Aren’t natural stone veneers all the same? Pick the look you like, compare prices and move forward right? That is definitely an option, but as with anything there is more to it than it first appears. This blog post started as a long and drawn out technical explanation of what separates a top quality natural stone veneer from a cut rate one. Upon revision by a second set of eyes the comment was “I just want to know the time not how the watch is made” so we will keep this first paragraph short and sweet. The easiest way to describe stone quality is to compare it to lumber at a hardware store. There are different grades based on the imperfections and they are priced accordingly. It is pretty easy to differentiate lumber when looking at each lot side by side. With stone you don’t see crates side by side but the old adage “you get what you pay for” rings true. I consider myself somewhat of a do-it-yourselfer. I am constantly purchasing materials I am not an expert on and always do research beforehand. I almost never buy the cheapest material available because I have the attitude of if it is going to be done it is going to be done right. The higher grade materials cost more but it is a matter of value and asking yourself, “what am I getting for my money?”
On to the technical details. The first non-starter that needs to be considered is the stone’s hardness and water absorption. If the stone absorbs too much water and freezes the pieces will crack and eventually fall apart. Our natural stone veneers at The Quarry Mill are high density, have low water absorption and are architecturally approved for all applications.
Quality to us comes downs to how tight the production tolerances are. As expected the tighter the tolerances the more time required and the more waste produced. If the product is something like Castle Ridge where it calls for all rectangular stone pieces split (breaking using the hydraulic press) on four sides we actually split it on all four sides creating nice rectangles. Some companies will only split the top and bottom leaving uneven sides thereby sending out trapezoids and forcing the mason to clean it up on site leading to more stone waste and labor cost.
Thickness is also very important, picture a piece of stone that is 1.25” thick on one end but tapers to 0.25” thick on the other end. This actually happens and is called a knife edge. Cut rate stones will include this type of product. Each of our natural stone veneers is cut from a full thickness piece of stone with a diamond saw, (the full depth building stone is initially roughly four inches thick and a one inch piece of natural stone veneer will be cut off each side. That leaves a piece of waste or slug in the middle and although it may sound inefficient the starting piece of building stone is never perfectly 4” thick nor consistent throughout. . Having this slug allows our natural stone veneer pieces to always have the same thickness throughout. Some companies will try to only cut pieces that are 2.5”-3” thick in half to reduce waste and maximize profit but the quality suffers. The slugs we end up with are eventually crushed and used as DOT approved highway gravel so nothing goes to waste. Check out the Our Process article and From Quarry to Natural Stone Veneer video to see how it is done.
While there will always be variances in color and texture as it is natural stone, we take pride in our consistency. By ordering a sample board, you will get a hands-on representation of our stone. Recently, a new mason called and asked me “how much extra stone will I have to order to get enough good pieces to make it look like the picture? “ My reply was “none,” except what you anticipate to need for cuts and breakage. Obviously, this mason had purchased stone from other companies where the quality control standards were not like ours.
We have no dealers, no showrooms, no smooth salesmen just a great quality product and straightforward approach. We are proud of the quality products we produce and ship to our customers. You are always welcome to come see our main production facility and the products quarried on-site in beautiful Door County, Wisconsin. The only corners we cut are 90 degrees! Who doesn’t love to end on bad joke?