Artificial Stone up Close
Lightweight and easy to install, artificial stone is a popular alternative building material.
When the first caveman rolled a stone in front of his cave to keep out the animals, stone became a building material. Stone has continued to be a popular construction material throughout the ages, and is just as popular today. These days, however, artificial stone has become increasingly popular. Weight is one reason. Less dense and lighter in weight than natural stone, manufactured stone is easier to handle, store and install. Less weight also means artificial stone can be applied in more areas, and with less support, than would be required for natural stone. Yet, the material has all the beauty of natural stone.
The selection of artificial stone styles is also greater than natural stone on a local basis. Artificial stone allows you to utilize styles not commonly found all across the country. These include polished river rock, fieldstone, ledgerock and even simulated quarried stone. The latter is much more economical than natural quarried stone. In fact, selection of the style and color can be confusing with all the possibilities available. The artificial stone being shown in this article is Dutch Quality Stone, in fieldstone style (www.dutchqualitystone.com).
In the project detailed in this article, a fireplace with chimney was constructed of concrete block. The fireplace was faced with natural fieldstone, but not enough was available for the tall, two and half-story chimney. Artificial fieldstone was selected to match the fireplace stone. The homeowners added a few natural stones to help blend the chimney with the fireplace. Before you choose the product and decide to install the stone, check out the various products available, as well as the various manufacturer’s installation manuals available.
As with natural stone, installation is fairly easy, but hard work. One advantage is you can work a little at a time, which is actually the best tactic for most installations. Installing artificial stone is a lot of fun and allows you to be really creative, resulting in a beautiful project you’ll not only be proud to show off, but will add value to your home.
Tools & Materials
You will need a few masonry tools, including safety glasses, wheelbarrow, mixing hoe, hock and mason’s trowels. The hock is to hold the mortar, but a plastic bucket can be used to transport and hold the mortar if you’re working on a scaffold and ladder for a high project such as the chimney. You will also need a metal jointing tool, wooden stick, or better yet a large, round-headed bolt, a grout bag and whisk broom. Several plastic buckets and soft rags are also handy. And you’ll need a tape measure, level and other basic woodworking tools.
Artificial stone can be cut with masonry wide-mouth nippers, a hatchet, mason’s chisel and hammer, a masonry cut-off saw, or using a masonry blade in an angle grinder. Make sure you wear eye protection, and for the latter two you’ll also need a dust mask. All cutting chores should be done outside.
After determining the style and type of stone desired, the next step is to estimate the amount of materials needed. Artificial stone typically comes in boxes of flats and corners. The latter are L-shaped to wrap around outside corners and create the illusion of full stones. Measure the length and width of the project and multiply the measurement to determine the square footage. Then measure the linear feet of the outside corners. You will also need to know the square footage of the corner pieces, according to the specific manufacturer. For example, one linear foot of Owens Corning Cultured Stone corner piece covers 3/4 of a square foot of flat area (www.culturedstone.com), whereas one linear foot of Dutch Quality Stone covers 1/2 square foot. Subtract the flat area of the corners from the square footage of the flats required. Subtract the square footage of any doors, windows and other openings. It’s a good idea to add about 10 percent extra materials for cutting, trimming and fitting. It’s also important to know if the style chosen is sold based on the coverage with a standard 1/2-inch mortar joint, or tight-fitted such as ledgerock. In addition to the stone you’ll need Type N Mortar, mortar color (if desired), aggregates (sand) or premixed Type N mortar and potable water.
Artificial stone may be applied to any number of interior or exterior surfaces. A weather-resistant barrier must be used on all exterior and interior mortar applications, except for those over masonry and concrete. Make sure you follow local building code requirements for installation of the materials, including the waterproof barrier. If installing on surfaces other than masonry or concrete, a mesh or metal lath must be applied over the water barrier. All exterior surfaces must have flashing installed at water entrances, and the finished edge of applied stone must be a minimum of 4 inches above an earth grade or 2 inches above concrete. Before applying the stones, read and make sure you follow all of the manufacturer’s installation instructions.