When it comes to picking the right material for your stone-looking fireplace, you have two basic options: natural stone and cast stone. Natural stone is just what it sounds like: stone made by nature over millions of years that has been quarried from the earth. Cast stone, on the other hand, is not technically stone at all; instead, it’s a type of concrete that has been designed and dyed to simulate natural stone. There are pros and cons to both types, so it’s best to consider the following points before making your selection.
It’s no secret that natural stone stands the test of time. Just think of these iconic monuments: the Great Sphinx in Egypt (circa 2500 BC), made of limestone; Stonehenge in England (3000 BC), made of sandstone and bluestone; and the Parthenon in Greece (438 BC), made of marble. You don’t need your fireplace to last quite that long, but you do want it to be strong, durable, and timeless? Natural stone options like limestone, travertine, and marble have all those traits, require minimal maintenance, and offer myriad design options. As a one-of-a-kind building material, natural stone is a work of art in itself.
Can't decide which stone to choose form? Order a stone sample before purchasing your custom fireplace.
So what’s the downside? Well, one potential problem is that no piece of natural stone is exactly like another, so it’s impossible to create tiles, slabs, or architectural elements that match exactly. “Imperfections” like graining and coloration give natural stone its character, but they also prevent duplication and can result in a final product differing from a sample. Another disadvantage is price. Natural stone can be expensive—think marble or granite kitchen countertops—but it can also be well worth the extra cost. Also - our new Builder's Collection Fireplaces are constructed from beautiful all-natural travertine and is often less expensive than cast stone (and some times, even wood)!
You see cast stone everywhere—in building facades, fountains, and walkways. The Sydney Opera House in Australia is a famous example of how well cast stone lends itself to unique designs. There are several benefits to this material, chief among them affordability, and compared to natural stone, its lighter weight makes it quicker and easier to install. However, that also means it lacks the density and strength of natural stone.
There are other drawbacks as well. Since cast stone must be shaped using a mold, there are limits to how much detail you can include. Whereas a master craftsman can carve natural stone into almost any shape, cast stone is less versatile and lacks the inherent value of hand-carved natural stone. And while cast stone is meant to simulate natural stone, it only goes so far in recreating the sense of “movement” found in materials like limestone, which has been formed through the shifting of the earth over the course of millennia.
So Which Is Best?
The answer to that question depends on your personal taste and budget. If cost is a factor and you have a simpler design in mind, cast stone might fit the bill. But for a high-quality, one-of-a-kind look, there is really no match for a natural stone fireplace. Check out our Fireplace Designs page to see the wide array of designs and materials we offer.
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