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Stone Veneer Buying Guide

Stone veneer on the exterior of a house entryway.

Updated May 14, 2021

Valerie A.

By Valerie A.

If you like the look of natural stone but not the price, consider stone veneer. It's economical and enhances the interior and exterior of your home.

What Is Stone Veneer?

Interior stone veneer around a window.

Stone veneer is an economical, long-lasting addition that looks like natural stone in a thinner, lighter-weight material, but it’s easier to handle and install than natural stone. It’s available in individual pieces so you can create your own varied patterns for quicker installation. Stone veneer is easy to maintain and comes in different shapes, sizes and colors to complement an array of design schemes.

Manufactured stone veneer, sometimes called architectural stone or cast stone, is a cast replica of natural stone made from concrete. It has some advantages over real stone, including being lightweight, easier to cut and less expensive, and it comes in a variety of colors.

Faux stone veneer comes in panels, is made from high-density polyurethane and is usually no thicker than 3/4 inch.

Interior and Exterior Use

Many stone veneers are suitable for interior and exterior use. They add texture to an environment as well as character. There are many application options, from installing a lath, attaching furring strips or applying building paper. Be sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions for your specific project needs.

Tip

Never use a wire bristle brush, whether using on an interior or exterior surface, since it can mar and damage the stone veneer.

Interior

Stone veneer on a fireplace surround.

Stone veneer works great on accent walls, around doorways and arches, and as a rustic kitchen backsplash. A stone veneer fireplace also makes a beautiful addition to any home. It can be installed on various substrates, including drywall, plywood, cement board, masonry or concrete. For easy cleaning, wipe down with a mild soap or detergent and rinse with clean water.

Caution

When using as a fireplace surround, use stone veneer that's fire rated.

Exterior

Gray stone veneer on the exterior of a house.

Stone veneer siding complements your home’s existing siding, columns, mailbox surrounds, decking, outdoor kitchens, chimneys and more.

Before installing veneer on an exterior wall or surfaces other than concrete, apply a weather-resistant barrier, a metal lath and a scratch coat of mortar. The rough texture of the scratch coat will help ensure a good bond for the stone veneer.

When installing architectural details, such as door trim, window sills or ledges, ensure that proper flashing has been installed before mortar.

Exterior stone veneer is also easy to clean and usually only requires using a hose to wash it down or a soft-bristle brush to scrub it.

Tip

Whether installing on interior or exterior concrete, ensure that the surface is clean and free of dust, dirt, oil and paint. Before you begin installing, make sure you’re in compliance with local regulations or building codes that may affect your installation.

Mortar or Mortarless Stone Veneer

Someone applying mortar to stone veneer.

The type of stone veneer you use will determine the installation process. When using clipless individual stone veneer, apply mortar to the back of each stone before attaching to a surface. With a standard installation, space stones apart and apply grout between the joints.

Mortarless stone veneer doesn’t require mortar or grouting for installation. Instead, they come as individual stones or panels, and they attach to the surface with either built-in clips or a built-in anchor plate using nails or screws. The stones are dry-stacked tight and flush, one on top of the other, without the use of mortar as a binder in between the stones.

Tip

Check the manufacturer’s instructions for recommended mortar drying time on all installations.

Brick Veneer

Brick veneer is another design option that offers the same benefits as stone veneer. Thin brick veneer comes in many different colors, shades and designs to suit any new home design or to match an existing brick pattern when building on to your home.

Cutting Stone Veneer

Stone veneer can be cut in a number of ways using hand or power tools.

A wet tile saw reduces the amount of dust kicked up and makes a clean cut, however, you can also use a circular saw with a finishing blade. An angle grinder with a diamond or masonry blade is another option that offers a precision cut. Marking, scoring and striking along the groove with a hammer and cold chisel are other ways to cut.

Caution

When cutting stone veneer, always wear safety gear, such as safety glasses and a safety mask.

Mortar

Gloved hands pressing stone veneer into mortar.

Mortar types vary by strength, flexibility and how well they bond, making different mortars recommended for different applications. There are two types of mortar that are typically used for stone veneer installation.

Types S and N are the most common mortars used. They’re considered general purpose for use in interior and exterior installations. Type N works well for exterior load-bearing walls and structures. Type S is stronger than Type N and works well for below-grade installations, retaining walls and other installations that come into contact with the ground.

Accessories

Starter Strip: Strip attached at the base of a structure that provides a channel to lock in the first course panels; also sets the tone for a level installation and helps with drainage

Trowel: Flat, handheld tool used to spread scratch coat and mortar

Jointer: Thin tool used to smooth, recess and shape joint grout

Grout Bag: Cone-shaped bag with grout used to fill in between stone joints

Rake: Used to create the vertical scratch coat lines

Level: Used to determine the horizontal plane

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