Stone Work

Dry-Stack Stone Walls:
Stone masonry originated with dry-stacked stonework where the walls are carefully layed up without mortar. Gravity serves as the glue that holds everything together. Free-standing dry-stack stone walls are usually made larger at the base and then taper in slowly as the height increases. For absolutely no expense but the labor, farmers built miles upon miles of stone fences this way in Ireland and in the northeastern states.

Many old Irish houses were built in a similar way. Where "mortar" was used, it was often merely mud or limestone plasters with little strength. The mortar functioned as caulking to stop the flow of air, rather than as cement to bond the stones together. Short, dry-stacked stone walls are especially ideal for landscaping projects. Taller walls require more skill and time. For more details on dry-stack stone walls, be sure to check out Building Stone Walls and Stonework:
Techniques and Projects.

Mortared Stone Walls:
Mortared stone walls evolved out of dry-stack stone work with the emergence of cement mortars. The first cements were made of burnt gypsum or lime mixed with water to make a paste with slight bonding capability. Stone walls still had to be built as carefully as they were without mortar. The cement paste just filled the gaps between the stones and cured to form a soft, rock-like substance.

The basic formula for modern cement originated in England in 1824. It is called "Portland cement" because the color is similar to the rocks on the English island of Portland. It is still called Portland cement everywhere in the world it is manufactured. This cement is made with calcium from limestone or chalk, plus alumina and silica from clay and shale. The ingredients are ground, mixed in the right porportions and burnt in a kiln at a temperature of about 2500 degrees F (1350ªC) to drive out water bound up in the raw materials. In the kiln it fuses into chunks called clinker. It is cooled and powdered, and gypsum is added to control how fast it sets up. Portland cement is mixed with sand and water, and often lime to make a smooth mortar for stone and brick work. Adding the lime makes the mortar softer and more flexible.

With the aid of Portland cement it is possible to build a taller stone wall that does not taper inward like a dry-stacked wall. The cement has some ability to "glue" a stone wall together with less care, but proper stoneworking techiques are still important. Building a free-standing stone wall is a true art and requires a lot of time and skill to do it well. For more details on traditional mortared stone walls, be sure to check out Building with Stone.

Veneered Stone Walls:
Most stonework today consists of a non-structural veneer of stone against a structural wall of concrete or cinderblock. Concrete consists of Portland cement mixed with sand, gravel and water. The larger particles of gravel interlock like little fingers to make the concrete resistant to cracking. Steel reinforcing bar can be added to serve as much longer "fingers" to make a wall that is very resistant to cracking. Concrete is a fast and relatively inexpensive way to put up a structural wall, so few people take the time for labor intensive traditional mortared stone walls any more.

Instead, the structural wall is put up first, and thin, flat stones are essentially glued onto the face of the wall with cement mortar. Metal tabs in the structural wall are mortared in between the stones to tie everything together, otherwise the stonework would just peel right off the wall. The structural wall serves as a form on one side of the wall to make it really easy to lay up the stonework, provided the rocks have good flat edges to work with.

Slipform Stone Walls:
A slipformed wall might be described as a cross between traditional mortared stone wall and a veneered stone wall. This is the method of stone masonry we have used the most. Short forms, up to two feet tall, are placed on both sides of the wall to serve as a guide for the stone work. You place stones inside the forms with the good faces against the form work and pour concrete in behind the rocks. Rebar is added for strength, to make a wall that is approximately half concrete and rebar and half stonework. The wall can be faced with stone on one side or both sides. With slipforms it is easy even for the novice to build free-standing stone walls.

Framed-One Side Stone Walls:
If you build a slipform stone building with stone on the outside and framed walls on the inside, then you eventually have to come to the conclusion that it would be smarter to build the frame wall first. By building the interior frame first, you will have half the formwork done, plus a straight and plumb guide to work from for doing your stonework. This is exactly the method used by Charles Long , featured in The Stone Builder's Primer. Long doesn't use slipforms at all, but simply does traditional mortared stone masonry with the benefit of a frame wall to serve as a form on the back. This method works exceptionally well when the rocks are squared and brick-like, but for rounded stones the novice would need forms to aid in the process.

