Fireplace Stone with Heart & Judging Cast Stone Veneer

In a world where time is of the essence and everyone needs quick answers, it can be tough not to judge a book by its cover. (As I did in the below example about fireplace stone with heart and selecting cast stone veneer.) Don’t get us wrong, in our industry beauty definitely has something to do with looks. But we believe it’s got to be more about providing best experiences at every stage of your project journey.

brick fireplace - how not to install brick veneer

Selecting Fireplace Stone

When an improperly installed brick veneer fireplace caused a house fire in our newly purchased home in early 2008, we knew we wanted the replacement to be stone. But it was the start of The Great Recession, so to conserve cash we went to the cast stone veneer products section of our local home improvement store and chose a manufactured stone veneer. We were living in a hotel with a toddler and a newborn and quick to do anything that would push up the timeline of moving into our home. At this point, we really could have used some help in our frantic search for solutions. But instead of guidance from an expert, we found the nearest Big Box store and selected cast stone veneer on the cheap.

cast stone veneer fireplace - artificial stone veneer - manufactured stone fireplace

Stone Fireplace Focal Point in Cast Stone Veneer

That fireplace was more than just a feature in our living room. It became a focal point, a gathering place, and a lesson. Along with normal wear and tear, it was exposed to the rock climbing skills of two active young boys. So it was only a matter of time before the aggregate started showing through the veneer. We’ve since sold that home, but learned from our cast stone veneer experience.

Even though it takes a bit more than just a glance at the facing, stone veneer masonry doesn’t have to be as complex as some make it out to be. To give you some insight on just how simple natural stone can be, let’s start with the most basic definition. There are two types of stone in this world: those made in a factory and those made by Mother Nature. The good news is it’s much easier to spot a manmade stone veneer than to distinguish fake cubic zirconia from forever diamonds. Knowing what you’re getting is only a short read and a few visuals away (below).

manufacture stone veneer versus real veneer stone / natural stone veneer piece of rock veneer

Manmade / Manufactured Stone

At first glance (like in the above fireplace photo), some factory-made stones can look pretty believable. So most people may not realize there’s such a thing as manufactured stone. Artificial stone most commonly consists of a mixture of portland cement, lightweight aggregate, and pigments shaped into a mold cast from real stone. Impostor stones want to be natural stone, but they’re not. So they go by a variety of aliases; including faux stone, cast stone, manufactured stone, stone veneer siding, thin stone cladding, faux stone panels, and more. I’m not going to go through the plethora of options in the stone industry, but you can get a basic understanding from this ultra-simple explanation of the two main types – cast stone trying to emulate natural cut stone, and manufactured stones trying to duplicate natural building stone veneers.

manufactured stone - cast stone veneer - artificial stone veneer - cultured stone veneer piece and stone veneer installation

Artificial Stone Veneer

Manufactured stone has come a long way since the casting of the first mold, but there are a few key differences that distinguish it from the real thing. Our first fireplace taught us one of them; one good bump (or in our case a series of rock climbing expeditions) can spoil its visual authenticity. Because its aggregate must remain hidden, faux stone can’t be cut or chiseled during installation. Thankfully our fireplace was indoors, so it didn’t have the opportunity to wick up moisture or accumulate crystalline deposits (known as efflorescence). An outdoor application would have also made it more susceptible to weathering of the mineral oxide coloring and foiled our use of the color repair kit to retouch nicks in the stone when we put the house on the market.

efflorescence and nicks, cracks, and fading on manufactured stone veneer, cultured stone, cast stone veneer

Finally, some types of stone are tougher to imitate than others. I’ve yet to see the shimmery sparkle or intricately varied pointillistic color variation of gneiss or granite replicated in manufactured form.

Natural Stone Used in Masonry

Mother Nature has been producing stone for millions of years. Natural stone is just that – real stone made by nature; with all of the shimmer, shading, color, pointillism, and one-of-a-kind fossils and flaws that come with a long geological history.

quarry with natural stone for building stone veneers and finished real veneer stone, exterior stone veneer installation

Building stone veneers, for Buechel Stone at least, are defined as natural stone used to clad a project. Full stone veneer is natural stone nominally three to five inches in bed depth, with some options as much as eight inches in bed depth depending on the type of stone and installation you’re considering. Natural thin stone veneer is a stone nominally 3/4 of an inch to 1-1/4 inch in bed depth and needs to be less than 15 pounds per square foot. Thinly sawn stone is light enough to transport almost anywhere, with price levels that compete with its manmade counterparts. Moreover, natural thin veneer can be used in conjunction with the same material in full veneer to match throughout the project.

thin stone veneer versus full veneer stone - natural stone product pieces

Whether it’s architectural cut stone or stone veneer, natural stone products possess innate characteristics that contribute toward LEED (Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design). Real stone veneers are made from a naturally occurring material; so there are no industrial mixtures, fillers, additives (e.g. portland cement, fly ash, polymers, or aggregate) or factory-made by-products to hide. (See below explainer video for more…)

The Difference Maker

We’ve said it before and I’m saying it again. Our stone is nothing special. Originals are often duplicated, and our products are no exception. You won’t have to look far to find natural stone products from other companies (locally and globally) or fake “stones” from manmade molds, being cast by the tens of millions (of square feet annually).

Get in touch with your nearest Buechel Stone expert not just to buy stone veneer or other natural stone products, but to create best experiences for your next natural stone project. Because what makes the Buechel Stone unique is everything we do throughout your project. Providing best experiences makes us your ONLY REAL CHOICE in STONE. If you haven’t already, JOIN OUR NEWSLETTER to be notified of everything our team of Buechel Stone #Rockstars is doing to ensure a future built by your own project success stories.

Tracy Lisowe
Marketing Director
Buechel Stone Corp.