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Natural Thin Stone Veneer: An Introduction

by | Aug 10, 2016 | Educate |

Natural Stone Thin Veneer vs Cultured Stone

You have multiple options when considering materials for your home’s exterior. Many are first-rate. If you’re looking for materials that are beautiful, durable and versatile in their use for a large variety of exterior applications, natural thin stone veneer might be a surprisingly affordable choice.

American Granite ™ roughly squared/rectangular natural thin stone veneer. Photo courtesy of Michael Sylvia for Champlain Stone, Ltd.

American Granite ™ roughly squared/rectangular natural thin stone veneer. Photo courtesy of Michael Sylvia for Champlain Stone, Ltd.

From the Pyramids to the Parthenon, natural stone has been used in exterior applications for thousands of years. It suggests a status of wealth that even in its lighter weight version, as in the case of natural thin stone veneer, it is equally as majestic as the mountains from which it’s quarried. Natural thin stone veneer, which has only been widely marketed for about a decade, was created specifically for ease of use in veneering and remodeling construction.

Because its offers beauty and value, more builders and homeowners construct homes using natural thin stone veneer. As home exteriors extend living spaces, the popularity of natural thin stone veneer is increasing. “It opens the door for a lot more people to use natural stone in their project, explains Greg Osterhout, VP of Northern Stone Supply in Oakley, ID.


How Does Thin Stone Veneer Differ from Full Thickness Veneer?

Natural thin stone veneer is cut to replicate its full thickness stone counterpart, from 100% natural quarried stone. Building code requirements for adhered veneer specify the vertical load of the veneer assembly weigh no more than 15 lbs./square foot. Conversely, full thickness stone veneer is typically between 4” – 6” thick and weighs 40-73 lbs./square foot. After cutting, natural thin stone veneer maintains the same durability, low maintenance and aesthetic qualities as the thicker version.

Because of its reduced weight, it has exceptional versatility in use over traditional full-thickness stone, which requires structural support in the form of foundations or support ledges. Natural thin stone veneer requires no additional support and installs, often easily, over existing rigid materials like brick and concrete block. Natural thin stone veneer is a readily available solution for both interior and exterior renovation projects where natural stone is desired but structurally, can’t easily be supported.  Although its installation usually doesn’t require a master stone mason like some full thickness stone projects might require, it’s best to use a masonry professional to install the product.

According to Osterhout, a skilled do-it-yourselfer can do the work in many cases. “There is no need for special equipment or tools for installation. You’ll need to learn some basic skills, pay attention to details, and take your time,” he says. The adhesives used to apply and bond natural thin stone veneer are safe to use in homes. It’s important, however, to make certain you use the right product for the project. For example, some natural thin stone veneers do better around water and heat than others.

Additionally, because of its lighter weight, natural thin stone veneer not only requires less professional labor than full thickness veneer, it can cost considerably less to ship, reducing the overall cost of using the product in your projects.



Crystal Lake quartzite/schist natural thin stone veneer. Photo courtesy of Rolling Rock Building Stone, Inc.

Crystal Lake quartzite/schist natural thin stone veneer. Photo courtesy of Rolling Rock Building Stone, Inc.

Beauty Meets Versatility with Natural Thin Stone Veneer

The thinness and weight of natural thin stone veneer make it possible to incorporate it in almost any outdoor design project. Common natural thin stone veneer applications include siding, columns, outdoor kitchens, water features, landscaping, garages, entryways and gates. Whatever your decorating desire, there’s probably a natural thin stone veneer to fit.

Natural thin stone veneer is available in a multitude of stone types, styles, textures, cuts and colors and, like full thickness veneer, it retains its natural tones and hues eternally. It’s easy to integrate into existing design schemes or structural features and for builders it’s relatively easy to integrate into design plans. “It can be applied over a wide variety of base substrates and installed in places where it would otherwise be considered impractical,” says Mike Sylvia, Director of Marketing of Champlain Stone in Warrensburg, NY.

There are numerous educational tools available for builders wanting to incorporate the product into their projects. Joe Buechel, VP of Natural Stone Veneers International in Fond du Lac, WI, says, “The speed of the installation is much faster than full veneer. Because it’s a lightweight application, it allows the installer to do it faster.”

Osterhout adds, “Because it doesn’t require additional footings or engineering, the product can be installed on the standard framing leaving options wide open for remodels, retrofits and clients making design changes halfway through projects.


Major Benefits Over Manmade Veneers

Unlike manmade or concrete veneer which comes in a defined and predictable number of patterns and a limited number of molds, natural thin stone veneer allows countless creative and custom patterns. It’s abundantly available and offered in all natural stone types including limestone, granite, bluestone, sandstone, quartzite and others. Without the limitations imposed by concrete veneers, users can freely select a stone that fits their design aesthetic and needs.

It contains no oxide colors, aggregates or other chemicals which mean it doesn’t fade or chip over time. Because it is a natural stone product, it is virtually indestructible, rarely needs repair and is easy to maintain and clean. Even in the rare case when it does chip, its colorful inner beauty shows through – it doesn’t look damaged and chalky like manmade products would. Any imperfection only adds to its character.

“Manmade stone looks its best the day it’s finished and deteriorates over time,” says Osterhout. Natural thin stone veneer is just the opposite,” he continues.” It becomes more beautiful over time.”

In fact, the difference is obvious with most concrete veneer products. “Natural thin stone veneer is much longer lasting and a much greener material that doesn’t off-gas and is minimally constructed, “ Sylvia explains. “It’s like the difference between a cubic zirconia and real diamond,” says Buechel.

Moreover, there’s really little cost-savings using a manmade product. The difference is about $1-2/sq. ft. This is beneficial to both builders and homeowners but builders should consider that “More stone can be installed per ton of stone with natural thin stone veneer,” says Osterhout. That brings the costs down further for builders.

Additionally, because manmade products may require repair or replacement over time, it’s smarter to invest in natural thin stone veneer when you’ll be staying in your residence long term or if you want to increase the resale value.



Crystal Lake quartzite/schist natural thin stone veneer. Photo courtesy of Rolling Rock Building Stone, Inc.

Crystal Lake quartzite/schist natural thin stone veneer. Photo courtesy of Rolling Rock Building Stone, Inc.

Natural Thin Stone Veneer Adds Immediate Value

Even a small amount of this product added in the places where buyers most want this feature increases the warmth and elegance of the outdoor space in a home. It also raises resale value on the home. “The addition of natural thin stone veneer adds value to a property and elevates its perception to the viewer,” says Sylvia. “Natural stone is a great way to boost the overall aesthetic,” he continues.

“Developers use it because they can set themselves apart in the marketplace and get a higher sale price for a home,” adds Osterhout. It brings a different feel to the home causing a buyer to make the purchase decision and that means homes turn over quickly.”

Because natural thin stone veneer is 100% natural stone, most buyers seeking the aesthetics of stone prefer it over manmade materials, especially if they’re investing in the home long term. Using high-quality products like natural thin stone veneer, installed properly and applied in the right outdoor spaces, should bring your home’s value up accordingly.

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