01 of 03
Faux Stone Veneer: Fast-Installing "Stone" Has Many Downsides
Nothing conveys the feeling of solidity and tradition in a home more than stone. Also, nothing is more expensive, difficult, hard to cut, and has such a steep learning curve as real stone. That leads many homeowners to look for alternatives such as faux stone.
For real stone, skills are needed. And most of us aren't up to the task.
But to lay real stone--that is, igneous stone quarried from the earth--is an expensive process. Few homeowners possess the masonry skills needed to work with stone (previous experience with ceramic tile doesn't count). Plus, the real stone is real heavy, with limestone tipping the scales at over 170 lbs. per cubic ft. Interior stonework often requires additional bracing beneath.
Short of that, you've got two options: manufactured stone or faux stone veneer.
Manufactured stone, coming from brands such as Cultured Stone, El Dorado, and Coronado Stone, feels very close to the real stone. Cement and aggregates give manufactured stone its heft and feel; iron oxides and other pigments give it a stone-like look.
Manufactured stone comes in individual "stones" that fit together with mortar. While not as heavy as real stone, manufactured stone is still heavy (about 30% lighter than the real stone). Finally, the thickness can be an important issue when installing any veneer, thinner being better. Manufactured stone can run from several inches thick down to 3/4"-2", but only for specially made thinner manufactured stone.
Faux stone has no mineral content. It has nothing to do with stone at all.
Faux stone veneer comes in panels, often as large as 2' by 4', which makes the installation go faster. is made of a very high-density polymer and is only a few pounds per panel. In contrast to manufactured stone's several inches thickness, faux veneer stone is always thin--only 3/4" maximum.Continue to 2 of 3 below.
02 of 03
Faux Stone Veneer: Appearance
Faux stone veneer can visually pass for real stone. But it all depends on the type you choose.
Shown here is a Gray Ledgestone from Texture Plus (link below) that looks remarkably like stone, even up close.
However, I have seen other faux stone veneer that looks decidedly faux. The Stacked Stone, shown here (also Texture Plus) does not look even close to real.
I recommend viewing samples before purchasing. Some companies, like Texture Plus, are generous about sending free samples; others charge for the samples, though they will refund the sample price upon purchase of the product.Continue to 3 of 3 below.
03 of 03
Faux Stone Veneer: Durability and Fire-Rating
Because faux stone veneer is anything but stone--or even engineered stone--durability is of primary importance. And because so many homeowners want to veneer over their fireplaces, fire-rating falls within the same area of concern.
Faux stone veneer manufacturers never claim that their product will stand up to any abuse. But can it stand up to a reasonable amount of abuse?
In the upper-right of this photo, I struck the faux stone lightly with the claw of a hammer. It easily sliced through the surface, leaving deep gouges. However, I would call this an unreasonable amount of abuse.
For a more real-life example, view the gouge near the center of the photo. Here, I swung a chair and "accidentally" hit it with the leg of the chair. The first swing did not affect the faux stone. A second, harder swing, produced the depression seen here.
How "real-life" is this experiment? Only you can determine. If you have boisterous children, and the faux stone veneer is placed prominently, it may be real-life to you.
Faux Veneer on a Fireplace?
Yes. But you do need to specifically look for a fire-rated product, because not all faux stone is rated for fire.
Texture Plus advertises their fire-rated panels as conforming to ASTM E84 Class-A. This means that the panels can withstand a controlled surface flame spread evenly across its area and a smoke density test for 5.5 minutes.
Even its non fire-rated panels are rated up to 600 degree Fahrenheit, far hotter than you can expect in a fireplace. Still, the company advises application of the fire-rated panels on fireplaces.