All masons are not created equal!
The art of masonry is a special blend of the right products and relationships, the right preparation and techniques. Dennis Dahlke of Dahlke Masonry has perfected all of these. From exterior masonry to fireplaces and more, stone and brick play a critical part in your home today. Dennis shares more about his experiences in stone laying and other unique trends.
The Right Products & Relationships
“Everything begins in the selections phase, where a great mason will spend the time with the homeowner to ensure that the right product is selected,” Dennis begins. “Being a natural material, stone has many variations. As a mason, I consider myself lucky to have such great quarries in our area. Sample boards of stone don’t always show what the end result will be, so having access to local showrooms and stone yards allows me to work with the homeowner to get exactly the right look.”
While Dennis can source materials from providers out of the area, he prefers to work with trusted resources, such as Halquist Stone based out of Sussex, Wisconsin. With out-of-state providers, his team has experienced many surprises, including stone deliveries that are late, the wrong shape or size, and even the wrong color. When working with his local Regency partners, Dennis appreciates the heads-up when a product is running low in inventory or a delivery is delayed.
But, before delivery or laying a single stone, Dennis begins the process by meeting with the Selection Coordinator and the homeowner to review design options. He helps you to consider:
Overall Color Scheme – Yellows, browns, and “oh so popular” blues that blend with the look you are trying to achieve
Product Feel – rustic, refined, or natural looks that add texture and context to your home’s design
Refining Details – stone sizing, stone blends, mortar colors, and more all play into the final product
He adds that it’s imperative that homeowners see the stone on a home or at least a whole wall in a showroom before making a decision. A small 2×2 sample board doesn’t do the product justice.
The Right Preparation & Technique
Once on the jobsite, masonry is as much about preparing the surface as it is about stone or brick laying technique. Dennis’ team prepares the area with a specialized waterproofing system.
“It’s a misconception that your exterior stone helps protect your house from the elements. In reality, because stone is a natural and porous product, it’s what goes under that material that is protecting your home from water,” Dennis explains. All Regency homes use a specialized water management substrate including a 40 mil rubber-base flashing, peel-up Tyvek and tar paper, and a drainage mat that allows water to flow to the strategically placed weep vents at the base of the wall, placed just above grade. Other touches, such as pitched window sills and properly fished openings, makes sure the home is water tight before ever applying the stone.
One other unique thing to point out is that the stone must breathe. “While other builders might not want to add the cost of drainage mats to the project, it plays a critical scientific role in keeping the stone masonry on your home looking attractive for years to come,” Dennis shares. “Drainage mats allows air to circulate on both sides of the stone, allowing it to dry more evenly. This prevents minerals such as calcium, zinc, and salt from creating an efflorescence on the surface of the stone, discoloring and dulling it in turn. It’s a $1.25 a square foot insurance policy that you shouldn’t skip.”
When it comes to stone laying technique, it is all about planning and stepping back to see the big picture. Selecting each stone, Dennis encourages his crew to take their time to stand back and let the overall progress and plan come into play. The simple art of thinking the layout through helps create balance, avoiding issues in installation, such as:
Cleanliness Concerns – you can instantly spot poor workmanship in uneven or messy mortar lines
Sizing and Spacing – an even installation means small and large stones are evenly spread across the surface
Color Concentrations – stone blends require foresight so you don’t have one color concentrated in an area
About Dahlke Masonry & Regency Builders
Having worked together for more than 15 years, Regency Builders knows the value that Dahlke Masonry brings to the team. Dennis shares more about his longstanding relationship with Regency Builders. “It all starts with a systematized business process. Like laying stone, proper planning before, during, and after the job is always the Regency way. They never leave us waiting for an answer and ensure all of the aspects of construction that come before us are ready before we arrive on the jobsite. Regency knows that to mobilize our crews costs money, so they have streamlined the process from beginning to end.”
Dennis’ team of 4 masons and 2 laborers stands not only a head above the others due to his height and stature (a former Northern Michigan University football star), they also stand far above the others with their commitment to the craft. Dennis prides himself on his leadership, knowing that raising a craftsman like his dad did is not easy work. It takes everyone being critical of their work, taking pride in each stone laid on every job. He has a passion for building the trades, actively training his laborers the fine art of stepping back and looking at the big picture of their work…a job well done.