Stonework FAIL

The strip mall down the road recently sprouted ersatz stone pillars around the steel posts holding up the roof:

Ersatz stone pillar failure
Ersatz stone pillar failure

Six days later, more slabs have fallen off the first pillar in the row:

Ersatz stone pillar - failure 2
Ersatz stone pillar – failure 2

And the second pillar:

Ersatz stone pillar - failure 3
Ersatz stone pillar – failure 3

Those fancy(-ish) bases consist of a wood frame covered with a mortar layer holding tiles of imitation stonework. From what little I know of stonework, mortar works only in compression, so you can’t glue tiles onto the side of a concrete lump using mortar.

Epoxy, maybe. Silicone snot, probably. Mortar, nope.

This happened barely weeks after the project’s completion, so I foresee poor ROI for the mall owner and plenty of warranty work for the contractor.

9 thoughts on “Stonework FAIL

  1. These stone facades occupy an uncanny valley of masonry. They’re initially somewhat appealing until it becomes apparent that real stones would not be stacked or able to repose in the same way.

    1. There’s a mall around here with “concrete stucco” applied over styrofoam sheets. It looks OK until an inevitable scuff exposes the white beads, whereupon it looks awful forever more.

    2. I cringe a lot with post-modern architecture. You know, the type where they try to reintroduce old elements in a completely decorative-only fashion.
      You get “supporting” columns sitting right above a window, timber work, that would never transfer any forces, and “big and heavy” stone work sitting atop structures that would never support it.

  2. I’ve seen the masonry pros on This Old House and Home Time do it; the various WikiHow/diy sites say you a) need to key the surface b) use a decent mortar mix, and c) backbutter more of the mortar on clean roughened stone. Lots of opportunity for Murphy to get involved, however.

    I suspect it’s like tile work on walls, but with really heavy tiles. If the material is compatible, I’d use some acrylic additive to the mortar to give a bit more stick.

    OTOH, I’ve seen similar failures, most recently at a run-down restaurant. (Had to stop going there; they were getting dangerously sloppy.)

    1. The bathroom here has a real mud job: wall tiles set in cement / mortar on wire backing attached to wood lath strips nailed to the studs, floor tiles in cement atop a solid subfloor on the joists. No problems since 1955!

      So, when you do it right, your masonry will outlive your grandchildren …

      1. I was going through old pictures, and saw a bathroom I had done in 1982. The tile guy did a solid mud job, but the tile appearance did not age well.When I redid the bathroom in the San Jose house in 2003, there was a reason I used white square tile for the shower walls…

        (Thinset over cement-based Wonderboard. It works.) The claustrophobic shower stall gained some useful square inches by deleting the old mud job. People were smaller in 1936…

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