In my article in The Mother Earth News, I proposed a similar method of slipform stone masonry, where the entire house would be framed with polystyrene beadboard insulation panels before beginning any stone masonry. The beadboard panels would serve as forms inside the wall and the stone masonry would be slipformed up the outside. That way it would be easier to build straight, plumb walls with less labor and fewer slipforms. The beadboard panels would also eliminate expensive wood framing on the inside of the walls while maximizing energy efficiency by eliminating thermal gaps through the framing. At least that was the theory. I hadn't actually tried it myself.

The first person to try this method was Dani Gruber of Colorado. She read the article in Mother and wanted to test out the new method of slipforming I had proposed. She didn't just build a house, but more of a castle, as featured in her story Slipforming--The Next Generation

In June of 2001 we built our own project with this new method of slipfoming, although on a slightly smaller scale. We built a small workshop of stone beside our home, and produced a step-by-step video tape of the process.

Tilt-Up Stone Walls:
I would like to see much greater use of stone, since it is such a long lasting and beautiful material. After building a couple of houses with the easy, but still labor-intensive slipform method, I started dreaming of ways to mass produce highly efficient stone houses using modern technology. Tilt-up stone masonry seemed like a logical choice--that is pouring stone walls flat on the ground and setting them in place with a crane.

My brother grew interested in the idea and decided to figure it out himself. He liked the idea of building with stone, but didn't care for the slipform masonry technique we used. He chose tilt-up stone masonry as a faster way to build, that would also eliminate the cold joints that run throughout slipformed walls. Pouring the walls would simultaneously grout the stonework, insuring an integral bond that would prevent problems with the mortar cracking and falling out later. With tilt-up construction he would be able to bring the stonework up higher without having to lift each individual rock and bucket of concrete.

He bought a building lot a block away from our place built his house with the tilt-up method. I wrote about the process in the January 2003 issue of Fine Homebuilding Magazine. The article is included in more depth here:
Tilt-Up Stone Masonry. It is also included in my book Living Homes:
Integrated Design & Construction. Let me emphasize that tilt-up work is NOT for beginners. It requires an expereienced carpenter and mason, and it is really suited for mass-production, where the same forms are used again and again.

Stone Fireplace:
If you are considering a stone fireplace for your home remodeling project there are two different ways you can choose to go when it comes to stone selection process. You have a choice of either cultured stone or classic natural stone. Natural stone has been around since as far back as we can trace, and while it is very nice looking it is also much more expensive and also a lot heavier. It is also much harder to work with than when using cultured stone. So a great option for your fireplace is to consider cultured stone fireplaces. Another advantage of cultured stone fireplaces is that you can get them to look like many different types of stone surfaces, while natural stone has limits of what stone can be used. Another great thing about cultured stone fireplaces is that they will last you a very long time and most of the manufacturers of cultured stone usually offer 50 year guarantees against cracking and fading, and this is what makes cultured stone so appealing.

Because of its how light cultured stone is it can be attached to wood surfaces as well as many other surfaces. With natural stone everything has to be done by hand, stone by stone and this takes a great deal of time, and when time equals money it can get quite expensive. Cultured stone fireplaces can be delivered into your home and put in for you fairly easily, and at a much cheaper cost than the traditional natural stone fireplace. Lighter products also mean you can easily order them online and have them shipped to your home or to the company that is going to install your cultured stone fireplaces. The advantages of the cultured stone far outweigh any disadvantages and the appearance of your new cultured stone fireplace will keep you smiling for many years to come.

Stone Garden Benches:
If you enjoy spending time in your garden either just relaxing, knitting, reading, or any other hobby that interests you then having some nice stone garden benches can provide you a nice place to sit. Using stone garden benches will also greatly change the way your garden appears, and it shows a sign of good taste. Many people spend a lot of time working on growing lush beautiful gardens, so being able to relax and unwind inside the garden you grew and spent hours working on. There are many places where you can buy stone garden benches for your garden, and depending on what type of stone you choose these benches can be quite heavy. That is why one of the best things to do when you purchase stone garden benches is to have them delivered right to your home; it is worth paying for the delivery.

