Manufactured stone fireplaces have come a long way from their humble beginnings. Though man-made cast stone mantels with smooth finishes have been produced for centuries and perfected to the point where they are virtually indistinguishable from their finely finished natural stone counterparts, the more rugged, roughly textured stone fireplace surrounds have not enjoyed such good fortune.
Fortunately, manufacturers of roughly textured stone found a way to sig-
nificantly improve their product since the 1960s and 1970s, when artificial stone looked every bit as fake as it truly was. Today's man-
made stone products have evolved considerably from their predecessors. Many are so realistic in appearance that only the trained eye of a highly skilled stone artisan can distinguish between it and the "real deal."
Manufactured stone is made by blending lightweight concrete with colored iron oxide pigments. To give it a realistic look, the mixture is poured into molds made from natural stones and then vibrated to integrate surface coloration and texture. After the mix sets, the stone is removed from the mold and cured.
One of the primary benefits of man-made stone is that it is considerably lower in cost than natural stone.
Also, due to its much lighter weight -- approximately two-thirds the weight of natural stone veneer and about
one quarter the weight of full-block natural stone -- it doesn't require a foun-
dation or footings for support. The significant cost savings, along with its very realistic look, has made it a popular alternative to natural stone for fireplace surrounds.
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