Sonoran Desert Custom Home

The Sonoran Desert is considered one of the hottest deserts in North America, but tucked into the rolling hills and dramatic scenery of north Scottsdale, Arizona sits one of the coolest natural stone residences imagined. 


PROJECT TITLE: Sonoran Desert Custom Home
MASON CONTRACTOR: Sutter Masonry, Inc.
ARCHITECT: Craig E. Brown & Associates, Fountain Hills, AZ

Building Stone Mortar / Color (450 – 3,000 lb bags)
Portland Lime & Sand / Color (26,625 – 80 lb bags)
Core Fill Grout – Coarse (9,358 – 80 lb bags)


Project Info

Nestled into one of the many hillsides near the Desert Mountain golf community is this secluded 12,000-square-foot private residence, which was designed to include a variety of indigenous, natural schist and granite stones to artfully combine the qualities of the surrounding desert.

One of the highlights of the home is its unique exterior and interior theme, where schist stones were laid in such a manner that they almost look staggered to create a rugged, imperfect look. Thousands upon thousands of schist stones were custom-cut and fitted to adhere to the inside and outside of the CMU structure, utilizing 450 3,000-pound bulk bags—or 1.3 million pounds—of SPEC MIX Colored Building Stone Mortar.

According to Mike Sutter, CEO of Sutter Masonry, Inc., who performed all masonry work on the project, “This residence is one of my favorite natural stone projects we’ve been privileged to build. Aside from the overall size of the project, the two most challenging aspects of the installation were the amount of stone used—both inside and outside—and applying the mortar and stone on the curved walls, arches and slopes. Sutter described his masons’ technique, “They used a full depth mortar bed of colored SPEC MIX Building Stone Mortar to set the stone, resulting in a thin bed joint between the units, which perfectly matched the specified color and the stone.”

SPEC MIX Building Stone Mortar is the only preblended, specially formulated mortar produced for stone masons building full depth natural stone walls. The product is engineered to match the specific properties of each stone to increase the mortar-to-stone bond strength and maximize a mason’s productivity.

Sutter’s brother, Jack Sutter, whose expertise is Project Superintendent on the construction of natural stone custom homes, is a major advocate of SPEC MIX mortars. “I use SPEC MIX Building Stone Mortar on all of my full-depth stone jobs. You getter better production with this mortar and it cleans of the face of the natural stone better. If we use regular Portland and Lime mixes, there can be excessive lime stains left on the face of the stone. With SPEC MIX Building Stone Mortar we don’t get that.”

With all mix constituents and pigment pre-weighed and bagged, Sutter’s jobsite laborer simply loaded the SPEC MIX G7000 Silo System with 3,000 pound bulk bags. With the silo full either the laborer or lift operator was able to charge their mortar mixer and add the appropriate water demand for the desired consistency of the masons installing the stone.

Jack speaks to the company’s earlier years, “Back in the old days, mixing the bags of cement and lime together with sand was never consistent. Now with the SPEC MIX products especially their colored mortars, every batch is the same, which is better for the guys to work with and we deliver a better masonry building to the owner.”

Adding up the CMU and stone installation work, Sutter Masonry was on the project for three years. The stone crew, which worked on all interior and exterior stone applications, consisted of 31 masons and mason tenders who worked more than 21,000 collaborative hours to make the house a dream come true for its owners. The project also earned Sutter Masonry the 2015 Arizona Masonry Guild’s Excellence in Masonry Honor Award.

When designing and building with natural stone for optimal beauty and integrity, true stone masons need a mortar that compliments the characteristics of the stone as much as their craftsmanship. With testimonials like that of Sutter Masonry, one of the industry’s most respected and honored companies that specializes in natural stone masonry structures, it’s clear SPEC MIX Colored Building Stone Mortar is the obvious decision when natural stone is the architect’s medium of choice.

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