Manufactured stone veneer (MSV) has the look and feel of real stone, but this material offers an alternative that’s highly customizable and much more affordable. As an experienced DIYer, you can even install MSV yourself. Discover how MSV can give your home a touch of elegance, and learn how to install MSV indoors and outdoors.
Manufactured Stone Veneer Basics
For centuries, stone has been a versatile siding material for both stately and modest homes. While most older homes have natural stone siding, this material started to fall out of favor in the mid-20th century due to its high cost, heavy weight, and increasing rarity. Though the appeal of stone never faded, the costs and logistics involved with installing this heavy material have made natural stone a less attractive choice for many homeowners.
During the mid-20th century, manufactured stone veneer began to gain popularity, thanks to its natural look and ease of use both indoors and outdoors. Though it looks remarkably similar to natural stone, MSV is made from a concrete mix and produced to have the texture and color of stone.
Step-by-Step Guide to Installing MSV
If you’ve ever wanted to learn how to install manufactured stone siding, you might be surprised to know that it’s relatively easy to put up. Experienced DIYers can typically install this artificial stone siding in a few short days, depending on the size and scope of the project.
- Step 1: Start by applying a layer of building paper evenly across the entire installation area.
- Step 2: Measure the space you’re working with and cut wire lath to size. For a cleaner cut, position the uncut wire lath over two sawhorses, and staple to hold it in place while cutting.
- Step 3: Place the cut lath over the layer of building paper and secure it in place.
- Step 4: Cover the wire lath with a half-inch layer of Type S mortar. Texturize or scratch the mortar before it dries to create a surface with better adhesion properties.
- Step 5: Allow the scratch coat to dry for about 12 hours or overnight.
- Step 6: Apply Type S mortar to each manufactured stone veneer and put the MSV in place, one at a time.
- Step 7: If necessary, apply grout between the stones. If your design calls for the stones to touch, essentially giving the installation a dry stacked look, you won’t need grout. If you’ve left space between the stones, however, fill each joint with grout. Don’t leave joints partially filled, or the grout will fall out before long.
Pros and Cons of MSV
MSV is a popular choice for interior and exterior siding for several reasons, but it’s not necessarily the best choice in all cases. Let’s take a look at the main pros and cons of MSV.
- Easier installation than natural stone: Not all homeowners would consider MSV installation to be easy, but when compared to natural stone, installation is a breeze. The average homeowner can’t typically install natural stone, but installing MSV is a reasonable DIY project.
- Long Lifespan: When it comes to siding, MSV is one of the longest lasting options. Manufacturers typically offer 50-year warranties, which means MSV can last for a lifetime.
- Little Maintenance: Like natural stone, MSV doesn’t require extensive maintenance in order to look great while protecting your home. Use a soft brush to remove dirt periodically, and use water and a mild detergent to remove grime when necessary.
- Low Cost: MSV typically costs half or even a third of the price of natural stone siding.
- Numerous Colors: Natural stone tends to have limited color options. In contrast, MSV is available in countless natural tones, shapes, and styles.
- Versatile Uses: MSV works well both indoors and outdoors, giving homeowners countless installation and design options.
- Challenging DIY Project for a beginner: Installing MSV is entirely doable for most experienced DIYers, but it’s not the best choice for a first-time DIY project. If you’re not accustomed to taking on major home improvement projects of this scale, consider hiring a local contractor to assist.
- Physically Demanding Installation: MSV might not be nearly as heavy as natural stone, but this artificial stone siding still holds some weight. Since each veneer is installed as an individual component, you’ll need to flex some serious muscle throughout the project.
- Time–Sensitive Steps: If you’re pressed for time, easily distracted, or have a hundred other DIY projects going on at the same time, give this one some serious thought before jumping in. Since you’ll be dealing with a compound that dries relatively quickly, you’ll need to maintain focus throughout the project in order to complete the steps in a timely manner.
MSV Dos and Don’ts
Once you start installing MSV, you’ll get the hang of it quickly. Prepare yourself with these best practices.
- Do: Spread the Type S mortar quickly by using two trowels. Since the mortar won’t stay wet and pliable for long, moving quickly is important.
- Do: Use Type S mortar. Though it’s possible to mix your own mortar from scratch, Type S mortar is designed to work with MSV. Just add water to the ready-made mix, and you’ll be installing your stone veneer siding in no time.
- Do: Use a tile trowel to texturize the mortar. Keep in mind that MSV won’t stick to smooth mortar very easily, so you’ll need to scratch or texturize it prior to putting the stone veneer in place. A tile trowel is an easy and time-efficient tool for adding texture.
- Don’t: Forgo the safety glasses. From cutting the wire lath to applying the mortar to placing the stones, installing MSV is a project that requires safety glasses.
- Don’t: Place dry stone veneer on the texturized mortar. Instead, apply a layer of mortar to each stone before putting it in place. Be sure to wipe away excess mortar from the edges so this substance doesn’t compromise the final look or the grouting process.
- Don’t: Forget to consider the color of the mortar. Type S mortar will appear as an earthy gray color when it dries, which might not be an ideal match for the stone veneer you’ve chosen. If you prefer a different tone, dye the mortar prior to application.
Tips and Tricks for Working with MSV
MSV has nearly limitless possibilities. On your home’s exterior, use MSV to call attention to an architectural element or add a note of elegance. Indoors, install MSV on an accent wall in order to add visual intrigue.
If you plan to install MSV outdoors, make sure you understand what your local building code requires in terms of flashing and waterproofing. Flashing, a type of water barrier, typically goes in corners and at intersections with windows, doors, or electrical outlets. This material helps divert water away from the wall and prevent it from seeping through seams or causing water damage. If installing outdoors, you’ll almost certainly need to add flashing prior to applying mortar.
Whether you work with MSV indoors or outdoors, don’t let unsightly stones ruin the complete look of your installation. Instead, hide sharp stones by trimming off the ends or by installing them at a different angle.
Try not to let minor mistakes become major ones. If you’ve applied too much mortar between two stones, for instance, don’t wipe it away while it’s wet. Instead, allow it to set, and then use a trowel to remove the hardened mortar without leaving a mess.
At the end of each day, be sure to clean up the newly installed MSV so it will continue to look its best. Whether you’ve applied some grout outside the lines or you’ve made a mess of the mortar, use a stiff brush to clean off the stones when you wrap up for the day.
If you want the look of natural stone but prefer greater design flexibility and lower cost, MSV is a smart choice. If you’re an intermediate or experienced DIYer, you can even take on this project yourself over a long weekend and give your installation a personal touch.
Have any questions about your MSV installation? Don’t hesitate to ask us in the comments section below.