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How Much Do Manufactured Stones Cost?

Natural stone has a unique look with various colors and patterns found in each piece of stone. While those stone pieces look nice when used inside or outside, not everyone can afford the cost of natural stone. With pavers costing up to $30 per square foot, many homeowners find that using natural stone causes the cost of their job to skyrocket. Manufactured stone is a relatively new type of product that mimics the look of natural stone but costs much less, making it a good alternative to natural stone.

The Costs: 

$3 to $8 per square foot

What Is Manufactured Stone?

Manufactured stone is a type of lightweight, thin material that resembles the look of natural stone. Typically made from synthetic materials, most people find that it feels much lighter than they thought. Some people confuse the term manufactured stone with cast stone, but the two materials are significantly different. Cast stone, while similar in shape and design, is often heavier and thicker. Builders use cast stone when adding elements to a load-bearing wall. Manufactured stone typically has a thickness of around 1 inch and doesn't require a specialized support system like cast stone does.

Uses for Manufactured Stone

As manufactured stone is a type of thin veneer, it works best in areas where builders can apply it directly to a clean surface. This can include:

  • As a fireplace surround

  • On an exterior wall

  • As decoration on a wall above a swimming pool

Manufactured stone can cost up to half what natural stone costs, and builders can use it in places where they cannot use natural stone. Some companies now make manufactured stone with a thinner shape, which makes it suitable for use inside, but builders still opt for thicker pieces when using the stone on exterior walls and other outdoor areas.

Installing Stone Veneers

When installing manufactured stone, the builder will clean the wall and remove any debris from the surrounding area. They will then apply a piece of tar paper to the wall and secure the paper with nails or staples. The tar paper creates a barrier between the wall and the stone that blocks out moisture. The next step involves the use of a metal lath. Applying the lath in the wrong way can keep the stone from sticking to the wall and cause other problems.

After finishing the lath, the builder mixes powdered mortar with water to create the perfect consistency. They apply the mortar to the wall and uses a special tool to roughen up the surface. If the stones surround a curved area, including a fireplace, the builder will need to apply the rounded and corner pieces first. They'll then fill in the rest of the area with a mixture of smaller and larger manufactured stones to create a unique design. The builder must use additional mortar on the back of each piece to ensure it sticks to the surface, but they must also ensure that the stone pieces affix securely to the metal lath. This is a time-consuming process that can take days to complete.

Costs of Manufactured Stone

Manufactured stone is a low-cost alternative to natural stone, and prices start at just $3 per square foot. Those wanting something that looks a little more natural and resembles certain types of stone will find that the price doubles or triples per square foot. The cost of installing the stone can range from as little as $10 per hour up to $50 per hour or more. It depends on the price charged by the installer.

Manufactured stone also comes in a thinner lightweight version called manufactured stone veneer. This veneer is much cheaper than purchasing the individual stones, and shoppers will find that home improvement stores offer stone veneers for around $50 for an 8-foot section. Manufacturers of stone veneers want homeowners to know that they can apply the products themselves, which is why they now offer kits that come with the veneers and the adhesive. Homeowners mix the adhesive themselves, apply the adhesive to the wall and press the veneer in place.

Advantages and Disadvantages

Many of the problems associated with manufactured stone relate to improper installation, which is why it is so important that homeowners work with a professional. Any gaps between the stones create ledges, which allow water to pool on the surface. That water can penetrate deep into the joints and cause the mortar to disintegrate. The excess moisture can also cause the stones to fall away from the wall.

Water damage commonly occurs when homeowners opt for lightweight veneers over traditional manufactured stones. The veneers do not offer enough protection against the elements, and it's easy for water to seep between the veneer and the wall. Other common problems include danger from chlorine, salt and other chemicals. The products that homeowners use to clean their swimming pools and remove ice and snow can all discolor the stone or cause fading.

Though the problems with manufactured stone might turn some off from the material, they also need to think about the advantages and benefits of the stone. Builders can use manufactured stone on a variety of different surfaces, including metal walls and wood walls, and they don't need to make any major changes to the structure of that wall. It also comes in a number of designs that mimic more expensive stone, including slate and sandstone.

When used with a concrete, cement or mortar backing, manufactured stone looks just like natural stone. Companies now make the stones in different shapes and sizes that can recreate the look of field stone or quarried stone at a fraction of the cost. The material is just as dependable and durable as natural stone, but homeowners will discover that they can remove the stone much easier than they could remove natural stone in the event of a remodel.

Last updated on Apr 25, 2014

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