Manufactured Veneer Stone and Brick

By Boyce Thompson

Today's faux stone is very realistic and adds a romantic Europea

Faux Stone Makes Big Strides

When it comes to the big aesthetic strides manufactured stone has taken in recent years, advertising slogans come to mind. Like, “You’ve Come a Long Way, Baby,” and “Is It Real or Is It Memorex?” Not too long ago most manufactured stone used to look like, well, manufactured stone, with little variation in size, color, and texture. But many new designs from the best makers are virtually indistinguishable from natural stone to all but the practiced eye. That has lead to a big increase in the use of faux stone in new homes, especially ones built from house plans.

Economics, as well as aesthetics, are driving decision-making. Man-made stone, created from concrete aggregate poured in molds, with pigments added for color, may cost half of what you’d pay for the natural variety. Because it’s lighter in weight than real stone, it’s also easier to install. In fact, you don’t need a skilled mason, though it’s important to follow the manufacturer’s installation guidelines.

For years, seeing an opportunity to use more stone in their designs, architects have pushed artificial stone companies to make it look more like the real thing. Specifically, they asked for bigger pieces, a wider color palette, and varied textures. The best manufactured stone has pigment running through it so it can be chipped without showing uncolored aggregate. Lately, manufactured stone companies have been trying to keep pace with the turn toward contemporary architecture. Boral, one of the biggest producers, recently

debuted two new patterns – a horizontal ledgestone, shown above, and smooth hewn stone. It promotes their use inside and outside the home.

Eldorado, which bills itself as the maker of the world’s “most believable” architectural stone, has also come out with a modern collection. Six new profiles in smooth and textured finishes are marked by

clean lines and a neutral color palette that includes cool gray, a “soothing” black, and calm cream tone; their "Chalk Dust" brick pattern is shown above.

Meanwhile, traditional stone veneer patterns continue to improve. Creative Mines, for instance, sells a rubble design with a rustic irregular profile that has shown up on high-end homes in Southern California, as shown

here. Its Toasted Craft Foothill Rubble pattern mixes colors -- russet, brown, and chestnut mixed with charcoal-gray -- to mimic the palette found in natural stone.

Purists still refrain from using faux stone when they can specify the real thing. Dan Tyree, whose house plans often prominently feature stone exteriors, recommends that customers first consider real stone, especially if it can be mined on site. “Real stone that comes from the build site is the most beautiful stone finish available, and the authenticity is amazing,” he says.
That said, it’s much more common to find manufactured stone highlighted on a house plan. The material lists for Don Gardner’s house plans, for instance, may call out “exterior stone veneer” with the assumption that it will be manufactured. The brand and style isn’t specified. “The art may show something that looks very ledge-ey or more river-rock-y, but the color and profile decisions are left to the builder and/or homeowner,” says Don Gardner Plans Publisher Nick Foley.

Manufactured stone isn’t without drawbacks. Builders early on used it on water features, which resulted in streaking. Coronado, like most makers of the product, doesn’t recommend using its in areas with cascading water, even if a sealer has been applied. It also says that exposure to chemicals, including 

chlorine, can cause discoloration or fading. Here's an example of Coronado's Carolina Rubble -- Sandstone product.

Quarried stone has advantages that go beyond aesthetics, say its suppliers. It’s easier to clean, and there’s no worry of defacing the product. It’s also impervious to job site chemicals that may fade, crack, or stain. Natural stone is less likely to break than the manufactured variety. The incorrect installation of manufactured stone can also cause serious moisture problems. The problem is the stone is often installed directly to a framed wall, leaving no airspace for moisture to escape. Housewrap or building paper installed behind the stone must be correctly lapped to divert water from the frame wall. Manufacturers also recommend using weep screeds at the bottom of walls – and in some cases over doors and windows -- to prevent water from pooling at ground level.
  
To browse a collection of plans with exteriors designed for stone or brick, click here.   

September 19, 2016


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