Which Cement Is Right For Your Job?

Sandstone wall installed with colored masonry cement in Austin, Texas

Choose The Right Cement For Your Project

Getting Started

Not all cement products are the same. Grabbing a random bag of cement off the racks at Home Depot or Lowe’s isn’t even a good idea for the smallest DIY jobs. You’ll save time and money by learning what type and color of cement is best for your application.

If you’re designing a home or making selections for a commercial job, the right colored masonry cement can make a huge difference in your project. Read our basic cement/mortar guide to decide which product is best for your job.

A Guide To Mortar Types

Mortar mixes are classified by their compressive strength, flexibility and bonding properties. The best mortar choice isn’t determined solely by the resistance and strength of each mortar, it also depends on its use, adhesion, and sealing requirements. Mortar is what keeps all brick, stone or CMU joints together providing structural strength to the wall. It’s a mix of Portland cement, lime, sand and water.

Let’s go over the differences between N, M and S type mortars.

White limestone applied to a custom home in austin Texas with white mortar

Type N

Type N masonry cement mixes are usually recommended on exterior and above-grade walls that are exposed to weather and heat. Type N mortar mix has a medium compressive strength. Mortar mix is composed of 1 part Portland cement, 1 part lime and 6 parts sand. You’ll have to add the water and sand.  Type N mortar is described as a general purpose mortar mix used in above grade, exterior, and interior load-bearing installations.

 This is the mortar most often used on DIY projects by homeowners and the best for general application. Type N mortar typically achieves 28-day strength in the range of 750 psi.

Type S

Type S masonry cement gives a higher compressive strength and offers high tensile bond. Mortar mix type S is the ideal product to be used in masonry above or below grade. It fights soil pressure, wind and resists seismic conditions. Type S mortar can be used below grade for masonry foundations, retaining walls, brick patios and pavers. S Type mortars are required to have a minimum of 1800 psi. A great choice for exterior stone, brick or CMU block installation.

Type M

Type M mortar mix has the highest amount of Portland cement and it is recommended for masonry below grade, foundations, retaining walls and driveways. Mortar mix type M will provide at least 2,500 pounds per square inch compressive strength.


Colored Masonry Mortar

Some type S and N masonry cement mixes are available in colors besides the standard grey and white.  Colored masonry cements can add a nice finished look to dark colored stones like sandstone and brighten lighter limestone blends. Most exterior brick installations will feature a colored masonry cement. Add that finishing touch to your custom project by selecting a masonry cement color that complements your brick, stone or CMU.

Oklahoma flagstone is a dark, irregular patterned flagstone with many color variations.
Oklahoma Flagstone shown with Terra Blend Belterra Tan colored masonry cement.

Modern Limestone Fabrication

Austin limestone cladding panels are smooth white exterior stone panels on the exterior of a contemporary home

Texas is blessed with a variety of beautiful natural stone. Since 1996, Espinoza Stone’s Limestone, Sandstone and Lueders quarry operations have produced some of the finest stone available in the Lone Star state. Our fabrication capabilities have expanded rapidly through continued investment into state of the art cutting tools and machines. Skilled drafstmen now direct cutting edge tools and production lines.

Stone elements that were once hand carved can now be fabricated to exacting standards in a fraction of the time that hand carving required. 5 axis CNC saws, block cutters and polishing lines turn out large scale cladding projects with unmatched speed and precision.

The modern architects design toolbox should utilize our modern cutting capabilities and outstanding LEED benefits.

Shell Limestone wall cladding on the exterior of a home.

Texas Limestone is an integral part of modern architectures future. The consistent quality our special cuts mill can provide is unmatched.

Modern home limestone wall cladding austin

There are few limits to our stone fabrication capabilities. If you can design it, we have the tools and skills to produce it.

Buff Lueders Limestone contemporary home Austin, texas

This video shows some of our newest milling machinery, peeks into our drafting department and our thin veneer and chopped stone equipment.

[embedyt] https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV7WYq1gzko[/embedyt]

Thanks for taking a look at our video.

