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Unread 01-09-2016, 07:08 PM   #1
Vic Boyd
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Falling Fast - Masonry Disaster

Hi there Professional Tilers and Masoners, I'm an apprentice lawyer working on a case of falling stone veneer. This is my first case like this and I want to understand as much as I possibly can about it. In the process of demolishing the existing facade, I've discovered many "clues" as to what went wrong and with the excellent help of my local Masonry Council reps, I'm learning more about your trade. I hope my background/quest doesn't scare you off. I want to understand what's gone wrong, rather than make uninformed assumptions. I'm here to ask some questions in the hope of understanding what went wrong (mortar, masonry, installers, or some other factor in isolation or together), which I won't understand properly without calling on the collective wisdom of this forum's experienced masoners and tilers.

I'm grateful for your advice and shared experience.

I'll pre-empt all this discussion by first giving a little background :

1. The masonry was installed for 5 years. Then it started to fall off. This is a very short time no? What is the usual service life of properly installed adhered natural stone veneer? I've read articles that explain slate lasts for hundreds of years!
2. The masonry panels are approx 6 x 24 inches made of stacked slate adhered together with some sort of glue by the veneer manufacturer. The back of the units is very smooth and non-porous.
3. The installation and product were purchased from the one supplier at approx $30 sq. ft. installed. I later discovered that the installers were NOT qualified masoners/tiler. I'm surprised to learn you don't need to be a qualified masoner/tiler to install masonry units. Is this unusual?
4. I have personally demolished 1,000 sq. ft of stone facade to learn more about this case and have discovered the units practically pop off in some areas with a kick of my boot. Others require some nudging with the help of a hilty drill and in any event, the stone unit comes squarely away from the wall with little-to-no cementitious mortar on the back of the unit. Getting detatched stones falling off the building this "clean" and "easy" makes me suspect something is awry with not only the installation, but the combination of the mortar + the veneer product. *more on this below*...

From my demolition work, to me, the untrained non-expert, it would appear the stone unit backing is too smooth and non-porous to bond properly to the mortar. My "who dunnit" points not only to the mortar (which has been sent away for testing), but also to the stone unit. So, I would like to know:

1) Has anyone in this forum encountered difficulties getting stacked slate natural stone panels to adhere properly (assuming normal climate/temp/conditions at time of install, accurate curing time, use of site mixed Type N or S mortar meeting ASTM C270 requirements)? I find it hard to believe this might be the only instance of facade failure of this kind.

2) Are there any other factors (outside of mortar, masonry unit and installation practice) I should be looking at as contributory causes to the facade failure? For example, the masonry was installed at and in some areas, below grade. From my very basic understanding of masonry installation, this presents an issue on the moisture front. Could moisture seepage into the masonry from the ground exacerbate freeze thaw cycles and cause the stone to pop off?

Your advice is very gratefully received.

Thankyou!
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Unread 01-09-2016, 08:13 PM   #2
cx
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Welcome, Vick.

Your experience is quite common.

I'm actually amazed that manufacturers of those stone veneer panels still specify a Type N mortar for installing them on walls and expect the installation to be successful for the longer term. Or even the shorter term in many cases.

Several of the ceramic tile installation product manufacturers have developed products and systems for installing such veneer panels. The first I was exposed to was Laticrete International with their Masonay Veneer Installation System (MVIS), but I believe other manufacturers have also developed installation systems for those panels. I'd recommend you contact some of them for help in correcting your failed installation(s).
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Unread 01-09-2016, 08:43 PM   #3
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As cx has pointed out there are special mortars for installing stone veneer panels. They are usually polymer fortified and designed for such applications. Other than Laticrete manufacturers like Quickrete and Specmix make them.

