover a lot of square footage at once, which can save time; however, the rigid dimensions of panels make workability difficult, especially when working around corners, windows, doors or ornate details. Unlike a wood floor, with stone veneer on a house, you don’t want to see the staggering joints of a panelized system, as it can give off a fake look. Often once you see the panel’s pattern, that ends up being all you can see.

Individualized Systems

  • With individualized systems, you will have the benefit of amazing workability and even if the product you’re using requires screws, you won’t have to find studs. Individualized systems are also really easy to cheat if you get out of level, saving you extra time, effort and headache. When it comes to installation time compared with panelized options, individual systems may not cover as much square footage at once, but it also doesn’t require as much planning/mapping out. Individualized systems also create a more natural pattern with the beautiful look and feel of natural stone, without the hassle.

How to Install Stone Veneer

Now that you understand how the stone veneer installation process can depend on the veneer type purchased, we have provided an overview of steps and considerations to guide you through your project.

1. Determining Materials

Consider Product Waste: When selecting your product, you’ll want to figure your waste factor. One of the biggest differences between traditional and mortarless manufactured stone veneer is your waste. Most stone systems recommend you order an additional 5-15% of product to account for waste and breakage, whereas with a mortarless product like Evolve Stone, you might have as little as 1-3% of waste because of the product’s durability and workability.

Quote graphic that says, "Most stone systems recommend you order an additional 5-15% of product to account for waste and breakage."

Once you decide which stone siding you’d like to install, you’ll want to evaluate key considerations to start your project. Make sure you nail down what look you’re trying to achieve, determine the substrate you’ll be installing over and take any structural concerns into consideration. All of these factors will help inform the materials you need to gather for your specific project such as your WRB, rainscreen, wire lath, mortar, insulation and any required tools or fasteners.

inforgraphic for stone veneer installation surface prep displaying the different layer comparisons from mortarless stone veneer installation to traditional stone installation

2. Prepping the Surface

How you prep the surface depends entirely on the substrate and the specific manufacturer’s recommendations. For example, if you are applying over concrete, you’ll want to start by cleaning off any dirt or oil from the surface. When installing over wood, no cleaning is typically required.

For traditional stone installation, the surface is often prepped with a dual WRB (weather-resistance barrier), rainscreen, wire lath and a scratch coat. Make sure to not cut any corners if installing a scratch coat. Wait for the full 12- to 24-hour window for the coat to firm up, otherwise, it can create quality control issues.

When working with mortarless stone veneer, the product is installed more like traditional siding. There is no need to worry about wire lath or a scratch coat.

close up of person placing stone on wall on top of mortar

3. Prepping the Stone

Before installing your stone, consider the layout and orientation of install. Laying the stones out can help you visualize the pattern and determine if there are any stones you will need to cut. This is especially important when working with stone that is not color-throughout. For heavier veneers, it is recommended that installations start from the bottom up. This means there is more limitation on the exact placement of your veneer and can lead to further visibility of cuts.

With products such as Evolve Stone, there is no need to worry about cuts, as the product is color-throughout. Due to the lightweight material, you can work either bottom-up or top-down, providing more flexibility and less prep time.

close up of man holding single stone veneer to install on wall

5. Installing the Stone

Depending on the mortar being used, you may or may not need to prime the back of the stone with water before you apply mortar to the stone. Make sure you double check that you are using the correct type of mortar for your stone and climate.

When working with mortarless products, consider the material your system utilizes (screws, nails, etc.) and whether or not you’ll need to hit a stud. Most panelized systems require hitting at least one or more stud per panel, but individualized systems don’t typically require stud-finding.

tube with grout being applied in between the space of stones

6. Grouting

This step really comes down to a design choice and can be more expensive since it requires more work and material. The vast majority of mortarless installation systems don’t need grout and give a dry stack look, while others may use a grout bag. Grout can be incredibly difficult to work with and to remove, which is why mortared systems take so much longer to install than mortarless options.

Considering Evolve Stone?

Now you’re ready to start your installation! If you’re still in the planning phase of your project and are looking for a mortarless, color-throughout product that will install up to 10X faster than traditional stone veneer, reach out to us at Evolve Stone! Our product is an individualized system that can be face nailed with standard stainless steel 16-gauge finish nails into the surface of the stone. To learn more about Evolve Stone’s installation process, view our installation guide or check out the video below comparing the traditional stone veneer installation process to Evolve’s mortarless system.