Faux stone siding is lauded for its ability to mimic the appearance of stone while being easy to install and inexpensive. Faux stone should not be mistaken for stone veneer, which is real stone cut into thin plates. Instead, faux stone is made of concrete and colored with pigments to resemble stone.
Advantages of Faux Stone Siding
The faux stone industry has grown dramatically because of the ease of installation, cost, and improved appearance of this material.
Installed faux stone costs from $20 to $50 per square foot, which is roughly half the cost of traditional stone. This makes it particularly attractive to builders who wish to offer an exterior material that exudes a traditional and upscale appearance. Many homeowners prefer stone because they will save on the home repair costs associated with wood siding.
While faux stone was once obviously fake, new products make it almost indistinguishable from the real thing. Expensive products will use cement with a very fine aggregate and high-density iron oxide pigments to create the proper texture and appearance.
Often faux stone has less color variation than real stone. Faux stone can also be created in colors that are not found in nature to fit a specific color scheme. Plume and gold tones are particularly popular hues not found in nature, yet preferred by homeowners.
Unlike real stone, faux stone can be added after the house is built with few design accommodations. It also requires far less skill to install than real stone, making it possible to build a house with a faux stone exterior using a less experienced work crew. Faux stone is also far lighter than real stone, making it quicker to install and easier to transport.
Disadvantages of Faux Stone
While some builders prefer faux stone siding, many architects remain wary and refuse to use it in their designs. They prefer real stone for its appearance and authenticity.
Some architects and designers dislike faux stone because they believe that it undermines the material integrity of stone. They believe that creating a material that mimics another material is a form of visual dishonesty. Faux stone, these architects argue, should only be used when it is clear to the viewer of the building that the material is an imitation of stone.
Faux stone varies greatly in quality and its ability to mimic real stone. A high quality faux stone will use iron oxide pigments to produce color. These pigments are the same materials that cause the color variation in normal stone. However, this type of stone can rapidly approach the cost of real stone.
In contrast, less expensive varieties use a mixture of different aggregates and lower quality pigments. The manufacturers may use small rocks instead of a fine sand to form the rock, making it easy to distinguish from real stone. This type of stone also wears unevenly.
Installing Faux Stone
Installing faux stone is an easy job provided the area covered with siding is small and the homeowner has some experience with masonry and stucco. A professional should handle larger jobs or projects involving particularly expensive stone.
The most difficult part of installing faux stone is preparing the exterior surface. To begin, attach asphalt paper or a house wrap vapor barrier to the exterior sheathing. Then install a wire lath over the barrier and apply a rough coat of cement stucco to cover the lath.
Applying the Stone
The stone is applied using cement spread over both the wall and the back of the stone. The stone is pressed into place and adheres in about 10 seconds. Apply the entire stone exterior in this manner, with spaces for the mortar joints carefully measured. Sometimes the stone is installed without spaces for mortar joints to create a more modern appearance.
Mortar is piped into the cracks between the stones using a tool that resembles a cake-decorating bag. The mortar is then smoothed with a jointer or other tool. Buff the stone with a smooth rag to make sure that none of the mortar clouds the surface.
Faux stone siding can be a great way to finish the exterior of your home if you want the appearance of stone without the high material cost. However, you should carefully consider the age and condition of your particular home before choosing this type of siding as part of an exterior home renovation. While newer homes may benefit from applying faux stone, applying a faux exterior material can diminish the worth of older homes.