How to Select Stone Cladding for Your Home?
Do you often walk through or drive past people’s homes, stunned at the majestic display of stonemanship?
Do you wonder how you can recreate such beauty for yourself?
If you do, this article is for you.
Here we will explore the key requirements for creating the perfect wall and how to bring the correct elements together to create the finishes you so admire. We will review natural stone cladding, define what it is, what types are available, where they work best and finally guide you in how to install the cladding DIY style.
Firstly, what is “Stone Cladding”?
Essentially it is a way of ornamenting a wall with stones. Stone cladding requires much less labour than building a stone wall from scratch and hence the process is time and cost effective. At the end of which, you have a beautiful wall for everyone to admire.
WHAT IS NATURAL STONE CLADDING?
Stone Cladding is a thin layer of stone that is applied to a building (or other structure) that is not made from stone. As such, stone cladding can be adhered to a concrete wall, bricks and other buildings. What makes this process easier is that the back of each piece of stone is sawn to a flat mesh that can be easily installed onto the appropriate substrates.
Natural stone cladding is made of thin slices of quarried natural stones from all around the world. After they are taken out of the land, the stones are sliced into blocks and boulders. These are then manufactured and processed to become the products you purchase.
The natural stones come in many varieties. These include granite, quartzite, travertine, marble, just to name a few. As such, there are stone cladding varieties to suit anyone and everyone’s unique tastes and building needs.
WHAT IS FREE FORM STONE CLADDING?
“Free form” stone cladding is when small, medium and large pieces of loose natural stone are assembled in such a way that looks as though the wall had been built centuries ago. While one side of the stone looks like it has just come out of the earth, the back of the stone is sawn flat. This makes it easy to glue it onto an existing wall or substrate while simultaneously, creating a timeless and organic look!
While choosing quality products with good shape and finish is important, it is equally important to hire a skilled stonemason. The installer’s craftsmanship is essential to the finish and overall quality of your free form stone cladding.
Why is the installer as important as the material?
Well, free form organic stonework is an art form. And anything that is artistic requires an artist to be able to envision the ‘picture’ and then bring it to life.
To get the right organic look, there is a specific way the stones must be laid. What you are trying to achieve is a look that your wall was hand-built centuries ago from individual blocks. As such, there are no patterns or formulas to follow. There is simply an instinctual knowing that comes from years of experience and practice, which is why hiring an experienced installer is just as important as investing in the right stones.
If you lay the cladding as though it is an abstract painting or a pattern, your wall will look like a patterned stone wall. This is fine if that is the look you want, but if you want to create a wall that looks as though it has been built by having individual stone blocks carefully laid on top of each other, this will not create that aesthetic. To do this, each stone needs to match the other in terms of shape, colour and natural grains.
When this stone cladding is installed correctly, it will look as though it’s a solid and stable structure. But this is just an illusion. It’s the substrate behind the stone cladding that is actually providing stability.
As an example, let’s say your stonemason is building a wall with stone blocks 10m in length and 5m high. So that it looks structurally stable, the blocks need to be stacked on top of each other so that they don’t ever fall or collapse.
If you cannot see the difference between looking at a block wall and a cladding wall, then you have achieved that coveted timeless stone wall look. This will have all your admirers speculating if the wall is cladded or block-work.
Now let’s look at corners!
They’re another problem altogether.
To avoid seeing any cut joints on the wall, we recommend investing in stone corner pieces that are specifically designed for stone claddings. These are pre-cut in 90-degree angles for that full-stone block look and do not require the stonemason to mitre the corners. We have them available at Armstone and you can browse our collection here.
If you want to achieve a true organic aesthetic, we recommend that the stonemason doesn’t make visible sawn cuts on your stone cladding. To avoid sawn cuts on the face or side of the stone piece, the pieces should be cut and split from the back of the stone.
If you have sawn edges you can give the stone a more natural look by chipping the edges from each stone. This is where your stonemason’s expertise will really show.
When completed professionally, a free form organic wall can create a stunning timeless feature to your home. However, as with anything in life, if you decide to cut corners, you’re better off choosing a more practical option.
WHAT IS DRY STONE CLADDING?
When contemplating free form individual stone cladding, you can either choose to do a grouted or non-grouted stack. A non-grouted stack is called a “Dry Stack” or else known as “Dry Stone Cladding”. As such, you don’t need to fill the gaps between the stones with cement.