For further reading, this great article from Indiana Cut Stone details the variety of cut stone elements that can add modern looks to projects.

Great Stone Projects

Curvilinear Buff Lueders limestone cladding

We ship tons of natural stone to masons, architects and builders across the US every day and sometimes we don’t see the project in the completed phase.  Every once in a while, a project really catches our eye.

Curvilinear Buff Lueders limestone cladding

This ultra contemporary home was designed by Fazio Architects and features custom cut Buff Lueders limestone cladding sourced from our quarry in Lueders, Texas.  Each piece of stone on this Westlake Hills home was cut to 42 inches in length with our Infinity saw and carefully hand polished. The exterior walls of the home are curvilinear. Glass, steel and wood elements lend to the modern feel of this beautiful custom home.

custom cut buff lueders contemporary stone home austin tx Buff lueders limestone wall cladding ultra modern

The stone courses are 3, 6 and 8 inches high by 42 inches long respectively. The stone cladding completely surrounds the home.

Modern Stone home Austin, Texas

What a view of downtown Austin, Texas!

Buff Lueders Limestone contemporary modern stone home Austin, Texas Buff lueders limestone cladding architecture

Here are a few more shots of this lovely home. Notice the Buff Lueders pool coping and patio stone.

Modern Pool Buff Lueders Coping Modern Buff Lueders Exterior Cladding

We work hard to deliver the highest quality custom stone available. We have the largest, state-of-the-art stone fabrication facility in Texas.

We’d love to hear about your project. Feel free to visit Espinoza Stone and view more great stone projects. It’s a great place to get a feel for natural stone.

Our New Profiles Tool Makes Natural Stone Design Easy

Stone visualizer home design tool for natural stone

Online Design Tool Makes Choosing The Right Natural Stone Easy


The free online home design tool from Espinoza Stone brings your stone designs to life with just a few clicks.

Picking the right stone can be big challenge for homeowners and their designers. There is no standard name for many types of natural stone as every quarry, fabricator and yard uses different names for what can essentially be the same stone. When you add the wide variety of stone mixes that exist on the market, the stone selection process gets even more murky. Most stone design centers have small sample boards, tiny brochure pictures, sample walls or worse, chopped stone on pallets.

It’s just not easy for most folks to look at a pallet of chopped or thin veneer stone and visualize how it will look on their home.

Compare stone types and styles easily with your colors

Our Profiles® app helps you visualize different cuts and types of stone on your home. With a few clicks you can view our natural stone alongside a wide variety of paint, stucco and roof colors.  Our team has assembled a large natural stone catalog rendered from pictures of real stone. This makes it possible for you to get an accurate idea of how your stone selection will look alongside the paint, stucco and roof colors you like.

Online stone design tool visualizer

Customize your designs.

Use one of our 10 pre-loaded home elevations or upload your own rendering and drawings to get a realistic comparison of our different stone cuts and varieties. The goal is to increase your comfort level and make the stone selection process easier to visualize. The Profiles tool will keep track of every color and stone type you select for your design and allows you save your designs.

Profiles stone design visualizer

Give our Profiles tool a try.

Our Profiles© tool is live and can be found online at the Espinoza Stone website.  Get inspired, be creative and have fun bringing your stone designs to life.

Guest Blog: Can Masons Be Too Safe?

Masonry contractor safety

Can Masons Be Too Safe?

No, but being safe and meeting OSHA requirements are not always the same thing.

Guest blog by Bill Palmer


Mason Safety Contractors are responsible for providing their workers with a safe job site and with the equipment and training to keep themselves and others safe. The vast majority of contractors today gladly accept that responsibility and take it very seriously, but as Paul Albenelli said at last week’s meeting of the ASCC Safety & Risk Management Council (SRMC), “it’s a process.” If a contractor has a safety culture and is committed to doing his best, mistakes can still happen. So you work to continuously improve, like lean construction for safety.

