One thing that I find odd is that manufactured stone fireplaces are sometimes referred to as natural stone. On this page, Natural stone will refer to actual stone, while manufactured stone will refer to the up and coming man made alternatives. Manufactured stone fireplaces may also be referred to as cultured stone or thin stone fireplaces. Cultured or manufactured stone is made from stone aggregates, different dyes and cement. Got it?
Benefits of Manufactured Stone Fireplaces
There are many benefits to installing a manufactured stone fireplace. First of all, some people would contest that they are more attractive. This is purely a matter of taste of course. If you really have learned to appreciate the natural beauty of real stone, you may disagree.
An obvious benefit is that the overall cost is considerably lower then if you were to build an all natural stone fireplace. A natural stone fireplace that costs about $2,000 could be done using manufactured stone for about $1,100. The materials are light weight and easy to handle. Also, natural stone fireplaces can be as expensive as $10,000, depending on the amount of stone used and the structure.
Manufactured stone requires no additional footings, foundations or wall ties, and installation will take much less time than natural stone. Also you will have many more color and design choices with manufactured stone. It comes in a wide variety of colors and textures whereas natural stones are limited mostly to marble, granite, limestone, slate and travertine.
Manufactured Stone Fireplace Drawbacks
This article would not be complete without mentioning the drawbacks of using manufactured stone on your fireplace. So the main drawback is going to lay in an overall lost feeling of authenticity that the knowledge of it not being natural stone installs in some people.
Also, manufactured stone fireplace fronts will chip easier than some natural alternatives. However, if you do decide to go with a manufactured stone fireplace, be sure to chose a brand that, when it does chip, looks the same where it chipped.
Some leave more noticeable marks than others when they chip or scratch. In my opinion though, the biggest drawback associated with the use of manufactured stone materials is that they just do not retain heat like the all natural stone fireplaces.
Some properly built natural stone fireplaces can be stoked, lit and allowed to burn out once a day and they will warm the house the entire day with the heat they retain. With a manufactured stone fire place that is built around a zero-clearance fireplace surface, you will have to burn fuel a good deal longer to achieve the same amount of heat.
So while there are both pros and cons to using manufactured stone for your fireplace, you finally decision is all yours. If you are on a tight budget, there is no doubt that you will save money using the manufactured variety. However, if you really value the lingering warmth that a real natural stone fireplace gives and enjoy the nostalgic beauty, you will not mind spending the extra money on a 100% natural stone goliath.
Photo by jeremyfoo, Creative Commons Attribution