I would not have used type N or S for this.
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Unread 01-09-2016, 09:15 PM   #4
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He(OP) is a lawyer working on a case of failed stone veneer. It's not his. Hes not installing it. Answer accordingly.
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Unread 01-09-2016, 09:39 PM   #5
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We're pointing out who would know how it should be installed, Craig. I think that's on point for his questioning.
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Unread 01-10-2016, 11:40 AM   #6
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Vick , it does look like the what is falling out from -- the substrate layer -- is left out .

I would look first at the composition -- layers from the outside to the would/steel frame -- of the exterior wall .

Then understand how they work together as a unit -- layer by layer -- .
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Unread 01-10-2016, 12:06 PM   #7
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Who was the manufacturer of the system?

This sounds familiar - where is this job located ?
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Unread 01-10-2016, 05:00 PM   #8
Davy
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Vic, what I've noticed over the years is that most masons use fat mud to bond any type of stone regardless of what they are building. They will use the same fat mud that is used for a stone or brick wall to stick down flagstone on flat work or for a veneer wall installation. As tile setters, we use thinset which bonds much better to the stone and to the substrate. Although there are other bonders, many times we use thinset as a bonder on the substrate and stone and if needed, fat mud in between to build out the thickness.

Sounds like to me, a good thinset or even epoxy alone would have worked fine, depending on the thickness variations in the stone.

Sometimes the stone manufacture will have installation guidelines to follow.
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Unread 01-10-2016, 11:15 PM   #9
Vic Boyd
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Replies Round 1

Hi CX, Blue_Can, Evan1968, EuroB, Houston Remodeler and Davy,

Many thanks to you all for your considered replies and warm welcomes. Thankyou! I've included a pic of the units in question and have responded to your comments individually:

CX: Suspend your amazement! While yes, all Manufacturers of this type of stone NOW recommend MVIS or other polymer-modified mortars for adhered thin veneer stone installation, this hasn't always been the case. If you go back a few years, Manufacturer's Specs are really varied - some silent on mortar completely (not naming any names), others recommending Type N or S, others going so far as to only guarantee product with use of a specific brand of polymer-modified mortar. There's a real mix of advice out there. Industry publications/manuals for installation are not much more help - see for example technical info guide from Building Stone Institute published 2008 (u will have to google as I can't post links sorry!) it recommends Type N or S.
*Question for you*: I'm curious to know what experienced installers would have done had they been contracted for this project at the relevant time - i.e. 2007/2008. Was knowledge and use of polymer-modified mortars and admix prevalent in 2007? Would geographical conditions (freeze/thaw climate of Alberta) or masonry properties (thin veneer slate units) prompted you to choose a different mortar that was commercially available and widely used at that time? If so, what would it have been?

Blue_Can: Hi Blue_can - thankyou for pointing out other polymer-modified mortar manufacturers. You say you wouldn't have used type N or S on this install. I have the same question for you as I have for CX - see asterix above.

Evan 1968: Thanks for letting me know about HE(OP). I'll chase him up.

EuroB: Quite right - I forgot to mention substrate. Substrate is ICF with metal lathe affixed at requisite intervals using non-corroding screws. Upon removing stone veneer, I noticed a) 99% of all the mortar stuck to the wall and nothing to the back of the stone unit - they were virtually clean, and b) there were different colored mortar sections across the wall (which is off being tested to see what its composition is. I also noted no apparent laxing of lathe and at this juncture, the site was inspected by Stone Masonry council who noted it was installed to code and a good install at that (done by a different contractor).
My question for you is: *The substrate consists of ICF, metal lathe, and scratch coat. All debonding has occurred between the mortar and the veneer units. I.e. nothing looks untoward vis ICF, lathe, or scratch,....but..am I missing something? What about a drainage board? What do the tilers/masoners here think about installing onto ICF clad metal lathe?

Houston Remodeller:That's a million dollar question that I don't know the answer to yet. I'm researching all manufacturers atm so I can find that one out. Any ideas? I've included a pic below.

