Building a Stone-Veneer House 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. To learn how to do all this and more, check out our expert advice below. A beautiful wall is just a stone's throw away.
What You Need
- 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
- Metal lath
- Concrete nails
- Pressure-treated 2x4s
- Stone veneer
Step 1: Attach Metal Lath
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: Fasten Batten
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: Spread Mortar
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.
Tip: Make a Dry Run With the Stone
Find the best arrangement for your stone veneer before the mortar is on the wall. Dry-lay the stones ahead of time on the lawn or a sheet of plywood. Fit them so the sizes, colors, and shapes are evenly and randomly dispersed throughout the pattern rather than placing most of the large stones on the bottom, as in a fieldstone wall. A stone-veneer house wall would look bottom heavy with such an arrangement.
Step 4: Prep Stones
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.
Tip: Prop Up the Big Pieces
Lower stones will rest on the batten, but as you work up the wall, stones have to adhere to the mortar to remain in position. Large stones may be too heavy to stick to the mortar on the wall. Prop them up with a 1x4. Cut a notch for the stone in one end and jam the other end into the soil. Stake the prop to increase its stability.
Step 5: Place Stones
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.
Tip: Cutting Facing Stone
Build a sand bedding box in a 2x4 frame. The sand accommodates the curved face of the stone and keeps the stone steady while you cut it. Cutting stone on a hard surface, such as a driveway, is difficult and could mar the stone face.
Step 6: Continue Laying Stones
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: Set Next Row
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: Finish Stones
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: Check Level
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.
Step 2: Mortar Joints
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: Fill Joints
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.
Step 2: Clean Excess
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.
Step 3: Smooth Joints
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.