Expand Your Masonry Skillset
A mason lends advice on selecting the right job, bidding and obtaining help.
It was the fall of 2009, right before the bottom officially fell out of the economy. In a time when construction projects on both sides of the line – residential and commercial – were taking a hit, Jason Peek was looking to find his next project. He eventually found an opportunity with a sprawling home in Blountville, Tenn. The house was being rebuilt by its owners, Scott and Teresa Stephens – who lacked the required masonry skillset – after a fire gutted it to the ground.
The Stephens had specific instructions on the rebuild. Enamored with the General Shale products they painstakingly selected on the original home, they wanted their new one to feature similar products. Only this time, they wanted to add stone accents to the look.
With stone added to the mix, Peek admittedly was delving into a project that required a masonry skillset a little beyond his means. While bricklaying was something at which he excelled during his 22-plus years as a mason, he only had limited experience, at the time, working with stone.
And, because the stone served as an accent to the brick, the job was better suited to have one installer. The Kingsport, Tenn., mason knew that what he was bidding on would be a Herculean task.
The bid went in; the bid was accepted. “At the time, I hadn’t really laid much stone,” Peek recalls. “But the project came at a time when work was really dwindling, so I took on both ends of the job – the brick and the stone.”
Standard brick comes in a single unit size, so the installation is much more simplified. Peek merely had to lay the brick in straight rows. Of course, as with any project, complicated patterns can exist with brickwork. But those are more of a design choice.
The stone installation was another process altogether and required a different masonry skillset. Like brick, the standard masonry technique is a full-bed product, meaning it has to be installed on a brick ledge or support system. Laid in mortar, it requires a cavity and wall ties.
The main difference is that styles like Citadel come in different sizes, which are meant to work in an ashlar-type pattern. That means the pieces fit together like a puzzle. And because the product has some color variations, they give off a natural, more appealing look. Peek would have to know how the sizes fit together to create the pattern, as well as how to select the color shades so they are spread out within the wall.
Staring headlong into a project he knew would test his mettle, Peek thought he might need some help. In the beginning, he reached out to the General Shale team, which sent an expert to help guide him through the installation process. Providing all the technical support needed (Peek picked up on the process quickly), the job went off without a hitch.
Along with helping meet the Stephens’ expectations for the look of their new home, the installation was finished just in time to help them enjoy their son’s senior year of high school.
“Sometimes you have to know when to ask for help on a project,” Peek says. “There can’t be any egos involved. Every day that I set out to do a job, I set out to do it better than the day before. That doesn’t always work, but it’s something I shoot for.”
While Peek admits every job he has ever done could be better, he had a good feeling about the Blountville home and the lesson he learned.
To note, several years later, the house was featured in General Shale’s annual calendar, holding down the month of May. “It was always my goal to have a project make their calendar,” Peek says. “It was a dream come true.”