Ever wonder how builders these days can pick out such perfect stones for the front of new homes? They look like they were chosen according to a color scheme picked out by a designer! How is that possible?
The answer is that they have a cultured or manufactured stone exterior. “Cultured Stone” is one brand name of these cement “rocks,” but there are other brands. Some people even create their own with molds!
Improvement Over Natural Stone
Believe it or not, these stones are simply made of concrete. The concrete is pigmented from the start with the desired colors, and then have secondary coloration added in the molds. The result is outstanding!
You can’t tell them from the real thing, except that maybe they look better. They are durable, too, although not as durable as real rock. You do need to keep de-icing chemicals away from them. Even so, they are estimated to last 50 to 100 years, or even longer.
A cultured stone exterior can be cleaned with mild detergent and a stiff brush. Don’t ever use a metal wire brush on them, however.
Proper Installation is a Must
Manufactured stone must be properly installed or the stones can pop off the surface in the future. The process is different from installing natural stone because natural stone is stacked with mortar in between, while cultured stone is basically “glued” to the supporting wall by means of a cementing compound very similar to stucco. Of course, a properly made stucco compound will dry to be as hard as rock.
In order to get these artificial stones to adhere to the surface of the exterior wall, both the wall and the stones must be completely free of dust. The stucco compound must be properly made and used while fresh. It can’t be allowed to sit around and start to dry out before being used.
Also, you need to be careful that the rocks are not hot when they are applied. If they are, it can leach water from the stucco compound too quickly and the resulting bond will be weakened.
A Look for Every Need at a Lower Cost
Manufactured stone products like Cultured Stone brand building stones can be found in virtually every stone look you could desire for your home exterior. And all that at an estimated one-third of the weight and one-fourth of the cost of natural stone.
Manufactured stone, or “cast stone” as it is sometimes called, can be made to look like brick, river rock, old European cobblestone, cut “stackstone,” and many other looks.
In addition to being used as trim on the exterior of the home, manufactured stone is a candidate to be used for dressing up any upright concrete wall. For instance, it looks great on retaining walls, turning an otherwise ugly structure into an attractive design element. Artificial rock looks good on concrete foundations and porches as well.
There are interior uses for Cultured Stone, too. A common use is to surround the fireplace. Modern gas fireplaces can be surrounded with manufactured stone for a classic old-fashioned look that you can hardly tell from the original, yet you have the ease and convenience of simply flipping a switch to get your “logs” burning. Yes, manufactured stone is a wonderful product inside and outside your home.
Photo by SMN, Creative Commons Attribution License