Stone has been a part of the building and construction world for centuries, bringing with it natural beauty and long-lasting quality that helped create some of the world’s most famous structures, like the Roman Colosseum; Pont du Gard in Nîmes, France; and Antoni Gaudí’s Casa Milà in Barcelona, Spain.
Over the years, modern technologies and innovation have provided new and improved ways to obtain the look and feel of stone without the downsides of the real thing. Traditional stone veneer and mortarless stone veneer provide two different, but excellent, options to replace traditional stone for residential and commercial projects.
Typical interior and exterior applications of manufactured and mortarless stone veneer include fireplaces, living areas, kitchens, stairways, columns, entryways, landscape walls, outdoor kitchens and fire pits. With so many possibilities, stone veneer is the perfect finishing touch to almost any project.
A few universal benefits of stone veneer include its low-maintenance nature, ease of installation, lightweight durability, affordability, sustainability and natural aesthetic. Another bonus is that purchasing stone veneer products is as simple as making a trip to your nearest home improvement store.
Here is a guide to help you understand the differences between traditional stone veneer and mortarless and how to decide which product is right for your next project.
What Is Manufactured Stone Veneer?
Sometimes referred to as architectural stone or cast stone, manufactured stone veneer is typically made of concrete and aggregate materials. This mix is poured into stone molds or cast replicas of stone to help create a realistic look and texture. Since stone veneer is artificial, it can offer the same color, shape and pattern as natural stone, with the added versatility to customize color, shape and size to fit the design of any space.
Like most products, all MSV aren’t created equal. MSV is available in weather-resistant and fire-rated options to suit environments like fireplaces and high-exposure areas, such as exterior walls and surfaces.
Although manufactured stone veneer is easier to install than traditional stone, it does demand time and moderate skill to successfully install. For the more experienced DIYer or installer, placing MSV could take several days and great patience to follow the steps correctly. This is especially important since the product requires using mortar or grouting for proper placement. Along with the tools needed to grout and mortar the veneer, installers must also use hand or power tools such as a masonry blade, circular saw or angle grinder to cut or adjust pieces of MSV.
In installing a traditional stone veneer, the mortar is applied to the back of each stone before it is attached to the chosen surface, with grout inserted within the spaces between the joints. The mortar and grout process is a significant differentiator between the two types of stone veneer products.
Mortarless Stone Veneer
For those looking to skip the mess, avoid the need for masonry skills and lower labor costs, a mortarless stone veneer is an attractive choice. With an assortment of product styles, this mortarless option can be used in both large and small jobs, from post and column wrapping to exterior wall siding.
Although both mortarless and traditional stone veneer have the same ingredients, uses, and appearances, the ingredients are where the similarities end. Mortarless stone veneer only requires the use of everyday tools to assemble and install the product: a drill, nails and screws to affix the veneer to a chosen area.
Most mortarless stone veneers come as individual stones or panels that attach to a surface with either built-in clips or a built-in anchor plate using those nails or screws. Without the use of mortar as a binder between the stones, they are instead dry-stacked tight and flush on top of each other.
Mortarless stone veneer can also be installed in any weather conditions, thanks to its hardware-only design. An important note is that mortarless stone veneer products vary in the features offered to support resistance to damage from erosion, wear and tear or harsh weather conditions. Always be sure to confirm that the product you are interested in has the right features for your placement.
So how much could using stone veneer cost you? The answer to that question depends on four key factors.
Top Four Cost Factors to Consider For Stone Veneer
1. Cost of Supplies to Install Stone Veneer
Both manufactured stone veneer and mortarless stone veneer have costs associated with the materials and tools you will need for installation. Items such as stone cutters, chisels and mortar may not already be a part of your toolbox but may be essential for your project.
2. Cost of Stone Veneer Installation
If you need to hire a contractor with masonry skills, there will be an added cost for the stone veneer installation. Tasks like measuring and cutting the stone, mortaring and grouting, area preparation and the laying out of the stone are included in this cost. The level of expertise required is different between traditional stone veneer and mortarless stone veneer, so if budget is a factor, mortarless would be a better fit for you.
3. Complexity of the Stone Project
A minor job like stone veneer installation on a fireplace could vary in price depending on whether it includes a full mantle surround or just the fireplace's exterior. Consider that the size of the area and the number of corners, angles and cuts of the stone veneer materials will all influence the overall project cost. The complexity of the project may also impact labor costs.
4. Size of the Stone Veneer Project
If you’re interested in covering several columns on a home’s exterior or a large wall, the project scope would require more product than if you were adding a slight accent. Pricing for stone veneer can vary from $6 to $9 per square foot compared to the natural stone, costing $15 to $30 per square foot. The larger the area needed for the stone veneer, the higher the cost will be. Something to consider is the task-specific products that can help reduce material waste, like column kits. Leftover clippings can also be used to fill in smaller areas versus being discarded.
Which Should You Choose?
Both manufactured stone veneer and mortarless stone veneer offer an easy upgrade option to a number of large and small jobs. Now that we have explored the differences between the two types of stone veneer, benefits and cost factors, you can make a more informed decision about which is right for your next project.