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Stone Veneer Style Guide

Written on 11-15-2016

In my journey to put together a simple stone veneer style guide I've discovered that not everyone agrees on terminology. Kind of like the words 'pop', 'soda' or 'soft drink', the lingo changes depending on where you live. For example, some manufactures use the word 'stone veneer' to refer exclusively to manufactured stone, whereas other manufactures and dictionaryofconstruction.com don't specify stone veneer as either natural or manufactured. In addition defining the style of the cut is relative. What some consider stacked stones, others define as ledge stones. It's no wonder that the end user might feel like a fish out of water when it comes to design.

I guess, like most things in life, style is dynamic. What some people call rock music, others might call folktronica fusion rock. Even if your manufacture doesn't agree 100% with your terminology, you can meet on common grounds. The following is a style guide to stone veneer.

Natural Stone versus Manufactured or Engineered

Everyone wants to sell you something, which means information on product categories are subject to propaganda. Natural stone veneer masons will rag on manufactured stone makers, and manufactured stone makers will return the favor. Here is a 101 on what I've learned about the two veneers in the past few years.

Jackson Ledge
Signature Line
Delta Stone
Manzanita
Cliffstone
Eldorado Stone
Natural stone versus manufactured

Natural Stone

Lets start with why natural stone is good. The first factor that turns most people off is that natural costs more. If you're the type of person that likes to order the cheapest wine on the menu move on down the article to the part about manufactured stone.

Cost comparison

  • Full depth natural stone: $7-19 per square foot
  • Manufactured stone: $1.25-8 per square foot
  • Professional installation: about $10 [1]

It makes sense that natural stone costs more than a manufactured stone. Natural stone is heavier which requires more transportation costs and your have to increase the structure of the building to hold the weight. It's also harder for the installer to work with.

If you can't beef up your structure, you can purchase what's called 'thin veneer' which is natural stone that has been cut into pieces about 1 1/4" thick. Comparison that to the traditional 4" thick stone. This requires less costs and weight and still looks like a full depth natural stone, allowing the designer more possibilities. Thin veneer manufactures will provide 90 degree corner pieces that, once installed, will give the illusion that the stone is a full depth stone. [2]

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Natural stone is arguably more beautiful. It's variety and organic look has certain aesthetic appeal. I suspect that most people won't notice the difference between a natural stone and a high end manufactured stone, but most people might notice that a low end manufactured stone looks like an affordable substitution. Low end manufactured stones only apply pigments to the exterior of their stone which means that if the face of the rock were to fall off due to freeze thaw cycles, it will reveal a chuck of concrete on the inside. Whereas if the face of a natural stone slumps off in the distant future the appearance won't change much.

Manufactured Stone

If all you can afford is manufactured stone, don't feel disparaged. It has it's appeal and it can also imitate the color and style of any natural stone. It also has a variety of names; manufactured stone, engineered stone, agglomerated stone, cultured stone, faux stone, fake stone and in some cases simply 'stone veneer'. This stuff is made by mixing crushed rock, often marble or quartz, with a polymer resin, concrete, or other binder and then cured in rock shaped molds. [3]

Because the makers of manufactured stone are playing god, they can try to fix some of the flaws that mother nature made when producing natural rock. The product can be:

  • less porous
  • up to 1/3rd the weight
  • more mold resistant
  • with less hidden structural flaws
  • more flexible or harder (1,800 psi) [3]

Because it's lighter in weight, it has many more design uses than natural stone. [4] Depending on the manufacturer, it can be applied to many surfaces such as concrete, wood, drywall and metal. Polymer resin based stones are susceptible to UV damage over time and are generally limited to interior applications. For exterior veneers, double check with your manufacturer.

Natural StoneManufactured Stone
Appeal
Cost
Design options
Durability
Weight
Variation

Styles of veneer

In 2017 it's hip to be square. Clean hard edges and neutral colors are in demand but don't let that prevent you from choosing your own style. Whatever you do, know some of the lingo to describe your artistic vision. Here are some names you might hear being thrown around when describing the style of the stone veneer.

