The Real Facts about Artificial Stone

In this economy, contractors are constantly looking for ways to reduce construction costs of new homes. One area where many of them cut costs is on the exterior façade of the home. This is why we see so much artificial (or synthetic) stone being used today. However, when choosing between natural stone and the man-made knockoff, it is important to consider all the facts – not just the initial cost.

One of the most obvious drawbacks to artificial stone is its durability – or lack thereof. Man-made stone is simply not as durable as the real thing. Artificial stone is made from a lightweight concrete mixture that can often break or chip. When this happens, it is usually quite noticeable. Many manufacturers of this product do not color their concrete through and through. As such, when a piece of artificial stone is cut or broken, exposing the interior, it is obvious to even the most untrained eye that this material is made from concrete. Unlike artificial stone products, natural stone is colorfast and resists scratching and fading. When a piece of natural stone is cut or broken, it simply exposes more natural stone. Moreover, because synthetic stone is cast in a limited number of molds, the larger the area covered, the more obvious it becomes that it is fake. Also, in some climate conditions, synthetic stone can shrink or expand over time, causing cracks and mortar gaps.

Another common drawback to artificial stone is found in the installation process. Manufacturers of man-made stone commonly tout the ease of installation of their product. On the surface, this sounds as if it would be a desirable characteristic. However, an unintended consequence of this claim is that, oftentimes, contractors with little or no masonry experience are installing the product. In contrast, a reputable natural stone producer would never suggest that natural stone should be installed on the façade of a home by anyone other than a qualified mason.

If artificial stone is installed improperly, it can look, well – artificial. This fake appearance is magnified if too much space is left between the individual pieces. Because man-made stone is not as thick as natural stone, gaps tend to highlight the fake stone’s lack of depth, accentuating the unnatural appearance.

Even more important, when installed improperly, synthetic stone can trap moisture, causing severe damage to the sheathing and structural framing of the home. This problem is becoming more evident as time goes by and is similar to the problems experienced with EIFS (synthetic stucco) in the late 90’s. This growing problem is becoming so prevalent that several articles have been issued by industry associations and trade publications. Following are links to archived copies of just a few of these articles:

If this problem continues to escalate, it is possible that the existence of fake stone may decrease the value of your home in the future or, worse yet, make it nearly impossible to resell.

Another aspect to consider is the environmental impact of using a cement-based product over natural stone. Concrete products contain the highest levels of embodied energy of all building materials. What this means is that the processes used to produce concrete requires great amounts of energy. The manufacturing process creates very high levels of carbon emissions with temperatures reaching 2,000 degrees Celsius. The process also releases high levels of carbon dioxide into the environment. In total about 7% of global CO2 emissions come from concrete production. Conversely, natural stone is a naturally green building material. It is moisture resistant and lasts a lifetime. And unlike synthetic stone, natural stone can be recycled.

One last thing to consider is warranties. We have heard a lot about the long-term warranties heralded by the manufacturers of fake stone. But if you read the fine print, most of those warranties are full of exclusions and ambiguous language that favors the manufacturer much more than the end user. One of the most blatant examples we have found is the exclusion for “discoloration due to airborne contaminants". A frequent complaint about man-made stone is the fading of colors over time. But good luck proving that this is not caused by “airborne contaminants”. Natural stone, on the other hand, tends to fade or discolor less than synthetic stone. Even if it does fade somewhat, it tends to add to the natural characteristics of the stone itself – instead of exposing an interior made of concrete.

In closing, though artificial stone is a good alternative for use in some situations, it is very important to consider the true costs of using a fake material over a real natural stone product. It is always wise to stretch your construction dollars as far as they will go. But sometimes saving a little money now can cost you a lot more in the long run. If you do your homework and compare every aspect of the two products, we think you will find that natural stone will always give you the best overall return on your investment.

Inventory Reduction Sale Happening Now!!!

We are now accepting orders for our Spring 2011 Natural Stone Inventory Reduction Sale. Place your orders now to receive special savings on select products. This is a LIMITED-TIME OFFER. Sale is valid only WHILE SUPPLIES LAST.

Click here now to visit the sale page!!


Beware the So-Called "Discounts"

In a tough economy it is not uncommon for customers to seek out discounts when shopping for their natural stone products. You may have been tempted to do so yourself. Over the past couple of years, we have lost some business to discount producers. Fortunately, many of those customers have returned to us now that they understand the true cost of those so-called "discounts".

As experienced retailers and contractors know all too well, quality is of the upmost importance when dealing with natural stone. Though some discounters may have found legitimate ways to reduce their overhead and pass the savings along to their customers, there are also several unethical and/or illegal tricks that many producers use to discount their products. These deceiving practices are well-known throughout the industry and are avoided by honest, reputable firms such as Table Rock Quarries, Inc.

As natural stone is generally sold by weight, it is imperative that the buyer ensure he or she is not paying for an unacceptable amount of unusable material. For instance, when laid flat against a surface (mosaic style), hand-split thin veneer will generally cover approximately 100 to 110 square feet per ton. However, if your pallets of stone contain a high percentage of small or otherwise unusable pieces, the covereage is reduced considerably. This of course inflates the overall cost per square foot.

Another thing to watch out for is underweight pallets. It is not uncommon for discounters to sell a pallet of stone weighing considerably less than 2,000 lbs. as a one-ton pallet. Once again, this increases your overall cost per square foot of stone.

If you are being encouraged to pay with cash, and are offered big discounts to do so, be very leery. It should be fairly obvious what is taking place in this scenario; the producer is making cash sales with the intent of avoiding federal and state income taxes. In many cases, they are also neglecting to collect and pay the state and local sales taxes. Though it may be tempting to go along with this practice, it is considered tax evasion and it is illegal. If the producer is caught and their books are audited by state and/or federal agents, there could be serious consequences for customers who have participated in this type of transaction. If you are approached with this type of offer, consider whether the rewards justify the risks.

Other practices that many discounters use to reduce their prices may be inconsequential to their customers, but are unethical and/or illegal nonetheless. These practices include:

  • Paying employees with cash to avoid payroll taxes (in some cases, the producer even deducts the taxes from the employees' checks and pockets it instead of paying the taxes to the appropriate agency).
  • Illegal mining.
  • Cheating on royalties due to owners of property where quarries are located.

As we have pointed out in this article, there are many ways a producer can go about reducing their prices to their customers. Unfortunately, many of the methods commonly used are unethical at best and even illegal. The bottom line is this; do not be fooled, in this business you truly do get what you pay for.

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Table Rock Quarries, Inc.