As stone usage continues to expand in the U.S., contractors are seeing more interior projects specifying natural stone in a vertical application. This customized study, outlined by Laticrete International and executed by BNP Media (Stone World's parent company), takes a look at the methods, products and cladding sizes used by contractors around the country.

Cladding methods

Contractors were first asked about what types of methods they have used in their interior vertical installations. The most common system cited was thinset at 89%. The plaster and wire method was also common, with 41% of respondents saying they have used this system. Other survey participants cited mechanical anchoring (36%) and “other” (15%). Methods mentioned under the category of “other” included epoxy, mastic and conventional mortar, and respondents also cited specialized adhesives from manufacturers including Laticrete, Mapei and Custom Building Products.

Looking deeper at the issue, contractors were then polled on what methods they used for the majority of their installations. Thinset was at the top, as it was used for nearly two-thirds (64%) of installations. The plaster and wire method was second most common at 17%, followed by mechanical anchors (12%) and other (7%). Once again, the “other” mentions were epoxy, mastic and specific branded products.

Given the fact that virtually every construction project seems to be on a fast track these days, the speed of the installation method is also a concern among contractors. When asked about which systems were the slowest when installing stone on interior vertical substrates, the plaster and wire method was cited by the majority of survey participants (51%) as the most time-consuming. Additionally, 36% said mechanical anchors were the slowest method, and 12% cited thinset.

The primary materials being used for veneer cladding were reported to be marble (cited by 28% of respondents), ceramic tile (26%) and granite (24%). Also, 11% said they are seeing porcelain cladding most often, and 11% said they are most commonly seeing other materials such as travertine, limestone, slate and fieldstone.

Looking at the size of the stone materials being installed, the majority of respondents (53%) said they are typically working with cladding pieces that measure around 2 square feet. The second most common response was the installation of larger panels measuring greater than 5 square feet, with 16% of respondents citing this size. Other typical sizes mentioned were 3 square feet (14%), 4 square feet (12%) and 5 square feet (5%).

The typical width of stone veneer is 1⁄2 inch (as reported by 37% of participants) or 3⁄4 inch (31%). Other widths cited were 1⁄4 inch (12%), 1 1⁄2 inch (12%) and more than 1 1⁄2 inch (8%).

As far as the substrates for vertical installation, 60% of respondents said that they are typically installing over cement board. This was followed by concrete (13%), concrete block (11%), plywood (6%) and other materials such as sheetrock, drywall and proprietary products (10%).

Given natural stone's increased use on small- and medium-sized projects, it is not surprising that the average crew size has become relatively small. Among those polled, 59% said that a typical crew is two people or fewer, and 38% cited an average crew size of three. Only 8% said a typical crew was four people, and 5% averaged five or more people per crew.

The average workload per day was also relatively small, as 72% of respondents said they install less than 150 square feet of interior vertical stone per day. Breaking it down further, 45% said they install 50 to 100 square feet; 27% said they install 101 to 150 square feet, 6% said they install 201 to 250 square feet, 4% said they install 251 to 300 square feet, and 3% said they install more than 300 square feet.

Respondents to the survey were evenly spread around the country, including 28% from the West Coast, 24% from the Northeast, 21% from the Midwest, 15% from the Southeast and 12% from the South.