While it is becoming more difficult to differentiate between natural stone veneer and its manufactured counterpart, there are still some integral differences between the two. These differences determine which type of veneer is best suited to which project, whether it’s home cladding or veneering a fireplace. The following information should help you decide which material to use for your Middletown, NJ, stonework project, or clarify why your contractor chose a specific building material.
The origins of manufactured and natural stone
Natural stone is quarried straight from the earth and can either be treated for enhanced durability or be used in it’s original unadulterated form. Stonework in homes and landscapes used to involve only whole stone, which was costly to transport and install. This led to quarries producing thinner products and, as a result, stone veneer was invented. Before stone veneer appeared on the construction scene, manufactured stone was the only lightweight alternative to heavy stone. Manufactured stone is made of concrete and aggregates, moulded and pigmented to resemble authentic stone. Manufactured stone veneer is now often cast from real stone and can be hand-colored to look as authentic as possible.
When to use manufactured stone veneer
Manufactured, or cultured, stone veneer is easier to handle and cut because it is more porous and lightweight than natural stone. This contributes towards lower product and installation costs. The shapes of manufactured stone veneer are also more uniform than that of natural stone veneer, simplifying and speeding up their installation. If saving on costs is important to you, then cultured stone may be the best material for your project.
Natural stone veneer can have twice the weight of manufactured stone veneer. You should therefore opt for cultured stone when veneering wooden frames and wood core walls. These lightweight artificial stones can be installed up to thirty feet high without the need for additional support.
Manufactured stone veneer may also be the best candidate for structures that already contain cultured stone. These stones are artificially dyed and offer a greater range of color than natural stone. You are therefore more likely to find manufactured stone veneer that suits the color scheme of your existing structure.
When to use natural stone veneer
If the authenticity of your stone structure is important to you or your client, then natural stone veneer is your best option. Manufactured stone can sometimes contain unnatural colors and cause repeated patterns in the stonework due to a limited number of moulds. These repeated shapes give away their man-made nature.
Natural stone veneer should also be used for structures near water, such as water features, because manufactured stone is often porous and will undergo water damage over time. Once moisture is trapped inside the stone, and a freeze-thaw cycle hits your landscape, the veneer will crack. Alternatively, ask your supplier about which manufactured veneer offers the best water resistance. Natural stone is also recommended for outdoor structures that make contact with the ground, as it can be buried in the soil. Manufactured stone veneer, on the other hand, requires protection from moisture and can only be applied 4 feet above soil, or 2 feet above a concrete surface.