When browsing through stone garden benches you need to consider which one will look best with your garden and also take into consideration how much money that you want to spend on your stone benches. The price can vary greatly depending on the type of stone as well as where you are ordering from, there are many great deals that can be found on the internet, but the shipping will cost quite a bit doing it that way. If you get a good enough deal online than the shipping costs may be well worth it, the best thing to do is compare prices for stone garden benches online as well as in all of your local furniture stores. There are many other types of benches that you can have in your garden but the stone benches are far and away the most elegant of them, especially if you go for a nice marble bench. You can even find a set of benches with a little table that you can use to play pinochle, bridge, chess, and many other relaxing games.

Stone Patio:
Stone patios can change the appearance of anyone’s yard immediately and adding a stone patio can also help to increase the value of your home. It is very common to see stone patios in many people’s front and backyards. Stone patios are easy to just sweep off and you can also hose them down to clean them up nicely after you have swept. There are many options available when you are considering adding a stone patio and you can customize the patio to best fit your yard and home. Some of the things you need to consider are things like the size the patio will be, what type of stone that you want to use, and you also need to decide what kind of pattern you would like the stone patio to be. You can have specific patterns as stated, or you can stick with a traditional random stone patio.

If you are a Do-It-Yourself guy follow our guide on how to build stone patios, but you need to expect to spend some time and have the patience for it since it can be a long, hard job when doing everything. Many people will buy the stone and have it cut or they will get natural stone with nice shapes that will work well together when making stone patios. There will be a lot of digging and fitting pieces together, almost like a puzzle. Having a plan before you begin building your patio is a must, and if you start it with no plan you are bound to run into problems. You can also hire Omi Stonework or a landscaping specialist to come in and lay your stone patios for you, this is more costly than doing it yourself, but for many without the skills or time it can be your best bet.

Stone Walkways:
Wherever you go around the world you will see stone walkways, and these walkways can all be unique in so many ways. There are stone walkways made out of all kinds of different stones but one of the most popular and the most expensive are marble stone walkways. These walkways can be very easy to create on your own if you have the time to invest in placing the stones to make them into a nice stone walkway. There are all kinds of places where you can buy many different types of stone for your walkway, and many of these places will deliver the stone right to your home. You can even have the type of stone you choose cut to certain sizes in order to make the walkway look perfect. Stone walkways can give any home a touch of elegance and really improve the appearance of your yard, which will help increase the value of your home at the same time. So choosing to have a stone walkway laid down is really a win-win situation.

If you are interested in stone walkways but do not have the time and patience to do it yourself than you can find many different people that can get the job done. There are many landscaping professionals that specialize in stone walkways, like Omi Stonework, who has experience installing flagstone walkways; both natural and cut, brick paver walkways, goshen stone and more. There are also many masons that they can do the job for you since they specialize in working with the materials needed for your stone walkway. Another very popular type of stone walkway that is commonly seen is the stone walkways that are made out of manufactured brick pavers. These types of walkways are fairly common so they will cost less than something like the marble stone walkways mentioned earlier.

Stone Veneer:
Masonry has been around for thousands of years and people have been building houses, walls, and many other things out of bricks and stones. Modern day masons still do plenty of stonework and bricklaying but in the past decade and a half something that is becoming quite popular is stone veneer. Stone veneer can be put together in factories and is much thinner and easier to work with so it is easily transportable, unlike stone and brick work of the past that had to be laid on the spot. You can purchase stone or brick veneer as well and have it cut to the sizes you need in order to put it up yourself. Brick and stone veneer looks as realistic as having the actual stone or brick laid down the old fashioned way, but being much thinner and easy to work with it is becoming very desirable, the prices are much cheaper as well.

Stone veneer is one of the best things to achieve the look of real stone without having to spend the time and money on a full masonry project. Stone veneer is available in sheets of pretty large sizes and many people are starting to buy stone veneer siding or even just a brick veneer fireplace face. Many of the larger home supply stores carry all kinds of veneer and usually they can deliver it right to your home after they cut the sheets to the sizes you need.

