Story at a glance:
- Cultured Stone’s manufactured stone veneer is made from a concrete mixture cast in flexible molds and hand-colored with iron oxide pigments.
- Cultured Stone is NAHB Green-certified and helps projects earn LEED credits for indoor air quality and recycled content.
- Architects and designers can choose from Cultured Stone manufactured stone veneer products in 105 colors and 20 textures.
It was 1962 when two brothers in Vallejo, California pioneered manufactured stone veneer as a new kind of building material. They may not have known then just how incredible their creation was. Today the innovation that led to Cultured Stone has evolved to include countless shapes, colors, and styles used by designers inside and outside mansions, ranch homes, and ski resorts as well as across retail, hospitality, and health care.
“The stone veneer category has only grown, and stone veneer products are getting more artistic and more playful,” says Sarah Lograsso, director of marketing and product design for Cultured Stone, who’s been in the industry 15 years after working in interior design. “Our mission is to develop and design beautiful products that can showcase the artistry of whoever is using them. As the pioneer of the manufactured stone veneer category, we want to carry that sentiment all the way to the end user.”
What is Manufactured Stone Veneer?
Cultured Stone’s manufactured stone veneer, or MSV, is made from a concrete mixture cast in flexible molds and hand-colored with iron oxide pigments to reflect the texture and color tones of natural stone. MSV is much lighter than natural stone—approximately one-fourth the weight—and is easily adhered to most wall surfaces. Unlike full bed-depth natural stone, you can install MSV without additional footings, foundations, or wall ties.
To make its product, Cultured Stone has a team of craftspeople dedicated to pulling natural stones from all over the world for molds and looking for inspiration in nature. “It’s very involved, and it’s a labor of love,” Lograsso says. “Mother Nature is a true source of inspiration and an important anchor to our life experiences, so we strive to maintain the textures and color tones found in nature.”
Cultured Stone offers a wide array of veneer options, and the stone products are easy for architects and designers to use, as they come in pre-sorted arrangements for rapid box-to-wall applications. While natural stone veneer often comes in large boxes with more uniform sizes and styles that may require more cutting and shaping before going up, Cultured Stone ships in a more organized fashion—with each box offering what its team of experts considers to be the optimal mix of stones in color and size, which ultimately saves time when it comes to wall applications.
What are My Aesthetic Options?
Cultured Stone offers more than 21 textures and 100 colors, plus a variety of shapes and sizes in options that range from highly traditional to provocatively modern. They’re constantly testing and trying new color mixes and textural markers in various environments and under different lighting conditions to see how they look with other design elements.
In addition to the more standard sizes you might expect when choosing MSV for, say, a fireplace or accent wall, Cultured Stone offers many large-format shapes in veneer versions. Think statement pieces.
Larger stones from Cultured Stone are just as easily applied as smaller ones, and these lightweight solutions can adhere entirely to the backing of plaster sheetrock. That’s a major benefit over using full bed-depth natural stone, whose weight will require significant architectural interventions on the wall before applying.
How Easy is Installation?
It’s not just big stones that go up fast, though. Cultured Stone also developed panelized systems for ease of install.
Cultured Stone’s Pro-Fit® products offer a practical way to achieve a tailored ledgestone look with small-scale, low-relief stones. The lightweight panelized format makes this stone veneer quick and easy to install, with groups of small stones meticulously bundled together to form modular components of equal height. Instead of laying a wall stone by stone, you can put up a whole grid of stones at once.
Whether you’re using a panelized system or not, Cultured Stone offers tips to make every install successful. To meet building code requirements, adhered stone veneer must achieve a minimum bond strength of 50 psi. To meet these standards, start by ensuring all stone units are clean. Remove any loose material from the back with a wire brush.
Then consider your weather conditions. Hot and/or dry weather will require you to dampen the back of each manufactured stone unit as well as the scratch coat. Meanwhile, cold weather will require you to heat stone veneer materials and also to tent and heat during installation and curing.
Finally, Cultured Stone advises you to choose high-quality mortar that meets or exceeds stone manufacturer requirements. Then carefully mix mortar so the setting bed mortar is wet enough that a trowel covered with it can be inverted and the mortar will remain adhered. Mix only what you can use, as the bond is critical.
In addition to looking great, stone and natural-looking products also have mental health benefits, as they evoke the natural world and can help to reduce stress by making you feel more connected to the outside world. Manufactured stone veneer is a great option both inside and out, and stone veneer accent walls are a beautiful way to incorporate natural touches into everyday work, live, and play spaces.
Cultured Stone’s new sister brand, Kindred Outdoors + Surrounds, takes that idea even further, offering essential building blocks for outdoor kitchens and entertainment spaces. Its line of sculpture-inspired fire bowls is ideal for anchoring outdoor conversation spaces, and its collection of fireplace surrounds can help frame your interior fire features with the stunning texture of limestone.
How Sustainable is MSV?
MSV is incredibly durable. It can endure years of weathering with little change to color, is weather-resistant, and can freeze, thaw, heat up, and cool down without cracking, chipping, or fading. Cultured Stone’s MSV is NAHB Green–certified and can help earn LEED credits for indoor air quality and recycled content. Cultured Stone’s LEAN-operated manufacturing facilities eliminate waste while also protecting the health of the environment and employees.
From an operations standpoint, the company also produces its products using a closed-loop water consumption system that helps reduce each facility’s water consumption by up to 50%.
Cultured Stone has seen a move away from the open floor plans popular in residential architecture for decades and a shift toward more defined spaces. Architects are using building materials like MSV to create segmented areas within homes like freestanding fireplaces to divide living rooms from dining areas.
Lograsso is also seeing demand for longer, more linear lines and geometric play with pattern. “This next year is going to be all about texture and pattern,” she says. She expects neutral colors to continue to be in demand, with the addition of more groundbreaking patterns. “You’ll be able to get creative with installations and application,” she says of Cultured Stone’s own forthcoming innovations. “It’s giving a little bit more flexibility and creative freedom to the end user so they can create their own original look.”