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Selecting the Right Masonry Contractor

Whether you are building new construction or remodeling, the addition of natural stone adds a timeless look to your home. Let’s assume you have narrowed your stone selection down to the last two or three choices.  What is my next step?  Choosing a masonry contractor can be a daunting task.  Questions that homeowners generally have are:  who will do the best job, how long will it take to complete, and how much will it cost?  We believe that simply taking your general contractor’s recommendation on which mason to use for the stone installation is not always the best idea. It is important to research the selection of masonry contractors because there are significant differences in price and skill set. The extra work you put into your research will be well worth your time. There are services available like Angie's List and Homeadvisor that will help point you in the right direction. However, a more hands on approach is always the best option.  We recommend getting at least three quotes and asking to see projects that your perspective masonry contractor has previously completed. Selecting your masonry contractor is a matter of personal preference. Three things to consider as you make your choice include: price, workmanship and lead time.

Price

Usually, this is the first thing people consider.  We regularly get questions from homeowners asking us how much it will cost to install the stone. There are many variables that go into answering this question. Some things to consider are: what type of installation is it (how much prep work is involved), what type of stone (rectangular shapes, irregular shapes or ledgestones), and where are you located. The type of stone makes a considerable difference in the price, large uniform pieces go up the fastest while the installation process slows as the stones get smaller and/or irregular.  Ultimately, you should be given a quote based on a per square foot price that can vary by a factor of three based on the skill and experience of the mason.

Quality (Workmanship)

Masonry is truly artwork. Generally, the masons who have the best reputations will also be the most expensive.  The most important question to ask the mason is: “have you worked with this type of stone before and can you tell me where I can see your previous work?”.  Most masons have a style they prefer working with and a style they tend to avoid.  For example, if you are looking at the Appalachian Ledge product and your mason has a dozen ledgestone fireplaces to show you, this is probably a great fit.  If you want that old world irregular look of the Chateau product, but your mason typically only does ashlar patterns, this is probably not the best fit.  Lastly, if your mason says they do a lot of commercial work, this is a big red flag.  The masons who do commercial work do not consider the job artwork. For commercial masons, art is not a priority and laying the stone is simply a matter of how fast they can get the job done. This usually leads to sloppy workmanship. Choosing the right mason will ensure your finished natural thin stone veneer project is stunning.

Lead Time

Being from the Midwest, it seems everyone wants to start their natural stone installation projects the second spring hits or they push to get them done before winter comes.  Good masons can be booked out months in advance and are very busy in the spring, summer, and fall.  This is important to keep mind when planning your project and can affect the installation price.

Conclusion

Regardless of the masonry contractor you choose, make sure you have a contract that specifies the work and the specific stone veneer being installed.  The specified stone choice is a very important part of the contract. We had a job where the mason quoted the homeowner a low square foot price to install any stone.  The homeowner chose a ledgestone and was told it would be significantly more than the initial quote to install that specific stone. A firm contract will avoid this creeping bid. A mason who says they will start working and just bill you by the hour is also one to shy away from.  A true professional will know how many hours it will take to complete the project. Our goal is to educate homeowners and avoid the few pitfalls we have seen over the years.