Q&A / 

Faux Stone on a House or Wall

Faux Stone on a House or Wall

Faux Stone on Wood Walls | This happens to be real stone washed by a setting sun. You can achieve a similar look using faux stone or other non-stone products. Copyright 2020 Tim Carter

DEAR TIM: I’m building a very small house and love the look of natural stone. I also intend to build some low garden walls that I want to look like stone too. I’ve seen the artificial stone at building centers and home and garden shows. What’s your opinion of this fake stone? Will it last? Is it hard to install? Can it be done by someone like me with a great attitude and moderate skills? The physical labor is not an issue. I just want you to tell me the truth and not sugarcoat it. Melissa P., Tuscon, AZ

I’ve been answering questions like Melissa’s for over twenty-five years. You may be like Melissa and have a great attitude about trying to do a job yourself. That inner drive is how I accumulated all of my building knowledge. I made mistakes along the way but learned from each one making me a better builder. You can do exactly the same. Embrace small failures and use them to move forward.

Will Faux Stone Work on a Garden Wall?

Melissa is lucky in that she wants to use the stone in two ways, on her petite house and the garden walls. You need to know that the first piece of advice I always give someone when trying a project for the first time is to practice. Melissa can practice on a garden wall before she attempts to work on the house. This way she can refine her skills on a part of the wall that’s least visible. If you don’t plan to have garden walls, you can build a simple fake wall from wood to practice laying the artificial stone.

opens in a new windowCLICK or TAP HERE to get FREE BIDS from local stone masons who can install faux stone.

How Durable is Faux Stone?

Let’s talk about the durability of the fake stone. Almost all artificial stones are made from poured concrete in ideal factory conditions. Concrete is the original artificial stone! You make concrete from small stones, sand (which is almost always very tiny pieces of stone), Portland cement, and water. It’s important to realize that Portland cement is made from stone - limestone and shale.

Artificial Stone House

Artificial or faux stone like this on the outside of a home is not waterproof. opens in a new windowArtificial stone is not waterproof. (C) Copyright 2019 Tim Carter

Why is Concrete Durable?

Concrete is very durable because all its ingredients are stone! The manufacturers of the product have become quite adept at creating the look of real stone using very detailed forms and colorization processes. I have artificial stone fireplaces and an exterior chimney here at my own home in central New Hampshire. The chimney has survived brutal summer heat and bitter icy weather for over twenty years and looks perfect.

Is it Hard to Install Faux Stone?

Installing the stone is not too hard at all. There are quite a few videos on YouTube made by the manufacturers and mortar suppliers. When you watch a few of these videos, you’ll gain confidence in no time.

What's the Most Important Step?

It’s really key to understand how to mix the mortar that holds the fake stone to the vertical surfaces. I’d absolutely make sure to add some hydrated lime to the mortar mix as it increases the bonding power. I have a past column on my AsktheBuilder.com website that goes into great detail about hydrated lime, why it’s so good, and how much to use.

How Can You Avoid Trouble Installing Faux Stone?

In my opinion, the biggest way to get into trouble is to try to mix too much of the bonding mortar at once. It’s best if you have a helper and if the helper can mix small batches that you use up completely every 30 minutes or less. The fresher the mortar, assuming it’s the perfect consistency you’ll see in the videos, the better chance the stone will never fall off the wall.

opens in a new windowCLICK or TAP HERE to get FREE BIDS from local stone masons who can install faux stone.

Should I Practice Cutting the Stone?

You’ll have to practice cutting the artificial stone to fit in certain situations. It’s not hard and once again, there are plenty of videos to watch to guide you. Melissa’s biggest challenge will come as she graduates to her small home. You need scaffolding to work your way up the walls. This can be rented, but the price might start to get as high as the stone on the wall if you don’t work fast.

What Other Materials Are Used to Make Faux Stone?

Some faux stone are made using high-density polyurethane. These are lightweight and you can cover a wall surface so much faster than you can using artificial stone made from concrete.

Should I Consider Faux Stone?

I’d give these alternative faux stone products a serious look because they can produce the look you want and are no doubt so much easier to work with. You may discover you can save more money and do all the work with no help whatsoever.

Your biggest concern should always be time. You don’t want the project to stretch out too long and you are not a professional. There will be a learning curve because you’re doing something for the first time.

You’ll get better as you go, but you could lose valuable time early in the process. That said, tackling a big project is just like eating an elephant. You eat an elephant one bite at a time. Bon appétit’!

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