Which would we recommend, we hear you asking?
Well that really depends on personal preference.
Some stones look most effective in a “dry stack” and some look more majestic when they’re “grouted”.
If you are planning to do a dry stack you must plan ahead to have the grout joints tight or you if you’d like to grout you should use packers to get consistent grout joints for each individual piece of stone.
If you are not sure which will suit your home or project give us a call and speak to us, we are sure we be tailor you the perfect solution.
Besides the “Crazy” format stone cladding nowadays more architects and landscape designers are specifying the “Random Ashlar” pattern which is suited for more modern designs.
“Random Ashlar” is a random Geometric pattern – Random ashlar, pieces consist of random squares and rectangles.
We will highlight this: if you are planning to dry stack, then you must plan ahead and ensure that the stones are laid in such a way that the grout joints are tight. Tight joints doesn’t mean hairline joints but enough tight so you don’t see the substrate that you are glueing it on. If the gaps are too wide, the wall will look unfinished.
Otherwise, if you choose to grout the stone cladding, you want to create a consistent space between each individual stone. We recommend using packers to measure this space.
If you are not sure which option will suit your home or project, give us a call at 1300 560 560. One of our experts will be able to provide you with a tailored solution that will suit your unique needs.
Crazy and Random Ashlar
If you choose to go down the free form stone cladding route, you can invest in natural stone claddings that don’t come in even or regular shapes and sizes. These stones will look really organic when you lay them in a “Crazy” pattern.
If you are looking for a design that is more suited to a modern home, most architects and landscape designers have a preference for the “Random Ashlar” stone cladding pattern.
Unlike “crazy” patterns where the shapes have no rhyme or reason, “random ashlar” is a random geometric pattern consisting of random square and rectangular stone pieces.
Both of these styles can be installed with a dry stack or grouted finish.
STONE PANELS AND STACKED STONES
“Z panels” get their name because they have a ‘Z’ shape whereby each stone panel can interlock with the next one. They resemble the “Z” shaped Tetris shapes and these pre-made dry stack panels are the most cost-effective alternative to transform your wall with a dry stack look.
Armstone Z shape panels are made with a chicken wire that holds each individual stone together on a concrete backing. These are also known as “Stone Panels”, “Ledgestones” or “Cultured Stones.” What makes these a popular product is that they are functional and easy to install. We’ve seen many homes use this type of wall cladding and the results are always very pleasing.
When it comes to installation, Z panels are a mid-range investment. They are also easier and more cost-effective to install than free form cladding. Available in sizes that are easy to work with, Z panels can be easily and efficiently glued onto your suitable substrate. Our Z panels are available in Micha Quartz, Toad Limestone and natural colours as Dusky Rustic Granite, so there is something to suit any home. And to help you can build the perfect finish for your home, at Armstone we also stock matching corner pieces and capping.
Stacked stones, otherwise known as stacker stones, are a more linear approach to wall cladding. These are ready to use stone veneers that hold together small individual stone pieces that are stacked together with glue. As such, they can be easily used to clad any suitable structure.
As each stone is stacked and glued onto a panel this gives your wall or structure a natural 3D appearance. They are similar to tiles in that they can easily adhere onto your wall. If you’re looking for an easy way to add appeal to your internal and external walls or structures, this option is the best one for you.
Stack stones are light-weight, available in a convenient size of 600 x 150mm and made from a premium natural stone. As such they boast a combination of durability, strength and an endless range of options. We suggest choosing the right one that brings out the best for your home.
Which Stone Cladding Is Right For You?
If you would like to know which stone cladding is right for you, find out more by clicking here.
HOW TO INSTALL STONE CLADDING?
One of the elements that either makes or breaks the visual appeal of your wall is ….
So let’s take some time and review the most important factors below.
1.Choosing the Right Installer
As with all of life’s projects and jobs, the right team makes the dream come to life. As such, it is super important to choose the right installer and team. We suggest finding someone who is passionate, committed and experienced to help you bring your dream wall to life.
When researching and shortlisting your potential installer, we suggest asking for testimonials and photos of previous projects that are similar to your requirements.
Choosing the right installer is as important as investing in a quality stone product. They can either make or break your project, so make the time to do comprehensive background checks and research before committing yourself to a contract.
2. Preparing Your Substrate
Prior to starting the installation, it’s very important to check that your foundation is solid and that the surface of the wall is ready for application. When installing natural stone, the substrate can be built out of bricks, concrete or blockwork. Depending on the height and size, you may also need to have an engineer sign off your wall.
