Why you should only ever choose stonemasons to fix stone

The worst building work I’ve ever seen

Disclaimer: please note that the following is a cautionary tale. I worked the stone but the owner insisted on it being fixed (installed) by builders he was using. They turned out to be complete cowboys, and not even very good ones.

A few months ago I was asked to supply some worked stone to reinstate a bay window. I took measurements from a couple of the other houses on the terrace and drew the templates, ordered the stone, and worked it. It was then handed on to the client.

A few months passed and I received a call from the owner asking me to come and have a look and tidy up what they’d done. I was horrified when I arrived.

First of all they hadn’t set it out correctly. Now if the plan is wrong from the start, the pillars and caps go on and then when it comes to fixing the headers you’re going to be in all kinds of problems.

What? No mortar?

However, these guys’ incompetence knew no bounds. Instead of mortar, they used a product called Hilti Hit – a high end chemical anchor, not suitable for mortar work at all – rather, it’s used for cementing steel into stone or concrete. The 2-part columns were not straight – more a dog-leg, and the very short pillar extensions above the caps had been cut and were not symmetrical with the caps, and moreover they had not been bedded (mortared) in.

Here are some photos to show the true appalling extent.


Window in full. Note the appalling roofing – the flashing is all over the place when it should be neat.



Note the wall by the window. Those bricks with the huge smear of sand/cement mortar either side are free-standing when they should have keyed the bricks into the wall. The horizontals give it away as they are out of sync with those in the wall.



Those smears of grey aren’t cement, which would have been bad enough. They are a chemical anchor they used, which is already failing.



Shoddy brickwork



The builders had butchered the stones we gave them. This little stone between the capital and the header should have been bedded on mortar but instead is freestanding. And the header should be flush with it. See also how the ‘mortar’ on the vertical joint is failing.



To add insult to injury they also managed to knock a chunk out of the York stone sill.



They didn’t understand the string course with the returns we gave them, so they chopped it into bits and got it all wrong. Look at the angles. Also it would seem they lost their temper and smashed it as there are cracks all over it. And yes, that is expanding foam above. They’ve also ‘cut the throat’ which in masonry terms means the drip underneath the string course should return without projecting through to the end of the stone.



I took this level and placed it at the furthest out part of the pillar. It was 15mm further out than at the base, when it should of course be a true vertical.



The string should be parallel but projecting from the header. Look at the throat/drip and how it comes out further as it goes left.



All in all a disaster. I gave the owner a price to do a total rebuild and suggested he sue the builder who he had already paid in full.

The moral is: don’t let an unknown quantity do the work of a specialist. And another moral is: there’s a lot of money to wasted when trying to save money!

  1. Ash said:

    A perfect example of why you leave each man to his trade !
    Do cheap do twice !

    • Geraint Davies said:

      And why I would never attempt plumbing in Venezuela!

  2. Steve Turner said:

    Sadly, we see the same story with natural stone tiles where the builder takes on the installation instead of leaving it to experienced people who know what they are doing. Perhaps you could offer “training” to the customer so that they know what questions to ask the prospective installer when they are looking for other quotes?

  3. J O'Connell said:

    Can you recommend any stonemasons in Perth, Scotland to fix a bay window that is slipping down/forward?
    Any idea what it should cost? Ballpark.

    • Geraint Davies said:

      Hi there
      I can’t recommend anyone as I don’t know any personally, but I will mention you on the Stonemasons’ page on Facebook and hopefully one of the many brilliant stonemasons near you will get in contact.
      Best wishes

  4. Brock Size said:

    That’s criminal. If the installer knew the work involved in that entire process they would not have touched that at all if they had any morals.

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