Finding a good stone mason can be a challenge wherever you live. There is always someone in the phone book or listed in Craigslist, but how in the world do you know if you’re talking to the just right person for your project?
Of course if you ask me which stone mason you should hire, the answer will be “Shepherd Stoneworks” (I’m not gonna lie!), but for the purpose of making an objective analysis of what to look for in a mason, I’ll leave myself out of the equation for now.
Which Kind of Mason?
First of all, let’s separate contemporary “brick and block” masonry from stone masonry. While there are some masons who practice both equally well, each discipline has its own specific set of skills. Which kind of mason you need will depend on what you are having done. A brick mason may have his trade down to a science, but when it comes to handling rough natural stone and all of its quirks, there may be something lacking in terms of artistic sensibility. Likewise, a mason who normally builds drystack stone walls might have a really hard time making flawless, professionally-laid brick steps.
If you are looking to get a custom-made stone installation done, make sure that the masonry contractor you hire is known for artisan work and isn’t just sending over a team of unskilled laborers to slop something together. The owner should be there most, if not all of the time, supervising if not installing much of the work himself. I have heard too many horror stories from clients who didn’t know what they were getting into on a project, and ended up with something considerably less desirable than they had in mind.
Do Your Homework
And that brings me to another important consideration: know a thing or two about what you want before you accept a bid from someone. Research the possibilities, get to know the basics, and look carefully at stonework that you see in other homes, online and in print. The more you can visualize the thing you want and all of the details to expect, the better your experience will be in dealing with a contractor. (On the other hand, be open to the possibilities – a good mason will have a clear idea of what will or will not work that is based on past experience.)
Quality is Key
Get multiple bids, but try not to base your decision solely on how low the price is. Stonework is not something you want done cut-rate – its quality is directly tied to the amount of time put toward it, and a rushed job is a bad job. Furthermore, masonry is made to last virtually forever, so if you end up not liking the end result, having it taken apart is a huge undertaking in and of itself.
The Real Deal
Instead, base your decision on things like the reputation of the contractor, whether or not they have quality references and an impressive portfolio, and how knowledgeable and helpful they seem. Ask yourself, “Does this person love their trade and take pride in their work?” The mason you want is the one who would do the best job possible regardless of compensation, as if he was working on his own house.
by Mark Shepherd www.ShepherdStoneworks.com
Bringing the finest in Stone Masonry to the Greater Seattle Area.
Natural stone walls, patios, steps and rockery of all sizes.
Mortared stone veneers, fireplace surrounds, and interiors.
Integrated landscape design and installation.