Building a Stone-veneer House Wall

Facing stone, both real rock and synthetic, brings a rustic look to house walls . If you want to use real stone, get split fieldstone. It looks just like a rock wall when installed with attention to the pattern.

Stone-Veneer Wall

Most manufactured stone is more regular in appearance, molded in rough rectangles of different sizes. Installing both materials is much like gluing stones to the wall. Both tend to look better on surfaces that are about 36 inches tall or less, such as a foundation wall or the side of an outdoor barbecue enclosure.

Regardless of the kind of stone you're putting up, the mortar will need a surface with strong tooth to adhere to. Metal lath nailed to the wall is ideal. (Apply felt paper under it on sheathing.) The lath holds the mortar in place. Install the metal lath so the bottoms of the perforations slant down and in toward the wall, not out. Use pressure-treated lumber for the batten and leave it in place. Cover it with soil graded away from the foundation.

Prestart Checklist

About 1 1/2 days to veneer a 20-foot foundation wall

Small sledgehammer, aviation snips, cordless drill, square trowel, pointing trowel, stone chisel, mortar box, mason's hoe, mason's blocks and line, mortar bag, stiff brush, striking tool

Nailing metal lath, spreading mortar, setting stones

Metal lath, concrete nails, pressure-treated 2x4s, stone veneer

Step 1

Fasten metal lath to a masonry foundation wall with masonry nails. Overlap the edges by at least 3 inches and install corner beads. If you're facing a wood-sheathed wall, staple felt paper to the sheathing and nail the metal lath through the felt paper.

Step 2

Dig a narrow trench along the foundation and set a pressure-treated 2x4 rated for ground contact in it. Drive stakes next to the batten. Fasten the batten to them with screws, leveling it as you go. The batten is a ledge for the stones to rest on.

Step 3

Determine the pattern of the stones before mixing the mortar. Then mix the mortar and trowel a coat onto the lath. Embed the mortar fully into the lath, leaving no lath exposed.

Step 4

Back-butter the stones one by one with a generous coat of mortar. Don't worry about applying too much; the excess will squeeze out and become part of the mortared joint.

Step 5

Start at the corner. Push the back-buttered stones into the mortar. Arrange stones so the joints are offset. Continuous vertical or horizontal joint lines would not give the effect of an actual stone wall.

Step 6

Starting from the cornerstone, back-butter and set the base stones, letting them rest on the batten. Mist the mortar on the metal lath occasionally so it doesn't set up prematurely. Don't leave the job if there's fresh mortar on the wall and it hasn't yet been covered.

Step 7

Starting at either corner, set the next course of stones in the same fashion, placing each stone so it crosses the joint made by the two stones below. Offset the joints across the wall.

Step 8

Set mason's blocks on the edges of the wall and use it to make sure the horizontal alignment of the courses is roughly in line and the faces of the stones are about the same distance out from the wall. When you have finished the wall, let the mortar cure, then finish the joints.

Using manufactured stone: Step 1

Drive stakes at both ends of the wall and string a level mason's line tightly between them. Check each course for level as you go, nudging the stones into place if necessary.

Using manufactured stone: Step 2

Begin alternate courses with stones of different sizes. Mortar the joints with a grout bag and brush off excess from the face of the stone immediately.

Finishing the joints: Step 1

Grout the joints with a mortar bag. The bag makes clean joints and minimizes the amount of mortar that falls on the face of the stones. Fill the bag with mortar, close the end, and apply pressure to force the grout into the joints.

Finishing the joints: Step 2

Let the mortar set up slightly, then clean off the excess with a whisk boom or stiff brush. Then let the mortar set up further, until you can just dent it with pressure from your thumb. Strike the joints.

Finishing the joints: Step 3

You can use a variety of tools for striking facing-stone joints. A standard jointing tool, a pointed dowel, or even an old kitchen spoon will work.

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