Increasing your living space with stone masonry

  • Björn Mutén and George Louro are the business partners for StoneScapes. COURTESY STONESCAPES

  • A patio project by StoneScapes using local Goshen stone. “Natural stone will be more durable than concrete,” Muten said. COURTESY STONESCAPES

  • A wall and patio project by StoneScapes. COURTESY STONESCAPES

  • This pool patio in Conway is a project of StoneScapes. COURTESY STONESCAPES

For the Greenfield Recorder
Published: 10/18/2021 5:15:54 PM

Bjorn Mutén, 35, of Shutesbury started out as a boy working with his brother-in-law doing landscaping and stone masonry. “I was 12, he was in his early 20s. It was great summer work,” he said.

Mutén continued with the work through high school and college, attending the Rhode Island School of Design. Returning to the Valley after college, Mutén felt that stone masonry was a career for him.

He said he started with small jobs and built on that until meeting George Louro in 2014 and becoming business partners. Louro brought many years of horticultural experience to the team in addition to assisting Mutén with stone facilitation. Together they created StoneScapes LLC, providing custom stonework and landscape design.

“The most common reason people come to us is they want to increase their outdoor living space,” said Mutén, adding that he sees stonework as a way to add a “permanent art form to your property.”

Mutén said he has seen that many homeowners are looking at their property differently since the pandemic, with many wanting to improve on what they have and the growth in the real estate markets.

“There is so much growth in all of the trades. Ten years ago, I never would have thought things like FaceBook and Instagram would have such an impact on us,” he said noting how easy it is now to view a trades person’s work besides on their website.

If the idea of having border walls, an outdoor kitchen, fire pit, or a stone patio appeals to you, the StoneScapes team would bring you samples of materials and help you figure out what design would work best for your property. “A really beautiful space up on a hill far from your house, you probably aren’t going to use it much, for example,” said Mutén.

Questions to ask as you begin

While cost is often the first thing on homeowners’ minds, Mutén said the number one thing to consider first is the ability to have structural integrity vs. aesthetics. In other words, will the space you want to build support the structure?

An often-critical point Mutén said is the issue of drainage, for example. If you have poor drainage your project will suffer. “If you want to incorporate gardens, how much work do you want to do?” is another good question to think over Mutén said.

In terms of cost, Mutén said his company is very transparent. They offer a free consultation and an estimate for your project and price by square foot. He said it is always a good idea for any project you are looking to hire to get a few different estimates. “Some contractors are just better fits than others,” he said.

Mutén said there are many variables involved in a stone mason/landscaping project, but he sees an average project ranging from $5,000 to $10,000.

Do you want dry stone masonry or looking for work with concrete? “Natural stone will be more durable than concrete. Concrete pavers are popular, for example, but they will never hold up the same way to freeze/thaw cycles,” said Mutén. He added that freeze/thaw cycles will “have the greatest effect on any hardscape project.”

How is a hardscape project best approached?

Mutén said you not only have to consider what’s on the surface of the land, but what is underneath.

Standard practice for StoneScapes projects is to use compacted trap rock of various sizes (3/8 to 3/4 inches) for a “setting bed” or underground base, he said. Mutén said traditionally sand and stone dust has been used “but it just doesn’t hold up as well.” He added that whether you hire out or do the project yourself, your structure will last a good deal longer with a solid underground base.

“You see projects from the ’70s, ’80s, or even ’90s reaching term now (that don’t use trap rock as a base). You just see them fall apart,” he said.

What about the rocks?

Mutén said he and Louro’s company primarily does traditional mortarless stonework, but also does brick and mortar work. In terms of the rocks they use, “we have a pretty special relationship with the quarries we buy direct from,” he said. He added that “we make good use of all our wonderful local quarries such as Judd’s (George D. Judd and Son’s LLC) for Goshen Stone and Sugarledge (Stone Quarry Inc.) for Sugarloaf Arcos. All of the Goshen Stone in the world comes from that mountain range (in Goshen).”

Mutén said that “every rock is unique. Every load (of rock) is unique. The quarries we work with make it possible to do the work we do. You can’t get that kind of thing at a big box store.”

Maintenance of hardscape projects

Mutén said there is very little maintenance involved in stonework projects. If the wall, fire pit, etc. grows moss or lichen on it, “it’s just a matter of aesthetics. If you like how that looks, great; if not, you can power wash it off once a year,” he said.

He added that if the area is particularly shady, you are likely to spend a bit more time keeping your project clean. “UV light takes care of a lot,” he said.

For more information, go to StoneScapesLLC.com or call 413-537-4153.

Cris Carl is an avid local gardener, licensed therapist and certified herbalist. She is an experienced journalist who has written for the Recorder for many years. She can be reached at cstormfox57@gmail.com.




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