That’s Solid as a Rock
Stone Coat’s Blown Stone product … construction’s next big thing?
Ken Morrison, at the age of 54, has spent his adult life as part Renaissance Man, part self-described serial entrepreneur.
His professional career has ranged from making “a lot of money” in the business world in Dallas during the 1980s to developing a number of successful small businesses to running a production company that helped stage the Salt Lake City Winter Olympics. Morrison’s resume does point to a theme, though—the thrill of creating success.
Stone Coat, a Dallas-based company that he started 10 years ago, appears to be that “next big thing” in the construction industry. Stone Coat and its signature product, Blown Stone, have been trademarked and the company awaits patent approval.
How did this venture come to be? Well, prior to Stone Coat, Morrison was flipping houses. One of his projects required a new stone exterior. His research led him to a company in Europe that has a process to convert limestone into a material that, via a hydraulic hose, can be applied to vertical surfaces and then carved, shaped and colored in numerous ways. It defies logic, but the process allows stone to be “blown” onto surfaces.
Morrison, Stone Coat’s President, says his business has developed a proprietary process that blends limestone with other natural stone materials, minerals and a special bonding agent to create its Blown Stone.
“If you dumb it down, what we tell people is we have a 66-pound bag, we add water and we have real stone that can be blown onto almost any surface,” says Morrison. “Our mission statement says that we want our product to be the building material of choice in what is a $24 billion construction market.”
Morrison, noting that he spent about six years each on his past major projects, jokes that once Stone Coat becomes a prime player in the construction market, he’ll get bored … again. But until then, he finds worthwhile challenges in exploring this new territory.
“It’s like discovering a new building material, like discovering wood or brick,” Morrison says. “We like to say we’re changing the game in stone. Everybody loves stone, it has an innate strength and beauty. Blown Stone is a new category. And our end product is as pure as real stone. It meets specifications for ‘green’ construction projects. Plus, our process has more flexibility in how we can make the final product look and it’s much easier to use for renovations.”
Bell Tower Project, a Ringing Success
Shortly after Morrison started the company, it received a kick-start with the award of a project to renovate a 10-story bell tower in McKinney, Texas. The tower has become the centerpiece for a 45-acre, $350 million mixed-use project with architecture modeled on a small fishing village located on an island off the coast of Croatia.
“It is the most visible and iconic of our initial jobs,” Morrison says. “It was a major undertaking. And considering the way the tower was originally built, doing that renovation with actual stone might have been impossible. We were able to add the details that helped it fit in with the rest of the architecture on that project.” Rick Adams, Stone Coat’s Vice President of Operations, has been with the company for five years and a partner for the last three.
“Ken took that on as a challenge,” Adams says of the McKinney project. “That was what we could show people going forward, that we could do all the detail work on this tower, make it look authentic. If we could do that tower, we could do someone’s house.”
Bob Bodkin, owner and operator of R&B General Construction Services in Texas, first used Stone Coat for a new stone exterior for Lucas Funeral Home in Keller. After researching Stone Coat’s product and viewing a video the company provided, he was convinced it was the best way to serve his customer.
The end result and the application process confirmed that.
“Working with Stone Coat with the budget I had, we were able to do the entire building (almost 11,000 square feet) and give it a great look,” Bodkin says of the project that provided the building a part stucco/part stone finish. “The application process takes a lot less time and for this project is was cost-effective.”
Because the idea of “blowing stone” is relatively new, Bodkin’s project at the funeral home was initially delayed because of zoning and permit issues. Officials from the city of Keller weren’t exactly sure about how Stone Coat’s process worked.
Adams quickly stepped in to help. He met with the city officials, presenting the company’s promotional video and other evidence about how Stone Coat’s product works. Problem solved, project soon completed.
“We tell people all the time that this is a brand-new product using a process that is really centuries old,” Adams says. “We’ve spent the last decade vetting the product—doing jobs, proving that it works, introducing it to the market. The first time people see it, it’s jaw-dropping for them.”
A Process that Works and a Bright Future
Stone Coat’s process offers a convenient, expedient, economical and environmentally friendly method to convert the surface of a commercial building or a home into a stone look.
The Stone Coat team can apply 600 to 800 square feet of Blown Stone per day. It weighs less than stone—about six pounds per square foot. Plus, there is minimal disruption during application and clean up. Work on a typical home can be complete in about two days … and at savings of approximately 20 percent compared to completing the project using stone in a conventional process.
When applied, Blown Stone interacts with carbon dioxide, begins to harden and adheres or leeches into the pores of any surface to which it is applied. The hardening process takes up to 12 hours and that is when the magic happens. Stone Coat refers to its application crews as “artisans”—they are skilled at trimming and cutting designs in the applied limestone so that it hardens to resemble real stone.
“We have numerous patterns in our showrooms that our customers can choose from and our crews can duplicate those patterns,” Adams says. “We can add coloring. We can pretty much replicate any look a customer wants.”
Stone Coat is rapidly expanding in several areas and will soon launch a program to train installers. Also, its franchise plans, which cranked up over the last year, are burgeoning. The goal is to expand nationally and internationally.
“One of my favorite sayings is, ‘The pioneers get the arrows and the settlers take the land,’ ” Morris says. “I’m a pioneer who is interested in seeing a groundbreaking product succeed in the market and become a staple. We’re past proof-of-concept, past vetting. Now is the time to have this business grow. We feel we’re the only legitimate manufacturer of this product domestically.”