You can also hire someone to come do this all for you and it will still be cheaper than having the traditional masonry done, and when it is finished no one will be able to tell the difference. When getting real stone veneer it is still going to cost a bit, and an even cheaper route could be getting artificial stone veneer which looks just as nice as the real deal.

Stone Wall Fountains:
Stone wall fountains are very popular in many houses and they add a special touch as well. These stone wall fountains can be quite pricey but you can also find some very good prices on them and there are many places that can even come and install your stone fountain. For many people having stone fountains outdoors as well as stone wall fountains inside their homes, and to many people this is because the sound of the running water can be very relaxing. There are many of these fountains that can be found online as well and then they can be delivered to your home, in this case you may need to install the fountain yourself or hire a handy man to come and perform the installation.

You can find all different styles of stone wall fountains to match your home décor, and if you want to spend more money on this lifelong investment then you can have a custom fountain designed specifically for your home that caters to your tastes. Stone wall fountains can be used indoors as well as outdoors and many people like to have these fountains place in there rose gardens, or some people may even have a stone wall fountain set up near their in ground pool, just to give it more of a natural look and create a relaxing atmosphere. Stone wall fountains can always add that extra touch to any environment, and there are fountains that can fit into anyone’s budget. There are even some very extravagant stone fountains that have sculptures attached, and these are quite popular as well. What type of stone wall fountains to choose is a personal decision since it is an investment that will be around for a long time, and it is also something that can help create some great lasting memories of relaxing summer days near the fountain either in your home or in your flower garden.

Patio Paving Stone:

If you are considering replacing your dirt, asphalt or concrete patio or driveway then patio paving stone may be exactly what you are looking for. Patio paving stone is much stronger than concrete, and miles above asphalt, which tends to crumble and have to be replaced every so often. Patio paving stone can last for years and the cost is well worth every penny of it. There are many different types of patio paving stone available and you can find a very diverse variety of colors, textures, shapes, sizes, patterns and designs that they can blend well and greatly enhance the appearance of any home or building. Combine with shrubbery or a flower garden and you could have the most beautiful yard on the block, your neighbors will all be envious of your gorgeous walkways, patios, and driveway.

Placing the patio paving stone where you need to repair can be a job that you can do on your own without little experience, but you can also just hire someone to take care of the project from beginning to end, which saves you on time but cots a bit more. Patio paving stone is definitely one of the best ways that you can change to appearance of your home, and the cost will vary depending on the size of the area you want to have redone. A driveway would cost quite a bit but you would not have to ever replace it, just having repairs done once every 7-10 years will help and keep the paving stone looking fresh and extravagant. Many people are starting to lean towards the patio paving stone in liu of the other options because of how strong it is, and another great asset is that it is easy to clean with a garden hose or even just a broom.

Cultured Stone:
Cultured stone is becoming more and more popular for both the interior and exterior of homes. Cultured stone is a man made stone manufactured primarily for decorative accents. It is made up of cement, natural aggregates, and iron oxide pigments. In order to give cultured stones a realistic shape they are often created by using a mold of a natural stone. Using cultured stone in your home has both its advantages and disadvantages.

One of the main benefits of cultured stones versus natural ones is that cultured stones are much more lightweight. This is an advantage because it places less weight on the foundation of your home. This is a particularly important factor if your home is built on unstable ground.

In addition, when using cultured stone you are not required to have a brick ledge on your foundation. This is mostly due to the fact that the back of a cultured stone is flat allowing for excellent surface contact.

Cultured stone is also faster and less difficult to install than natural stone. It is also easy to find, and simple to replace.

One of the major disadvantages is its price. It can be a costly investment compared to natural stone which is more readily available and in some cases free.

In addition, if cultured stone is not installed properly it becomes obvious that the stone is artificial. This is particularly true if large gaps are left between stones. Since these stones are not as thick as real stones this flaw will be apparent if installation is not done well.

