New England fieldstone creates a custom stone installation
Two longtime friends conceived a one-of-a-kind stone floor design for an upscale residence in New Hampshire with fieldstone indigenous to the region
Dave Croteau is no designer by any means, but he knows his stone. For the last 30 years, Croteau has owned Stoneyard, a company that’s been delivering traditional building stone of New England to a nationwide audience, and which has generated its recent success by cutting natural thin stone veneer, siding and cladding for homes in the local area. As a result, when he was looking for a way to revamp the floor in his home’s mudroom and create something new, he quickly developed an eye for design with some assistance from an old friend, as well as motivation from one of the local stones he works with every day.
“I wanted to take our own local stone and process it into this flooring,” Croteau explained of the New England Thin Stone Veneer, which is available in six unique colors, featuring the earth tones of states such as Connecticut, Massachusetts and New Hampshire. “I didn’t have it all figured out, but what I was doing, was taking the material, and slicing it top and bottom, to
3/8-inch in thickness.”
Since Croteau isn’t an architect or designer by trade, he reached out to longtime friend and business associate, Skip Ford, owner of Stonecraftsman Services in Hillsboro, NH, for some guidance with the Do-It Yourself (DIY) project. Ford, who has been in the industry for the last 52 years, works mostly through word-of-mouth on custom jobs and has made a very successful living doing so.
“Dave called me in September 2014 to discuss an idea he had been entertaining for a long time,” said Ford. “He took me out to the back of his yard to show me a pile of stone. This stone is found in the surface layer of soil throughout New England and was left from the movement of the glaciers during the Karoo Ice Age. It lasted from 360 to 260 million years ago. Farmers needed to get these stones out of the soil so they could grow their crops. This is why New England is covered with fieldstone walls.” Ford explained the stone pieces that were sliced down were all random sizes, shapes and colors.
Croteau chose four varying blends of the New England Thin Stone Veneer to create the 200-square-foot floor — 20% Newport Mist, 25% Colonial Tan, 25% Greenwich Gray and 30% Boston Blend. Each of these different blends incorporates a different color tone, from more neutral whites to darker grays, making it a very interesting, yet balanced design.
Installing the stone flooring
“[To start to create the design], I would take a stone that was 12 x 12 x 3/8 inches — a relatively small piece of stone — and all of the edges were ‘raw edges,’” said Croteau. “But, the interesting part was the way Skip trimmed each stone. I was under the impression that we were going to leave the raw edges, but he wanted them to be more honed so the grout would stay there forever.”
Ford, who configured the floor piece by piece, explained how he wanted it to have a honed finish, opposed to a highly polished finish, to give it a refined, yet subtle look. “It was like doing a puzzle, except you had to make all of the pieces of the puzzle,” he said. “It’s important to balance the sizes, shapes and various colors as you go along. It is also very important to use white thinset, as gray thinset will migrate through the stone and discolor it.
“Each stone is clean buttered and set in a thick bed of white thinset,” Ford went on to explain. “You wouldn’t be able to do a conventional thinset installation, as the thickness of the stone varies. By buttering the stones in a thick thinset bed, I can control the height of the stones using straight edges. It’s important to keep floors extremely flat, as any lippage from stone to stone will cause problems when you start grinding and polishing the finished floor. It’s also very important to avoid much of one color in a section, as this will make the floor appear blotchy. You want to have a nice motion and color balance throughout the floor.”
To prep the existing concrete floor, Ford began the process by laying a skim coat of Laticrete’s 254 Platinum thinset before he pre-leveled it. After doing that, he nailed a wooden ground around the perimeter to make it easier for the carpenter to install the baseboard molding. After all of the stone was installed, he removed the wooden ground and grouted the ¾-inch joint, which allowed the carpenter to set his molding without having to scribe around the stone, according to Ford. “After that base was in, we had a 1/8-inch joint to match the 1/8-inch joints in the floor,” he said.
The next step was to configure the puzzle by cutting each stone to its custom size and shape, which was one of the most intricate processes of the entire project. “In order to get a good grout job, I ease the saw-cut edges on the stone pieces with a 100-grit diamond pad,” said Ford. “I can’t get a good grout job with saw-cut edges.”
Once the stone pieces were cut and shaped, the most important step was selecting the appropriate colored joint filler, according to Ford. “For this project, we agreed on Laticrete’s PermaColor in Dust Gray,” he said. “We wanted the joints to just blend in and disappear.
“Then, we began with the 100-grit diamond pads on my Marble Master floor polishing machine,” Ford went on to say. “We took it up to 600-grit, but felt it was too highly polished, so I honed the surface to get the exact finish we wanted. It has more of a satin finish, rather than a high gloss. What a surprise [to us] when we saw the beautiful colors hidden in the stones. When we finished, we realized it was a one-of-a-kind project. It went from a common stone that no one even noticed to something extraordinary.”
While Croteau’s stone and creativity, as well as Ford’s experience and ingenuity, ultimately helped make this floor come to life in approximately two months, Ford also credits Leo Marquis, another builder he’s worked with on previous projects, for assisting with the team effort.
“Everyone who has seen the floor is amazed; we have never done this before,” said Ford. “You’d never know this insignificant material in the yard could turn into such a beautiful material.”
Residential Floor Installation
Stone Distributor: Stoneyard, Littleton, MA
Stone Installer: Stonecraftsman Services, Hillsboro, NH
Installation Products: Laticrete, Bethany, CT (Laticrete® 254 Platinum and Laticrete® PermaColor™ Grout, DuPont™ StoneTech® Professional BulletProof® Stone Sealer); Miracle Sealants Co., Arcadia, CA (Marble Master polishing machine)