But can you be too safe? That’s not actually a fair question. Being safe and meeting OSHA requirements are not always the same thing. This also applies to masons. The objective should be to see the big picture and create the safest possible working environment. Sometimes OSHA-dictated safety rules can be unfeasible or have unintended consequences, actually creating other hazards. One contractor told me that when safety lifelines were first mandated. Workers had only belts and if they fell, hanging by the belt would quickly cut off their air supply. Of course no one today would tie off without a full harness; the technology improved to match the need.

Unintended consequences may also be following the new silica dust rules. Perhaps the biggest complaint at the SRMC about the now-delayed silica dust rule is the feasibility of meeting the new 50 micrograms per cubic meter permissible exposure limit. Contractors want to protect their workers from silica dust and related health problems and if that’s the level it really takes, then OK, but is that level realistic or is it just an arbitrary number? Is it technologically and economically feasible on a construction site to meet that limit? That case hasn’t been clearly made. On some construction sites in the desert southwest, the limit may be exceeded just from dust blowing into the site. And what do you do to control dust in freezing conditions or inside occupied buildings where water can’t be used? In some cases, the tool and the vacuum draw more power than the tool alone and may be enough to trip the breaker on the generator, requiring extra cords that contribute a new hazard.

The Construction Industry Safety Coalition, of which ASCC is a member, is encouraging the new administration to delay enforcement of the rule until OSHA and the industry can complete more research to determine if the new exposure limit can be met and how. We all want to be safe and protect workers but we want to do so in ways that are realistic and effective.

Bill Palmer’s guest blog is published courtesy of Masonry Construction.

About the Author

Bill Palmer

Bill Palmer is editorial director of Hanley Wood’s Commercial Construction Group, which includes digital and print versions of Concrete Construction, Concrete Surfaces, The Concrete Producer, Public Works, and Masonry Construction. Previously, he worked for the American Concrete Institute for 10 years as engineering editor and director of educational programs and was the executive director of the American Society of Concrete Contractors (ASCC) and of The Masonry Society. He has been the editor in chief of Concrete Construction for 16 years. Bill is a Fellow of the American Concrete Institute and is a licensed professional engineer in Michigan and Colorado. He lives in Lyons, Colorado and can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Bill on twitter @WmPalmer.

Why Natural Stone Is A Sustainable Design Choice

Sandstone Slabs

Sustainable design starts with stone

Georgetown Cave Stone Chopped

Designing structures that are beautiful and sustainable is a movement that is growing. Many new materials and design options are available for your project but natural stone is a great way to add sustainable beauty and unique character to your home or commercial build.

Sustainable Design is a focus on getting more out of our natural resources. It’s a focus on limiting a building’s impact on our environment.

Design and construction of low impact and environmentally friendly buildings requires planning at the beginning of your design process but the returns from building green are worth the extra effort.

Here are 5 good reasons why stone is a sustainable design choice for your home or commercial project.

Limestone Wall Cladding

Stone is Natural

Stone is a product of the earth and mother nature’s original green building material. Natural stone requires no materials or resources to create and is in abundant supply. Stone is extremely versatile because of it’s many different textures, colors and physical characteristics. These colors, textures and characteristics make every stone installation unique.  Natural stone has no toxins or chemicals, ensuring that one element of your home environment will be safe and healthy. New commercial building construction that uses natural stone regional to a project or uses salvaged or reclaimed stone are the most common ways stone contributes to LEED points under the Materials & Resources section.

Custom Limestone columns and cladding

Stone is Recyclable

Stone is 100% recyclable and can be used many ways after it’s harvest from a quarry bed. Using recycled stone can save the water, energy and other resources used to generate new building products from raw material sources. Just a few uses for recycled stone include: fill, concrete mixture, landscaping, statuary, retaining walls, fertilizer, walkways and reuse on new construction. ASTM testing should be performed on recycled stone prior to its use in structural applications. The Natural Stone Council published a wonderful case study on ways natural stone can be reused in construction designs and in industry.

Recycled limestone

Stone is Durable

Stone is a very durable material that will stand up to years of use in a patio or age beautifully as an exterior covering. When you chose stone, you guarantee less material replacement and repairs over time. Stone tile flooring will withstand the high traffic of patios, kitchens and bathrooms for decades.

