Faux Stone Makes Big
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.
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.
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.
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.