Manufactured Stone Veneer: What to Know Before You Buy

Stone fireplace in living room

 

Ivan Hunter / Getty Images

If you love the look of stone exterior home facades or cozy stone fireplaces, it's a look that's closer to your reach than you might think—with the help of manufactured stone veneer.

Unless you live in a traditional locale with very old buildings where real, natural stone is the norm, the stone you will likely end up purchasing for your home will be a synthetic stone called manufactured stone veneer.

Manufactured stone veneer has nearly the heft and all of the texture of natural stone. Manufactured stone veneer is often found as a fireplace surround, wainscot, exterior wall, accent wall, or any area that needs solidity, rich texture, and timeless beauty.

What Manufactured Stone Veneer Is

Real stone is actual rock mined from the earth, and it comes in varying sizes and colors. Real stone is gorgeous, highly valued, heavy, difficult to install, and difficult to repair. Manufactured stone veneer has some of the good qualities of natural stone, while dispensing with some of natural stone's downsides.

Composition

Manufactured stone veneer is, above all, manufactured. It is made of a mix of cement, aggregates, and pigments. Artificial stone has been around for ages. Veneer stone companies in the last several decades have been refining the composition of the stone so that it looks remarkably like the real thing, even upon close examination.

Most manufactured veneer stone is composed of Portland cement, aggregates, and iron oxides. The cement gives veneer its stability; the aggregates help to lighten the weight of the stone, and the iron oxides provide pigments to color the stone.

Veneer

Manufactured veneer stone is a veneer. The term veneer means that it is a decorative outer surface applied to another structure. For example, a fireplace composed of brick or cement block might have manufactured veneer stone on the surface to give the illusion that the fireplace is made of stone.

Real, natural stone is often quarried and sliced into thin pieces that act as veneer. So, veneer does not always apply to manufactured stone. It's always more precise to say manufactured veneer stone when referring to the material made in a factory.

Veneer Stone vs. Faux Stone

Finally, there is a third type of veneer stone often used in home interior spaces like living rooms, dining rooms, and bedrooms. Often called faux stone, this material may bear some resemblance to real stone or manufactured veneer stone. But in terms of composition, the resemblance ends: It is essentially made of plastic.

Pros
  • Lightweight

  • Easy to install

  • Soft, easy to cut

  • Predictable sizes

  • Interior or exterior

  • DIY-friendly

Cons
  • Can have a homogeneous look

  • Brittle

  • Brand-dependent styles

  • Color does not continue to the middle

Manufactured Stone Veneer Installation

Manufactured veneer stone installation is within the grasp of do-it-yourselfers. However, even though the material is artificial stone, this is still a masonry project. Like some of the more involved home remodeling tasks such as tiling, electrical, and plumbing, masonry does have a learning curve.

For do-it-yourselfers, interior veneer stone installation is easier than exterior installation. With interior stone, you do not have to worry about waterproofing. With interiors, it's mainly the look that counts. Interior manufactured stone will be subjected to far fewer stress events than exterior stone: no rain, snow, sunlight, or extreme temperature variations.

For exteriors, you will need to waterproof the surface behind the veneer stone, as veneer is not intended to be your sole barrier against rain and snow. If you are laying exterior stone veneer, you can waterproof the structure either with builder's felt (similar to roofing paper), builder's paper (a special kraft-paper material), or house wrap.

Eldorado Stone, a major manufactured stone veneer company, recommends either two separate layers of #15 felt, two separate layers Grade D paper, or one layer of house wrap and one layer of Grade D paper.

Thin vs. Full-Dimension Manufactured Stone Veneers

Depth is an important factor with manufactured stone veneer. Since the manufactured stone veneer is purely an addition to what's already there, in many cases you want to minimize the thickness of that addition.

While it may not matter much in most exterior applications, depth certainly does matter in the interior, where every square foot of interior space counts. The thicker the wall covering, the less space you have available in the rooms.

Full-dimension manufactured stone veneer starts at around 2 inches thick and increases to various thicknesses, often up to 6 inches thick. Thin profile manufactured stone veneer is never more than 2 inches thick.

Dry Stack vs. Mortared Manufactured Stone Veneers

  • Drystack: Dry-stack stone looks like building blocks laid right on top of each other, block to block, without mortar between them. Dry-stack has a cool, contemporary look. Dry-stacking also means that you can squeeze the stone units closer together than if you were mortaring them.
  • Mortared: Mortared stone veneer has mortar between each stone. Mortared veneer stone projects a traditional, Old World look.

Manufactured Stone Veneer Companies

Few varieties of manufactured veneer stone will likely be found at your local home center. Mostly, you should look at shops catering to the masonry trade, contractor supply houses, or other specialized stores. A few veneer stone manufacturers include:

  • Cultured Stone: In business for over 50 years, Cultured Stone is now a subsidiary of Owens Corning.
  • El Dorado: El Dorado's motto is "The Most Believable Architectural Stone Veneer in the World" and this company works hard to create perfect replicas of natural stone.
  • Coronado Stone Products: Over 60 years ago, Mel Bacon and his Coronado Stone Products were one of the pioneers of modern manufactured veneer stone.