Stone may cost more than some material options, but it will outlast other products and reduce ownership costs when compared to materials that must be replaced and repaired over time. Interior and exterior Limestone applications are considered to be lifetime products that can last the entire useful life of a building according to a study by the National Association of Homebuilders.

Custom Limestone columns

Stone is Easy to Maintain

Stone will last for years with proper maintenance and care. While some natural patina coloring can develop on exterior building stone, this is easy to remove with simple water and brush cleaning if desired.  While you may elect to seal your interior stone, many exterior applications do not require sealants.

Our Stone is Quarried and Manufactured Responsibly

The quarry business has changed with advancements in technology. Innovations in extraction and fabrication methods have led to increased efficiency and lower costs for stone products. There are many more stone products being produced in quarries at an affordable price point. Stone is a more viable option for your home than ever. From water treatment and recycling programs to more energy efficient automated fabrication processes, the stone industry gets greener every year. The Natural Stone Institute curates a massive library of informational articles on the benefits of using natural stone and the relatively low environmental impacts of stone quarrying compared to other building materials like timber.


Please check out our Espinoza Stone website for more information about the myriad of stone products we produce at our 5,000 acres of Texas quarry operations.

Look Inside A Working Sandstone Quarry

Sandstone Quarry Block Loading

Inside a Texas Sandstone Quarry

I turned off Texas Highway 190 near San Saba, Texas onto a county road tightly framed by Juniper and scrub Live Oaks. That road quickly turned to a winding dirt road that led down to the Colorado River bottom.

Texas Sandstone Quarry Road

A few more twists and turns down the narrower dirt roads revealed the telltale signs of a working Sandstone quarry.  Dust rose over the piles of reddish rock and the sun glinted off metal sheds protecting stone saws and hydraulic choppers.

What’s Sandstone?

Sandstone is mainly composed of sand-size mineral or rock grains, most sandstone is primarily quartz and feldspar, which are two of the most common minerals in the earth’s crust. Like sand, it can be any color, but most commonly comes in tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white.

The stone usually has a uniform texture and it is somewhat soft, making it user-friendly for a variety of applications. It is favored for wall claddings and flooring because of its low absorption rate, high compression strength, and pleasing appearance. Learn more about Sandstone’s properties and uses at the Building Stone Institute.

Into The Pit

Nerri, the quarry manager and a 12 year employee of Espinoza Stone, Inc., met me at the stone saws and drove me down to the beds where Sandstone slabs were being harvested. On the way to the active beds, Nerri stopped so I could take pictures of the stone layers exposed from previous Sandstone mining.

We walked down to a quarry wall where large amounts of soil and rock covering the Sandstone deposits were clearly visible. In mining terms, this layer is called the Overburden. Beneath the overburden, different layers of stone deposits were visible.

Sandstone Quarry Wall Showing Overburden

We walked down to an active quarry bed where a large loader was breaking out slabs of Red Sandstone. The loader seemed to lift the slabs out very easily.

[embedyt] http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eC4Rzh86MWA[/embedyt]

Sandstone is quarried differently from the Central Texas Limestone pits where large diamond-tipped blades saw checkerboard patterns into Limestone beds and excavators hammer the blocks free.

Back at the metal saw shed, two large stone saws sliced Sandstone slabs into pieces suitable for chopping.

Sandstone quarry saw

The chopped stone is moved to a staging area where the pieces are sorted by size, mixed, stacked on pallets and secured for transport. Flagstone pieces may be broken by hand in this area as well as separated again into ledgestone and patio stone pieces.

Chopped Sandstone

Semi trucks are loaded in the quarry for transport to building sites, distributors and further processing. Much of the stone produced from the San Saba mine will be mixed with Limestone and Leuders to create signature stone blends or thin veneer building stone.

Thanks for joining our walk through a Texas Sandstone Quarry and checking out our new blog.

Stay tuned for regular updates.