Build It Better

Stone veneer is a popular way to add the look of full-sized natural stone to an outdoor space. It normally costs less than other materials, and is easier to install. When stone veneer is added to either internal or external walls, it gives the impression of solid stone.

Veneers are often employed when a full stone wall is cost- prohibitive or impractical. In some areas, the style and color of real stone simply isn’t available to architects, but veneers come in more than 100 colors and textures.

They’re not only versatile, but also have the advantage of being low maintenance and tolerant of a variety of climate conditions. Plus, manufactured stone veneers come with a 50-year limited warranty.

One such product, Cultured Stone, is a replica of natural stones cast in flexible molds and hand-colored with mineral oxide pigments. Made with Portland cement and light-weight aggregates, the veneers are approximately one-third the weight of full-thickness stone, and can be adhered to most wall surfaces.

In some cases, recycled materials can be used to reduce the environmental impact. Cultured Stone products have a minimum 54 percent recycled content in all stone veneers. It is one of the few stone-veneer manufacturers that have met the high standards of the strictest requirements in the industry–AC-51. To comply with building codes, stone veneers cannot exceed 15 pounds per square foot.

Landscape architects also want stones that are safe to handle and that will ensure safe performance. Concrete mix used to make stone must withstand at least 1,800 pounds per square inch without damage, ensuring its durability and 50-plus years of service.

Its service goes beyond this, says Jeff Byers, product manager at Boral Stone Products in Napa, Calif.

“Stone veneer is also a great way to play heritage to the flora and fauna of the environment, as though it was a natural element. Strategically used, stone helps achieve consistency,” Byers says.

“Using different materials and colors provides a three-dimensional quality, creating more interest and depth to a building. Layering also helps articulate human scale while complementing the architecture and surroundings.

“Colors and materials can also be manipulated to change the scale, scope, and style, which allow for a custom look without a custom price.”

Are there drawbacks? Not many, but designers should know that stone veneer should not be submerged in deep water, and heavy sprinkler contact on a daily basis should be avoided.

Stone-veneer columns, most often featured at entranceways, can vary in design from traditional Tuscan to a sleek and modern style. For a Tuscan vernacular, elements will be completely cladded, as if the materials were “pulled off the land,” and an outbuilding (a bathroom, utility building, or snack bar) can utilize the same materials.

Construct a low wall around a garden bed, a retaining wall to hold back plants, or clad a barbecue or cabana. These materials are durable, classic options for lining walkways and borders. A stone wall is strong and stable, adding the feel that it has been there for years.

Clay Pavers And Bricks 

Flexibility in design is one reason why clay pavers make a lot of sense for outdoor areas. There are a number of sustainable reasons too.

Permeable pavers are often the environmental choice for preserving natural water drainage through both traditional and unique segmental pavements. Certain pavers meet U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Stormwater Phase II criteria as a structural best management practice.

Pavers also significantly reduce runoff from rainstorms, eliminating surface puddles and minimizing local flooding and erosion.

Shelley Ross, director of marketing for Boral Bricks, based in Roswell, Ga., explains other reasons why clay pavers are a good choice.

“Clay pavers are durable and long-lasting, their color will never fade, and they don’t require a sealer. Made from natural sustainable materials–clay and shale–they provide color contrast and texture to a landscape. They also provide warmth and scale to a project,” Ross says.

“From a performance standpoint, there are some really good arguments. Boral manufactures very sustainably, and the use of clay pavers can contribute to LEED points earned in both water-management and reflectivity. Boral provides both a super-permeable and permeable product for varying needs in water management.”

Clay pavers also allow air and water to reach the root zone of trees planted within the area, so snow melts faster, reducing ice hazards.

Brick is one of the most cost-effective materials in building because unlike other materials that require expensive finishes, such as render and paint, brick doesn’t need any coating to preserve its good looks and durability.

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