Ashlar

Ashlar patterns are large square and rectangle stones stacked geometrically and precisely, often by saw, to imitate the giant blocks used in ancient Jerusalem. The stone is split, exposing the interior color. [5][6] It is precise, uniform and tedious. If the horizontal courses are level, it is called coursed ashlar. If the joints are broken up and appear random it is considered random ashlar. [7]
See more Ashlar veneers

Santa Barbara
Ashlar
Eldorado Stone
Pearl White
Coastalreef
Eldorado Stone
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Round Stone / Brookstone

This is the one style that absolutely requires that the stone be in it's natural state, since the stones are shaped using natural forces such as streams, rivers or glaciers. The stones are rounded, smooth and unaltered by the mason. [8]
See more Round Stone veneers

Colorado
River Rock
Eldorado Stone
Rio Grande
River Rock
Eldorado Stone

Cobblestone

I'll be honest, the name cobblestone always confuses me. The word cobblestone always conjures up images of round stone but I'm wrong. Cobblestone is in tradition of old world hand carved square stones, traditionally in lime mortar. Not quite as precise as an ashlar pattern, cobblestones are roughly cut. [9]

You might hear the word 'guillotine cut' which can look similar to a cobblestone. Cutting a stone by the guillotine method offers a ragged, snapped and chipped edge. [13]
See more Cobblestone veneers

Tunbleweed
Cottage Ledge
Austin
Stone
Harristone
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Fieldstone / Flagstone

Back in 1991 when my parents built their house, they used fieldstone on both a veneer and interior flooring. The pattern always reminds me of their place. In my mind Fieldstone goes hand in hand with Friends, Clinton and MTV.

Fieldstone is stone unaltered and used in it's natural shape in polygonal layouts. One way to describe the layout is to imagine pieces of shattered ice put back together with a flat surface. [8] Flagstone is often fine-grained bluestone, other quartz-based stone, or slate. [13] Originally this style was born from people collecting stones from the surface of fields for the use of agriculture, then using the stones in construction. [10]
See more Fieldstone veneers

Golden Nugget Fieldstone
Stone Veneer
Quality Stone Veneer
Vineyard Granite™ Mosaic Thin Stone Veneer
Stone Veneer
Stoneyard Stone Veneer

Ridgestone

Ridgestone is similar to a stacked stone or cobblestone but the rocks appear to be weathered and rough on the surface.
See more Ridgestone veneers

Arcadian
Stone
Harristone
Saddleback
Rustic Ledge
Eldorado Stone

Travertine

Travertine more describes the type of rock rather than it's shape or pattern. The name is often used along side the previously mentioned styles. It is a form of limestone deposited by hot sprints and comes in a distinct white, tan, cream-colored or rusty color. [11] You usually see travertine as patio paving or interior tiles but it can inspire the look of some engineered stone veneers.

Travertine has been a hot sexy item through the late 2010's with contemporary architecture and design. However trends come and go and we might be on the tail end of this one. Time will tell. See more Travertine veneers

Glacier
European Ledge
Eldorado Stone
Linen
European Ledge
Eldorado Stone
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Stacked Stone / Ledge stone

A stacked stone style is rectilinear with longer and narrower pieces with exposed grain stacked on top of each other, usually with a dry stack mortar or seamless. [8][13] This is a very popular style for contemporary designs.
See more Stacked Stone veneers

Gray, Green, White, Brown
Jerico
Delta Stone
Midnight
Stone
Harristone

Grout Style

As an added bonus for reading this whole article, I'll spill a little info about grout. Oh how exciting! You really have three basic grout styles to deal with and the manufacture of a stone veneer will often suggest which grout works best for a particular stone veneer.

  • Drystack / Dry Stone: no visible mortar or grout on the face of the veneer. Less durable. Contemporary look.
  • Standard Depth: consistent depth of grout, about a finger width wide.
  • Overgrout: grout piped until it inches above the face of the stone. More rustic of a look. [12]

To see more stone veneer be sure to check out our extensive stone veneer library. For great inspiration on your next project, see how other designers have matched stone veneers with other materials on our inspiration page.

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