The masonry profession is nearly as old as human civilization, with a storied history that has shaped many of our world’s most iconic structures. From stunning architectural wonders to our most casual, everyday spaces, our homes and workplaces owe a huge debt of gratitude to the millions of masons who have toiled to bring our ambitious dreams to life. These brave men and women have sacrificed much throughout the ages, including their own health.
As technical sales reps for Canadian Stone Industries, Curt Trierweiler and Peter Byl have spent years working with masons whose bones and muscles have been shaped by an all-too-common ache: the physical weariness that sets in after decades of heavy lifting, sorting, shaping and installing full-bed stone. As it turns out, years of manipulating full-bed stone puts nearly as much strain on the human body as it does on the wall.
The pair has also noted an artistic weariness among masons, which is caused by limited full-bed product options that hinder them from differentiating one project from another.
The good news is that the masonry profession is changing. New product offerings, such as manufactured stone veneer (MSV), are opening up enticing avenues for more artistically-minded masons to add their own creative expression into individual projects while also completing more rapid installations.
Here are a few ways masons are evolving their critical role on the job site:
One of the benefits of working with manufactured stone veneer (MSV), rather than full-bed natural veneer, comes from its lightweight properties. MSV typically comes off the pallette in easy-to-manage boxes that weigh roughly 10 pounds. MSV is also pre-sorted for variations in color and size, so moving, manipulating and applying it simply isn’t as hard on the body.
Installation also moves faster with MSV on most projects. Due to the weight that full-bed stone puts on the mortar, even the most skilled masons can only make so much progress each day. Faster, easier installation allows masons to add more projects to their schedules during seasons of heavy activity.
As Trierweiler puts it, “At the end of the day, the person who has worked with manufactured stone veneer can still walk upright. And he often has a spring in his step because of the amount of progress he’s made in a single day.”
MSV also provides a wider selection of color and texture selections, including a versatile mix of trend-setting modern profiles that are much newer to the market. In Ontario, where both men are headquartered, stone options haven’t extended far beyond a range of browns and grays until very recently, and there is a growing interest in more contemporary options.
“It’s important to push past what’s expected or normal,” said Byl. “This is important to homeowners, of course, but it’s also an important part of the mason’s sense of artistic ownership on each and every project.”
There’s also an intangible, but very important, factor to consider when it comes to a mason’s feelings about his career and the work he has contributed to individual projects. In a world full of potential stressors, it’s incredibly valuable to walk off the job site and know that you’ve done valuable work that is going to add to your customers’ everyday experiences and lifestyles.
The versatility of MSV allows masons to see themselves as more than installers. As Trierweiler shares, “One of my customers told me that he doesn’t see himself as ‘just’ a mason when he works with manufactured stone veneer. He sees himself as an artist.”
Byl says that many of his customers echo the same sentiment: “I was talking to one of my contacts the other day about why he’s switched to installing only manufactured stone veneer, and he explained, ‘When I walk away, the customer is always so happy.’”
No product offering is perfect, but it’s important to keep working together to further innovate both our offerings and the masonry profession as a whole. On a personal note, it’s also rewarding to see that the steps we take today to introduce new products with trend-setting style and a continued ease of application will have an impact on both the homes and workspaces of tomorrow and those who build them.