Best Practices for Working with Masonry Veneer
Masonry veneer has been a fixture in new home construction and remodeling for decades. A cost-effective material with unmatched aesthetics, masonry veneer gives homeowners a signature look while giving the builder a less complex installation that is fast and effective.
In recent years, the proliferation of styles such as rustic farmhouse and craftsman designs has added even greater demands on builders to both source and install quality veneer that will limit callbacks and look incredible on buildings. This article will review some of the best practices for this type of construction, including the importance of using high-quality mortar and masonry accessories.
What is Masonry Veneer?
Before we jump into best practices, we’ll touch on what masonry veneer is exactly and how it’s utilized in modern building construction.
Masonry veneer offers the charm and durability of masonry materials — like brick or stone — without relying on them as primary structural support. In this building method, a wall composed of wood or steel is first constructed before adding an aesthetically pleasing layer of mortar-bonded masonry to its exterior surface. Adhesives and mechanical fasteners can also be used for installation purposes.
Masonry veneer is suitable for residential and commercial buildings because it offers incredible cost-effectiveness that solid masonry cannot match. In addition, its lightweight properties make this type of construction ideal in areas where weight may otherwise be prohibitive, such as higher wall elevations or non-load-bearing walls. Its versatility allows numerous design opportunities that can be combined with other materials to create eye-catching architectural features, but not all masonry veneer is created equally.
Here at Creative Mines, our artisan experts have perfected masonry veneer for the highest standard — your own. Our products are designed with superior mix batching and color pigments integrated with up to 70% post-industrial content. After decades in the industry, our team focuses on engineering exceptional stone meant to stand the test of time.
We make use of pure, natural pumice pozzolan — the same aggregate found in stone used in ancient Rome for an improvement not only in aesthetics but elevated strength, durability, efflorescence and sulfur resistance and permeability reduction.
Benefits of Masonry Veneer
Masonry veneer can provide an attractive, traditional look to any building and can be customized to match any desired style or color scheme. It adds curb appeal to the property and can increase its overall value in the long term.
Masonry veneer can be a more cost-effective option compared to traditional masonry construction because it uses less material and labor while providing a similar look and durability.
Masonry veneer products can endure extreme weather conditions such as high winds or rain. They are also resistant to fire and pests, which makes them an excellent choice for long-term protection.
Masonry veneer provides additional insulation to the building envelope, by reducing heat loss and improving energy efficiency. This can help to lower heating and cooling costs and improve overall comfort. It also provides unbeatable versatility for any construction project due to its ability to be installed over a variety of building materials, such as wood, concrete and metal.
Best Practices for Masonry Veneer Installation
Masonry veneer installations require construction personnel to have knowledge and experience in proper methods of installation. To achieve a successful project, use quality materials, proper design and detailing for the application and a high standard of care during installation.
List of Tools Required:
Typical Installation Methods
The following three methods are most often used today:
1. Traditional Lath and Scratch-Coat
The traditional lath and scratch-coat method utilizes two layers of water-resistant barrier (WRB) that are used as a moisture barrier, 2.5 self-furred metal lath (or better), meeting ASTM C847, Type N or S mortar meeting ASTM C270 and scratched-coat that has cured sufficiently before installing the stone.
2. Continuous Insulation
Continuous insulation is similar to lath and scratch-coat but with the addition of insulation boards in between the (two) layers of WRB and lath and scratch-coat. These are secured with corrosion-resistant fasteners such as nails, staples or screws that are long enough to penetrate the wood framing studs a minimum of ¾ inch.
3. Systems Approach
Using a systems approach, such as LATICRETE®’s MVIS System, offers the convenience of bundled products engineered to work together but also excellent warranty coverage from the manufacturer.
The MVIS (masonry veneer installation system) allows the stone to be installed directly over a stud wall using the traditional lath and scratch-coat method with a LATICRETE premium mortar bed, or the veneer can be applied directly to an exterior-rated cement board meeting ASTM C1325 without the need for a scratch-coat.
Let's look a closer look at the cement board method using MVIS as an example:
All cement board joints must be reinforced with 4-inch wide mesh and mortar. Then cover the entire surface with a liquid air and water barrier.
Install a level screed board at the bottom of the wall where the first course will begin.
Apply the MVIS mortar to the cement board and use a notched trowel to provide a ½-inch vertical notched profile. Skim-coat the back of each piece of stone and slide it into place.
Follow the installation instructions for the particular Creative Mines stone you have selected.
Which Mortar is Best for Masonry Veneer Construction?
Mortars used for the installation of AMSV (Adhered Manufactured Stone Veneer) systems can be grouped into three different categories:
1. Scratch Coat Mortar
Before applying AMSV systems, a scratch-coat mortar should be directly applied to the lath or substrate. This initial layer of mortar is intentionally raked to provide an improved bond between it and setting bed mortars. To ensure optimal results, use site-mixed mortar that meets ASTM C270 Type N or Type S standards.
2. Setting Bed Mortar
After the scratch-coat mortar has sufficiently dried, choose the proper setting bed mortar for the installation technique used. The setting bed mortar should be applied directly to either the scratch coat or the back of AMSV units (back-buttering).
a. For grouted masonry veneer installations, use Type N or Type S mortar meeting ASTM C270.
b. For tight-fit/dry-stacked installations, use Polymer Modified Mortars suitable for installation of concrete masonry veneer and complying with ANSI A118.4 or ANSI A118.15 or equivalent.
3. Pointing Mortar
Pointing mortars, sometimes called grouting or joint-filling mortar, are essential for the completion of any AMSV installation. These must be applied when the setting bed mortar has sufficiently cured and is ready to fill in all remaining gaps between individual units.
Standard Type N or S Portland cement produces an adhesive bond through suction. As the mix dries, it pulls the stone to the wall and holds it there. There are two caveats to this method. First, the installer will need to hold the stone in place until it bonds, and second, you cannot move the stone after it has set because the suction bond will break and the stone may release from the wall. Type N or S can be used for installation, but there is a better alternative.
LATICRETE's MVIS Mortar
If you need an effective mortar mix that's formulated to install adhered masonry veneer and manufactured luxury stone, a great option is LATICRETE’s MVIS Veneer Mortar.
Not only does its polymer fortification promote maximum non-sag performance for vertical installations, but it also provides remarkable bond strength with both the substrate and selected veneers. It has a 25-Year System Warranty (U.S. & Canada) from LATICRETE, so this fiber-reinforced option offers unmatched durability and workability that will last for years.
Shop Creative Mines for the Best Luxury Stone Veneers
Discover the difference Creative Mines can make in your next project. We have luxury stone veneer products that provide unsurpassed durability, require little maintenance and will stand the test of time.
Plus, our trim accessories — including caps, hearthstones, utility boxes and wainscot sills — are engineered with the same precision and exceptional excellence as our stone veneers.