Davy: Hi Davy, thanks for explaining the difference between fat mud (for masoners) and thinset (for tilers). Very helpful. I will do some digging around to find out what was used.
Attached Images
  
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Unread 01-11-2016, 05:59 AM   #10
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Out consultation fees start at @$275/hr. How will you be paying for that today?
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Unread 01-11-2016, 08:45 AM   #11
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Vick, if you'll add that geographic location to your User Profile it'll remain permanently in view to aid in answering some of your questions.

In 2007 I don't think I would have been much aware of the problem with those installations and I think it was in 2010 when I encountered the first of the MVIS systems at a Laticrete seminar in Dallas.

Being one to always recommend to our visitors that they read and follow product manufacturer's instructions, I'd likely still have advised against the use of Type N, but would have accepted a Type S mortar installation if that's what the manufacturer recommended. I would have worried about it, though.

Had it been my project I would likely have mudded the walls first, having attached the metal lath to the ICF walls at whatever attachment points/strips/grids available with appropriate mechanical fasteners. When the mud (fat mud) had set up I would have installed the stone panels with thinset mortar, not trusting even a Type S mortar to actually bond the smooth-backed panels adequately. In your part of the country I would likely have also put a direct bonded waterproofing membrane over the fat mud.

By 2010 even I was aware of the problem with those panels not staying on walls and certainly understood why Laticrete was developing their installation system, but no so in 2007 for me.
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Unread 01-11-2016, 11:48 AM   #12
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I have installed very similar looking panels to that in your photo to a low garden wall onto a block substrate. I did this around 2010 and at that time special stone veneer mortars and system for installing stone onto structures were available. I got the info by doing research into the project including asking on forums, browsing masonry manufacturers products etc.

I cannot unfortunately comment on the 2007/2008 timeframe since I had not done any projects involving stone veneer up until 2010.

The main difference that I noticed between type S/N and the stone veneer mortars is that the SVMs tend to be more "sticky" and also cures quicker and stronger than type S or N. They in fact feel very much like working with thinset.

Now having said all of this your failures could also be due to other factors. If for example the back of the stone panels had been contaminated by oily substances etc - that would have an effect on the bond. I'm guessing a masonry expert may be able to examine the failures and determine the exact cause which may not include the failure to use SVM.
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Unread 01-11-2016, 07:50 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave
Vic
Out consultation fees start at @$275/hr. How will you be paying for that today?
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I'm with Dave. Last year I got the rude surprise that one of my free proposals was being used by a client to sue the previous tile contractor. Even though they presented themselves as sincere clients just wanting a quote, not looking for a professional consultation.

I found out this was happening when my proposal and emails to the 'client' got subpoenaed by the law firm representing the defendant.

Now I am rooting for the defendant to win the case. The clients lied to me and are trying to use my time and expertise provided for free for their financial gain.

Who came up with the free estimate idea anyway?

Not saying the OP is misrepresenting himself but in a legal matter you should find an expert in the field and pay them well to give you expert advice.
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Unread 01-11-2016, 08:27 PM   #14
cx
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Yeah, what Isaac said.

If peoples want expert technical advice for free they should find an Internet site like Tile Your World if it's about ceramic or stone tile. No, wait..............

You should file an amicus curaie brief with that court challenging all the information you provided in your proposal. I'd do it just for fun were it my proposal being subpoenaed.
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Unread 01-12-2016, 12:02 AM   #15
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fail

was never going to work with cement/sand mortar mix
it would work with cultured stone (as it has a textured scratch back)
is there even a starting flashing at the bottom course
here in B.C. before codes changed it was two layers of tar paper then wire and scratch coat and then veneer for that time period...

it then changed to a rain screen 3/8ths then again with wire on top with a scratch coat of mortar

the method i use now is letting siding guys fair out with the 3/8th PT batterns and affix a cement board to the 16" centres and affix veneer via a troweled burn on thinset coat and 3/8ths back buttered on the veneer
no call backs in 10 yrs
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