When designing a look for your fireplace, you're no longer between a rock and a hard place, given the many faux stone choices available. Faux stone is also known as manufactured stone, cultured stone and man-made stone. Applied as a decorative element to fireplaces since the 1960s, faux stone had a reputation for looking tacky. Today it is a popular choice for fireplace designs that are beautiful, natural looking and fairly inexpensive compared to real stone.
Faux stone costs about 25 per cent less than natural stone in terms of both material and labour. It requires no cure time (the time required for a material to dry or set), which means all the faux stone can be attached to your fireplace in one day. In addition, faux stone won't warp under high heat, and it's lightweight and easy to handle. Popular faux stone designs for fireplaces include manufactured--or cast--stone, concrete and gypsum.
Use manufactured stone when designing either an indoor or an outdoor fireplace. With today's sophisticated blending and finishing techniques, manufactured stone closely replicate the texture and colour of natural stone. One of the most popular types of manufactured stone is scagliola, a mix of limestone, marble and travertine, a white or light-coloured rock from mineral springs. Developed in the 17th century by Italian monks, scagliola creates a fireplace look that very closely resembles quarry stone.
Concrete, one of the most versatile faux stone materials, is moulded to replicate the size, shape, texture and colour of natural stone. Glass fibre-reinforced concrete (GFRC) is easy to work with because it's lightweight, strong and durable. A skilled artisan can mould and finish GFRC to resemble marble and limestone. For a more rustic fireplace design, consider concrete that has been stamped to resemble cut fieldstone or split-face granite, simulating the beauty of a real stone hearth.
Gypsum, a natural mineral mixed with water and glass fibre, is often finished to resemble limestone, marble or alabaster. Because it's extremely malleable, glass fibre reinforced gypsum (GFRG) that is intricately carved can give your fireplace a more elegant, formal look. Choose gypsum if you prefer to have a fireplace that's designed to your specifications, tastes and decor.
Although faux stone can be a cost-effective, beautiful alternative to natural stone in a fireplace design, manufactured stone can absorb and retain more moisture than real stone. Faux stones made from cheaper materials tend to be more porous. In addition, a chip on a piece of cultured stone exposes the material that lies beneath the veneer, which may be a different colour and texture.