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pros and cons of natural stone veneer vs manufactured stone veneer

TIME TO READ: 4m 45s

Choosing between natural stone vs manufactured cultured stone veneer may come down to personal preference and performance.

Understanding the difference of natural stone vs manufactured stone cladding

When manufactured cultured stone veneers entered the market, they became a popular product for cladding building façades and finishing off feature walls. This was largely due to cost, extensive range and versatility. However, natural stone has remained a favourable option for many for its unrivalled aesthetic.

But what is the difference between the two?

Natural stone veneer is made from real stone quarried from the earth. The large pieces are then sliced into thin profiles to create veneers. Natural stone veneer features imperfections, textures and tonal variation that has formed over thousands of years.

Manufactured cultured stone veneer, on the other hand, is a man-made product designed to resemble natural stone. This product is typically made of concrete and aggregate materials that have been pressed into moulds.

From afar, it may be hard to distinguish between natural stone vs manufactured stone veneer. However, there are some pros and cons of each cladding material that set the two apart.

Pros and Cons of natural vs manufactured stone veneer

natural stone vs manufactured
Facade clad in Wamberal Free Form Walling by Cadence and Co

Appearance

Advancements in technology have meant manufactured stone veneers can offer a realistic aesthetic, especially from a distance. There is also a wide variety of styles, patterns and colours to choose from whether you’re looking to try match the real thing or embrace the man-made appearance.

However, look more closely and the cultured stone veneer doesn’t stand up against the authenticity of natural stone. You’ll often spot several identical stones in the cladding and may even discover some of the stones have a hand-painted finish in an effort to achieve a unique look.

As natural stone veneer is a quarried product, there are no two pieces the same. The colour variations are rich and the texture beckons you to run your hand across the surface. These characteristics are what make this product unique and of an unrivalled appearance.

Cost

You may think there is a big difference in the cost of natural stone vs manufactured stone veneer. However, it may be smaller than you imagine.

As man-made cultured veneers have advanced in appearance, the cost-saving benefit of high-quality manufactured cladding products over natural stone has been virtually eliminated.

The costs to transport both natural stone and manufactured cultured stone veneer are relatively similar even though the man-made cladding is slightly more lightweight.

Depending on the type of cladding product you choose, the installation cost of manufactured stone can be slightly less due to the repetitive method of installation. It’s often considered as an easier option too and may be the best if you’re looking to tackle this project without a professional.

The maintenance cost of natural stone is generally less than the man-made product as it can easily be pressure washed clean. Most manufactured stone won’t be able to withstand high pressure or manual scrubbing so is more labour intensive.

Durability

One of the main considerations when choosing between natural stone vs manufactured stone cladding is the durability of the product. Both products are considered to fare well, however, there are some differences between the two’s performance long term.

As many of the natural stone cladding ranges are considered less porous than manufactured stone, this can enhance their durability. Manufactured stone can deteriorate over time, especially when exposed to natural elements such as rain, sunlight, dirt and wind.

Perhaps one of the main difference between natural stone veneer and manufactured stone cladding when it comes to durability is its performance under sunlight. As manufactured stone is typically tinted with paint, the colours are will fade and discolour after being exposed to light over a few years. This is particularly the case in outdoor applications. If colour is a driving factor in choosing a cladding material, natural stone veneer should be your first preference.

Versality

Both cladding materials are highly versatile whether you are using the stone to create an impact with a feature wall or to complete your façade.

One of the main advantages of using a manufactured stone veneer is that it can be fixed to a variety of substrates that don’t need to be structural such as masonry or wood frame. This is because they are the lightest option of the two.

However, man-made stone does come with a limitation of where the cladding is best installed. Exposure to particular elements such as harsh-chemicals can cause the veneer to deteriorate over time. Most manufactured stone veneers won’t be the best option to use in or around swimming pools, for example, as chlorine can cause the product to discolour and weaken. This could lead to water damage and affect the structural integrity of the substrate it is adhered to.

The verdict

natural stone vs manufactured
Barrimah Traditional Format stone garden wall by Fig Landscapes

There are both pros and cons of natural stone veneer vs manufactured stone depending on your priorities and requirements.

Manufactured cultured stone has the advantage of being lightweight, easier to install and can be fixed on a variety of non-structural substrates. There is also a wide range of colours, patterns and styles to choose from that will look close to the real thing from a distance. However, it’s susceptibility to fading and wearing over time is a downfall.

The authentic nature of natural stone cladding is uncompromised and you won’t find the exact same wall anywhere else. No matter how advanced technology is, the manufactured stone just can’t compete when it comes to authenticity. If well-installed and maintained according to the supplier’s recommendations, a natural stone wall won’t need to be replaced or repaired, at least not in your lifetime.

What to know more about natural stone vs manufactured stone products? Speak to your nearest Eco Outdoor team who will give you advise on the right product for your individual application.