Another drawback is that most cultured stones are not colored all of the way through. This means if a stone has to be cut during installation the cement colored interior may show through. You should heck with the manufacturer to find a style that colors the stone all of the way through to avoid this.

Garden Steeping Stone:
Garden stepping stones were designed to accessorize landscapes and gardens. There are many types of garden stepping stones such as hand painted scenes or cast stone pictorials. Whether you are looking to accent your garden with one stepping stone or create a path you will find that garden stepping stones are an easy and inexpensive way to show your creativity outdoors. Garden stepping stones are usually made of concrete that is poured into molds. You can find molds at most craft stores. Garden stepping stones are easy to make and are just as pleasing to the eye as natural rock.

There are many practical uses for garden stepping stones. For your garden stepping stones will reduce the amount of dirt or mulch that is tracked into your house, and by creating a path they will save your grass from compaction due to continuous foot traffic. Depending on the layout of your land you may want to create a walkway from you front door entrance to your driveway or street. Then the only decisions you will have to make is whether you want to create a straight or winding path and whether you would like grass to grow around the stones or have dirt or mulch surrounding them. This low maintenance landscaping will not become obstacles when mowing your lawn but may need simple adjustments after time as garden stepping stones commonly shift in the soil. Garden stepping stones are definitely a project you can do it yourself which makes them so practical.

Scope of Stone Work:


Natural Stone - Tennessee Fieldstone, Bluestone, Limestone, Crab Orchard Flagstone, Panola Stone, and Large Accent Boulders


Ornamental cast concrete stone veneer used for commercial and residential facades and wall features.


Various types of brick complete with CMU block core.


Pre-cast caps set for columns, walls, and windows sills.


Poured-in-place concrete sidewalks, steps, cheek walls, etc.


Colored, stamped, and textured exposed aggregate concrete.


Sub-surface drainage systems, catch basin, and drainage flumes.


All styles and type - Boral Brick, BelGard, Pavestone, Hanover, etc.


Poured-in-place concrete walls, modular block systems, stacked stone.


Ponds, waterfalls, and fountains.

Stone Pool Decks:

One of the biggest trends in outdoor design today is a decorative concrete pool deck, a colored, textured and inviting area surrounding the pool that does more than provide a safe, slip-resistant deck for sunbathing and barbecuing. Inground pool decks are now given nearly as much attention as the interior design of the home.

Decorative concrete has opened the doors to creating pool decks that complement the exterior of the home, meld with the outdoor environment, and replicate exotic and traditionally expensive materials such as slate, stone or even wood.

Sometimes referred to as cement pool decks, the choices available for designing a truly unique, functional, and affordable pool deck are at your fingertips.

The benefits of concrete are many. It can provide an extremely durable surface, as compared to a wooden deck or even stone. With the new techniques for stamping and applying decorative concrete, any look can be created at a fraction of the cost.

One of the most important considerations for any pool deck is the type of material to use. The material you ultimately choose often depends on a number of factors including your surrounding landscape, space availability, how much traffic the pool deck will receive, budget, and how much time and effort you want to devote to care and upkeep. Concrete, more than any other material, will allow you to design a truly unique, affordable and low-maintenance pool deck that becomes the social hub and aesthetic focal point of your backyard.

Only decorative concrete gives you the ability to select any shape, size, color and surface treatment for your deck—from plain broom-finished concrete, to exposed aggregate, to imprinted patterns that mimic tile, brick or natural stone. You can also mix and match decorative treatments, such as combining stained concrete with a stenciled or imprinted border or enhancing a colored overlay with sawcut or engraved patterns

Flagstone, sometimes known as "bluestone," offers a sleek and traditional look. However, very sunny sites will often heat flagstone to uncomfortable levels, particularly for young children. While many different colors and patterns are available with brick decks, brick, too, can be a hot, sometimes slippery surface.

Many design combinations, such as that of brick pavers, flagstone coping and border bands can be taken into consideration. In climates where freezing occurs, "antique" brick are to be avoided as this material is known to absorb water and spall or crack during the frozen winter months. Granite decks offer the rustic look of stone and great durability.

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