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Is it Really Stone Siding? Maybe, Maybe Not

Very few people can drive by a building with well kept stone siding and not cast an admiring glance, but with today's technological advances, your stone siding might be fake, and only you would know it.

While real stone is still available for those with the money to obtain it, several companies have come up with innovative ways of creating siding that, unless looked at very closely, is almost indistinguishable from real stone.

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Exterior stone siding is referred to by a variety of names. It could be called rock siding, stone siding, stone veneer, manufactured stone siding, simulated rock, or stone facade, cultured stone, synthetic stone, faux stone, or fake stone, just to name a few.

One popular way of obtaining the look of stone is with the use of faux panels.  These are made from high-density polyurethane which is molded over real rock or stone, thereby creating the actual shape and texture of nature's own work. The panels are manufactured with the color contained in the material itself, so, like vinyl, it never needs painted and will outlast years of exposure to the elements. It is nearly as indestructible as the stone or brick it simulates.

In addition to the lower cost, faux stone siding is popular because it is easy to install. You won't need to hire a mason as the siding is installed much like any other type of vinyl siding.  It is available in over 700 colors, and you can even use it to make matching columns or garden walls, thereby continuing the natural theme.

Another type of artificial stone is known as "cultured stone." This material is an aggregate of lightweight materials that is cast to exactly replicate natural stone but with less than one quarter of the weight of full thickness stone. It is actually concrete mixed with aggregate and color pigments. It has not only the appearance, but also the texture of real stone. It comes in panels of a few square feet each that are installed over a layer of mortar, much like real stone. However, it is lighter for handling and, since the panels are manufactured, the edges are regular. The space between the stones can be grouted if desired. Like vinyl faux stone panels ( which snap together), the cultured stone can be installed by the do-it-yourself person. Different manufacturers may refer to cultured stone by different namessuch as stacked stone or el dorado stone. The primary difference between cultured stone and natural stone veneer is that the cultured stone is made in a factory rather than by mother nature. The aggregate material, however, gives the same effect as actual stone.

If you can afford to hire a mason, natural stone veneersgenerally limestone or graniteare available by the ton. A ton of limestone will cover 30 to 40 square feet. Today's stone veneers are made of stone that is planed smooth on one side and cut to about two or three inches of thicknessthe thicknesses varying for a natural look. If you want real stone and can afford the expense, the stone veneer may be the choice for you. Most people, however, are satisfied with simply having the "look" of stone and opt for the much less expensive faux stone or cultured stone.

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