Applying the Stone

Being an old hand at stonework, Roger works solo. Starting at the inner corner, he lays stones along the brick ledge, weaving inside corners so that stones from each side alternate butting against the concrete wall. Outside corners require special right-angle cut veneer pieces that wrap around the edge and give the illusion of a whole stone. Because this job called for a dry-stack look—no visible mortar between stones—Roger can use an acrylic-fortified thinset instead of brick mortar. He spreads a 1/4-inch-thick layer of the mix on the back of a stone. After positioning the piece against the wall, he presses firmly in and down to seat it.

For the most natural look, Roger is careful to apply subsequent rows in a kind of running bond pattern, in which stones on one row span the seams between stones on the row below. He also alternates pieces of different size. "It helps to think of the veneer as full stones," he says. "How would you lay it all out to get the best interlocking structure and design?"

After applying several rows (about 6 to 9 inches of vertical gain), Roger pauses to re-draw his guidelines, using a marker and a 6-foot level. "It's also a good idea to stop, stand back, and take a look. Plow ahead blindly, and it'll end up looking like the ocean," he says, making waves with his hands.

Cleanliness is important on any masonry job, because mortar that dries on the stone face can be tough to remove. Roger keeps a bucket of clean water next to him and dips into it frequently to wipe off stones and keep his hands clean. Wheneve­r he needs to make a cut for fit, he uses a 4-inch diamond blade on a handheld grinder, though a table-mounted tile saw would also suffice to shape the pieces. "I prefer the small grinder because you can set it right on your bench," he says.

After letting the mortar set for 24 hours, Roger gently hoses down the wall, using a soft brush to loosen any dirt and dust. "That's the only maintenance it should ever need," he says.

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