In any construction project that involves stone installation, mortar is a crucial material. Mortar binds pieces of stone together while creating a soft and even bed for different layers. It is also used to plaster and enhance the general appearance of a stone wall structure.
Applying mortar to stone is a relatively easy process. You only need a trowel to scoop and spread it over the stone.
However, sometimes mortar may not stick to the stone. And this can be quite problematic because it will interfere with the structure of the construction.
If you have recently stumbled across this problem, in today’s article, we will go through some of the common causes of why mortar may not stick to the stone and the potential solutions.
What Causes Mortar Not to Stick to Stone?
1. Presence of Dirt and Contaminants on Stone
During storage or transportation, stones can be exposed to lots of dust and even contaminants. These two can prevent mortar from sticking to the stone.
When dirt or contaminants build up on the stone, they create an additional layer that can affect its adhesion to mortar.
The Solution: To deal with this problem, you only need to thoroughly clean the stones before laying them with mortar.
A high-pressure garden hose can clean off dirt and neutralize contaminants that may be hindering adhesion to mortar.
2. Not Using a Binding Agent
There are different types of mortar that you can use when installing stone. Some of them require the addition of a binding agent to trigger adhesion.
If you are using such a mortar for your project, forgetting to add the chemical binder can cause the mortar not to adhere to the stone.
The Solution: This is a preparation blunder that can easily be remedied by following manufacturer instructions. If the mortar you plan on using needs a chemical binder to work, make sure that you add it in during preparation.
3. Using Mortar that is Too Dry
One of the biggest culprits that cause mortar not to stick to stone is when you mix mortar that is too dry. The standard ratio for mixing mortar with water is 1:4. However, different brands have varying mortar-to-water ratios.
When preparing mortar, the ideal consistency should resemble that of thick peanut butter. When the mortar is too dry, the little amount of moisture inside it will be sucked out by the stone. As a result, it will not bond to the stone and it may crack or fall off.
The Solution: There are two remedies for this problem. You should mix mortar with enough water. When you follow the mortar’s manufacturer-recommended ratio, you should get a consistency that will adhere perfectly to the stone.
Please avoid adding too much water to the mortar. If the mortar is too runny, it will be difficult to get it to stay between stones. Use enough water.
The other solution entails soaking the stone’s surface with water before applying the mortar. Stone is porous and that’s why it sucks moisture from the mortar.
To prevent that, you should wet the stone before laying the mortar. This will ensure that the moisture in the mortar doesn’t dry prematurely.
4. Using the Wrong Type of Mortar
Not all mortars are designed equally. Some brands tend to be more problematic than others. Expert builders can testify to this.
I don’t want to point any fingers. But you should always do your research before buying mortar from certain brands.
There are some types of mortars, especially the premixed options that tend to have a problem with sticking to the stone. Most of these mortars have a wet-sand type of consistency which easily slides off from a trowel.
The Solution: Always do thorough research when shopping for mortar. Be specific about the type of stone you are installing. This ensures compatibility.
Also, evaluate where you are installing the stone. Some mortars are known to perform better in interiors and others in outdoor applications. It’s good practice to always go for high-quality mortars because they have better adhesion.
5. Using Re-wetted Mortar
Sometimes we find ourselves mixing a lot of mortar and then abandoning the project midway. Later on, when you decide to continue, you may be tempted to re-wet the mortar and continue using it to install stone. Please note that this is not acceptable.
When mortar starts to harden in the bucket, it loses its adhesive strength. So, when you add more water and assume it will hold up, there is a high chance it will not stick to the stone.
The Solution: This is a problem that’s very easy to deal with. Never re-wet mortar. You are better off preparing a new batch than re-wetting it only for the mortar not to stick to the stone. It’s advisable to always prepare a small amount of mortar and add more as you proceed.
6. Hot Weather and Low Humidity
When the humidity levels are relatively low and the temperatures are high, mortar may have trouble sticking to the stone.
The high temperature causes moisture from the mortar to evaporate faster and the low humidity speeds up this process. Without moisture, mortar becomes unable to adhere to stone and that’s why it may dry and fall off prematurely.
The Solution: You can either wait for the climate to get better. That is the temperatures and humidity levels stabilize. Or, you can introduce a fan and a dehumidifier. The latter option is applicable when installing stone indoors.
7. A Smooth Scratch Coat on Stone
If the scratch coat on your stone is smooth, the mortar may not have something to adhere to. Mortar bonds well with rough surfaces because there is something for it to bite into. However, on a smooth surface, the adhesion may be minimal.
The Solution: The best remedy for this problem is to rough up the scratch coat on the stone if there’s any. By creating a rough surface, the mortar will be able to grip onto the stone and adhere for longer.
What are the Downsides of Mortar Not Sticking to Stone?
There are three main drawbacks of mortar not sticking to stone during application. They include;
• Waste of Time
There is nothing more annoying than having to redo a project due to material failure. When mortar fails to stick to stone, you have to start all over again.
This can be quite inconvenient for both DIY folk and professional builders. That’s why you need to understand what causes mortar not to stick to stone and avoid making any mistakes.
• Waste of Money
The mortar that won’t stick to stone isn’t reusable. You will be forced to buy more mortar which can use up a significant amount of money.
• A Higher Risk of Stones Falling from the Wall
A wall whose mortar isn’t adequately adhered to stone is a safety hazard. As stones fall, they can hurt you, your kids, or your pets. It’s imperative that any stone walls erected within your home be adequately bonded by mortar.
How Can You Increase a Mortars Adhesion to Stone?
A mortar’s adhesive strength can be increased by using chemical additives. These additives make the mortar a bit stickier, thus facilitating a strong bond between the mortar and the stone.
However, additives aren’t necessary. As long as you avoid the causes and mistakes listed above, you won’t have to worry about mortar not sticking to the stone.
As long as mortar is prepared in the correct ratio, and applied properly it should stick to the stone and last for years.