To allow maximum adhesion, make sure any dirt or debris is removed from the wall prior to applying your stone cladding.
3. Placing Your Order
When placing your order, it’s equally important to consider wastage and breakage. Depending on the type of stone cladding you choose, some pieces may be too small. As such you will need to sort through your extras to build the wall in the size and shape you desire. There is also a possibility that during transportation and even installation, some pieces may break. So, depending on the product, we normally advise factoring in between 10%-15% for wastage.
4. Keeping an Eye on the Details
You may have heard the saying: “The devil is in the details?”
Here we want to offer a twist: “The dollar is in the details.”
You can hire the best installer and invest in the highest quality stones, and forget to order full corner pieces to create a clean and organic finish to the wall! You might as well put all that money down the drain. If you decide to use mitred corners they will create a visual interference and reduce the high quality aesthetic that you’re striving so hard to achieve.
Once you have cladded your wall, you can add matching stone capping as a finishing touch. This emphasises a clean and crisp look, turning your wall into a distinctive feature inside (or outside) your home.
Full corner pieces are also ideal for short retaining walls or planter boxes.
When working with free form or ashlar natural stone products, patience is of uttermost importance. Prior to installing anything on the substrate, we recommend laying the pieces on the ground first. This will help you physically see how the stones will look and fix anything before you install it.
Finally, keep in mind that you will be mixing and matching the pieces to create your unique variation to suit your taste and home. Stone cladding, in this regard, is truly an art and like any good artist, to create the best product, one must always prepare their tools.
HOW IS STONE CLADDING FIXED IN PLACE?
What is the best adhesive to use for stone cladding?
One other important investment you need to consider for your stone cladding project is choosing the right adhesive for the substrate.
Why is a moisture-sensitive adhesive important?
Moisture is the number one culprit for a de-bonding glue. In simple terms, if you use a de-bonding glue, over time there is a risk that moisture will seep into your wall causing it to fall apart. Ideally, you want to avoid this at all costs.
Which is why we recommend the Mapei Granirapid Kit.
Moreover, Granirapid is also a fast-setting glue. This will help you adhere to the pieces quickly and move through the application process much faster. If you use regular adhesives, they will slow you down as you would need to add support to each piece of the stone prior to moving on to the next.
HOW TO STICK STONE CLADDING?
Now that you have found the best installer and invested in the highest quality materials, adhesive, and decided on your pattern, it’s time to put everything together!
Prior to starting though, your installer will need to prepare the materials. All surfaces must be cleaned, dried and free from existing sealers or coatings. It is important to dust off, wipe or brush all surfaces that will be sealed later and remove all loose particles that could adversely affect sealer penetration and performance.
Once the installer cleans each stone in preparation for the glue, they will adhere the glue swiftly onto each stone and the substrate.
If you are grouting, we recommend using plastic or wooden packers to keep gaps between stones consistent.
After you’ve finished gluing and installing the stone cladding, leave the area untouched for 24 hours.
If you choose to grout the joints between the stones, it is crucial that you pre-seal the stone before you start grouting.
Pre-sealers will help the installer easily clean the grout off the cladding, making the final finish for the stone cladding wall much cleaner.
At Armstone we recommend using the Aqua Mix Pro-Block as a pre-grout sealer.
We’ve found it provides the right amount of sealant and does not hinder the installation.
A word of caution when choosing your pre-sealer, you want to check that it is not an adhesive bond breaker.
DOES STONE CLADDING NEED TO BE SEALED?
All natural stones need to be sealed.
Sealing adds a layer of protection to the stone and down that track, it assists you with cleaning and maintaining the stone.
At Armstone we recommend the Aqua Mix Sealers Choice Gold, a water-based low VOC product that penetrates easily into your stone. An added bonus is this product is completely environmentally friendly.
Stone cladded walls are truly structures of beauty and when installed correctly, they create a powerful statement about your taste, personality and success. They will also amplify and refresh your landscape and home on a daily basis.
We hope that after reading this article you have a better understanding about stone cladding, how to select the right style for your project and the importance of choosing the right team to bring it to life.
The ultimate goal is to create a wall that has that ‘X-factor’: something that will make your friends, family, guests and passers-by say “WOW”.
If you need more help, or would like to discuss something customised, please give us a call at our headquarters here.
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