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Installing Stone Veneer in Cold Weather

As summer gives way to Fall and then Winter, one of the things we work with a lot of our clients on is understanding how stone veneer can be installed in cold weather climates. For the sake of defining what cold weather is, we’ll peg it as the ambient temperate of the installation being below 40 degrees Fahrenheit. Let’s dig into this topic and learn more about why it’s important to know about the cold weather installation procedures and what your options are.

Stacked Stone Installed on Columns in a Lake House in Wisconsin in the Fall

To understand more about why stone can’t be set below 40 degrees Fahrenheit you actually need to understand the properties of the mortar or thin set that’s being used to install the stone veneer, not the stone itself. The mortar is critically important because of the water content – which in an average / room temperature installation allows the setting material to cure along a prescribed time line, slowly drying out while allowing the other natural and chemical agents to fully cure and create a very strong bond with the stone. A cold weather installation, particularly one where the temperature can drop below 40 degrees Fahrenheit at any point, night or day, during a 7 day window after installation, risks freezing the moisture content in the setting material and stalling / stopping the curing process, resulting in a bond strength between stone and wall that might not be sufficient to hold the stone over the long run of an average installation.

As you probably know, and maybe even the reason why you’re reading this article, construction time lines don’t always work out the way they were originally planned. Sometimes you might find yourself staring down the barrel of a project that needs to be completed, but has complicating factors like an outdoor installation of stone veneer in the Fall or Winter. As is the case with many things in life, prevention is the best solution in this situation. Often times a project manager can get creative and have weather sensitive materials installed out of the traditional sequence, but before the cold weather sets in.

Stacked Stone Installed in a cold weather climate with snow on the ground

If a creative solution to get the stone veneer installed before the cold weather hits isn’t in the cards, the two main options we advise our clients on is first to see if there’s any possibility they can find a 7 day period to get this material installed and cured without dipping below that 40 degree mark. While this requires a little more flexibility, this is an effective technique which ends up requiring a lot less work than other alternatives, and can be good for areas that only on occasion get cold weather, or in the early or late parts of the cold weather season where they might be able to find a good 7 day window to work in.

If the project is in an area, or a time of year, where the 40 degree mark is going to be consistently broken, then tenting the installation and using an artificial heat source to maintain temperature is the option of choice. The main thing to be aware and mindful of with a tented installation is the safe and continuous operation of the heat source. Safety should always be the highest priority on any job site, so the proper precautions should definitely be taken to ensure the heat source creates no other problems on the job site including ventilation. And seeing as though the heat source will most often need run at night, when the temperate is the lowest and coincidentally when nobody is there, it also makes sense to have the proper monitoring system in place to ensure the heat source is working. A wifi enabled thermometer that can be checked remotely or send out alerts if the temperature falls below a certain point is a good investment for a stone veneer installation that needs tented because of cold weather. When interviewing or hiring a contractor to install stone veneer, be sure to ask them for a detailed cold weather plan if it’s that time of the year.

Stacked Stone Installation that has been tented using scaffolding and a heat source to allow for a cold weather installation

If you’re thinking to yourself that having to tent a stone veneer installation to install in weather under 40 degrees sounds like a pain in the but – you’re absolutely right, it is! But rest assured that it is important – several years ago we worked with a contractor that installed our stone veneer panels on the exterior of a home in Northern New Jersey in January, literally while there was still snow on the ground! Fast forward to the end of the next summer, the stone literally started to fall off the wall and ended up getting torn down and replaced. So while it might not be fun, tenting and maintaining temperatures above 40 degrees is important for a successful stone veneer installation.

If you have any technical questions, whether its about installing stone veneer in cold weather, or anything else, please give us a call or email us at sales@norstoneusa.com and we’d be happy to share our extensive knowledge of stone veneer installation with you.

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Norstone's New Dimensions in Natural Stone blog aims to discuss design themes, sources of inspiration, and how the world around us influences our creative interpretation and buying preferences.

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