Nothing conveys the feeling of solidity and tradition in a home more than stone, often found in the form of fireplace surrounds and walls. At the same time, few house elements are as expensive and difficult to fabricate as real stone. This leads many homeowners to look for alternatives such as faux stone panels, a substitute for both natural stone and manufactured veneer stone.
Faux Stone Panel Basics
Faux stone panels greatly differ from natural stone and even from manufactured veneer stone. Faux stone panels are made of lightweight foam. While easy to cut and apply, faux stone panels are not durable against impact. Natural stone and manufactured stone are heavier mineral-based products and are more durable.
Real, natural stone is the real stuff: 100-percent actual stone quarried from the earth. Few homeowners possess the masonry skills needed to work with stone, and even having previous experience with ceramic tile does not help much. Plus, real stone is very heavy, with limestone tipping the scales at over 170 pounds per cubic foot. Interior stonework often requires additional bracing beneath.
Manufactured Veneer Stone
Manufactured stone, represented by brands such as Cultured Stone, El Dorado, and Coronado Stone, feels very close to 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 usually comes in individual stones that fit together with mortar, though sometimes it is available in panels. While not as heavy as real stone, manufactured stone is about 30-percent 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-inch.
Faux Stone Veneer Panels
Faux stone panels are made of low-density foam with a durable impact resistant plastic layer on top. Faux stone never has mineral content.
Faux stone veneer panels are often as large as 2-foot by 4-foot, even ranging up to 4-foot by 8-foot in some instances. Large format panels make the installation go faster.
Being made only of foam, these panels weigh only a few pounds per panel. In contrast to manufactured stone's several inches of thickness, faux stone panels are always thin, sometimes as thin as 3/4-inch.
Installation is easy, with most panels applying with construction adhesive. Some faux veneer panels can be used in exterior applications.
Faux Stone Panel Pros and Cons
- Larger format panels than found with manufactured veneer stone
- Easy to cut with a conventional hand saw
- From a distance, its appearance rivals manufactured veneer stone
- Will not rot
- Easy application with construction glue
- Poor durability, especially against impact
- Not all panels can be installed on a fireplace
- Does not look similar to stone on closer examination
Faux Stone Panel Appearance
One of the best things about faux stone veneer panels is that, from a distance, they often can visually pass for real stone. At the very least, faux stone looks no less like natural stone than does manufactured veneer stone. Bargain faux veneer panels sometimes look decidedly fake. For that reason, it is wise to take advantage of any free sample offers from manufacturers and retailers. You will know instantly whether or not this product is right for your home.
Faux Stone Panel Durability
Because faux stone veneer is not real stone or even engineered stone, durability is of primary importance. Faux stone veneer manufacturers rarely claim that their product will stand up to severe abuse, because the outer plastic shell is too thin to absorb impact. Typical abuse, such as a chair swung in the wrong direction, will slice through the outer shell and gouge into the foam core. If you have boisterous children and the faux stone veneer is installed prominently, this product may not work for you.
Faux Stone Panel Fire Rating
Some faux stone veneer panels are fire-rated, which may surprise some consumer since the product is made of foam. However, you do need to specifically look for a fire-rated product because not all faux stone is rated for fire. As an example, Texture Plus advertises its 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 over five minutes. Even Texture Plus' non-fire-rated panels are rated up to 600 degrees Fahrenheit, far hotter than you can expect in a fireplace. Still, the company advises the application of the fire-rated panels on fireplaces.