Engineered stone vs natural stone veneers – The right choice

Engineered stone vs natural stone veneers – The right choice

If you’ve been looking at cladding options, you’ve no doubt come across both the terms natural stone veneers as well as engineered stone. Engineered stone is generally more well known, while also being a crowd-pleaser for a longer time, & with very good reasons, without a doubt. But do you know what engineered stone is, & the reasons as to consider engineered stone over other cladding options? Today, let’s explore what engineered stone is, & how it compares to natural stone veneers so that you’re able to select the most appropriate cladding option for your renovation project.

What is engineered stone?

Engineered stone, which is also known as quartz in the countertop industry, is a composite material which comprises of crushed stone which is held together by an adhesive. The slabs are made from quartz crystals that are kept together with a resin binder. The usual recipe for quarts would contain 93% crushed to & 7% resin & pigmentation. Quarts is a very popular application for counter tops.

Pros of using engineered stone

Now that we’ve discussed what engineered stone is, let’s look at why it’s so popular in a variety of different applications.

• Similar appearance to natural stone
Engineered stone looks a lot like natural stone, with the most common difference that’s noticeable will be that it’ll have a uniform in colour & pattern. The reason for this is that quartz is manufactured, & the appearance of each slab has lesser variations. The end result is that the pieces used in any application will match perfectly.

• Wide range of colours
Engineered stone will have a greater variety in colours, since colours can be added in the manufacturing process through pigmentation.

• Durability
Quartz is generally known to be an extremely hard material, & is nearly indestructible.

• Engineered stone is nonporous
Unlike natural stone, engineered stone is nonporous, & as such, quartz is stain resistant since there are no small holes or pores on the surface which allows liquids to seep in & cause stains on the stone.

• No requirement for sealing
Unlike natural stone, quarts engineered stone doesn’t require sealing either since it’s nonporous, so it’s comparatively a lower maintenance option.

• Antibacterial & antifungal
Since it’s nonporous, it’s also antibacterial & antifungal, hence a great choice for commercial applications in restaurants or medical offices.

Cons of using engineered stone

Now that we’ve looked at some of the advantages of using engineered stone, let’s look at why it may not be the perfect option as a cladding choice.

• Lesser heat resistance
Compared with natural stone, engineered stone isn’t as heat resistant since it comprises of a mixture of stone & resin, which means that exposing the surface to high heat can damage the surface, or weaken the slab, leaving it vulnerable to cracks over time. You won’t be able to use a hot pan directly out of the stove or oven on top of an engineered stone slab, & you’ll have to use a hot pad or a trivet to avoid damage from heat.

• Outdoor applications are generally not recommended
Quartz manufacturers usually do not offer a warranty for using engineered stone in outdoors applications. When exposed to direct sunlight, the pigment used to create colours will fade away. More importantly, the resin which is used to hold the components together will yellow when exposed to UV rays. While there are a few quartz manufactures who create engineered stone with certified outdoor usage, it’ll be much more expensive than the regular range of engineered stone.

• Considerable health issues during installation
Silicosis is a result from breathing the dust produced when cutting or processing engineered stone made from quartz. The risk of silicosis is higher when safety precautions or protective equipment isn’t used. In fact, in February 2023, Australian trade unions have called to ban the import of engineered stone into Australia due to silicosis.

• Installation is tricky
Installation of engineered stone is not a DIY process, & you’d definitely need a profession to install engineered stone, so this will significantly add to the cost of the slabs in terms of labour.

• Not a one-of-a-kind material
Natural stone veneers is certainly extremely unique in appearance, with each sheet having its own unique appearance even in the same product range, so if you’re after a unique cladding option, then keep in mind that engineered stone will not be the one you’re looking for.

• Limited application where flexibility is a concern
Engineered stone isn’t easy to shape, so if the area of application is a curved area with other design elements, installation will be challenging.
Now that we’ve seen the pros & cons of using engineered stone as a cladding option, let’s look at an alternative – natural stone veneers.

What are natural stone veneers?

Natural stone veneers are sustainably extracted with a minimum carbon footprint from 100% natural metamorphic rock. It results in a thin layer of stone which is attached to a backing, which is most commonly fiberglass, but could also be fabric or translucent.

This backing, with the thinness of the stone layer (1.5 mm to 2.0 mm) gives not only tremendous durability, but also ensures a light-weight & easy to install stone veneer. The stone surface provides natural water & heat resistant, which means that it can be installed both indoors & outdoors.

Natural stone veneers can be installed on top of any substrate, including glass, tiles, cement, wood, brick & render. From floors to walls & ceilings, applications are only limited by your creativity, with the most common applications being splashbacks, feature walls, fireplaces, bathrooms, bedrooms, & furniture. For anyone who’s interest in DIY products, you can be sure that this is the best stone product that you can install on your own, with a few household tools & easily available adhesives & sealants.

Pros of using flexible stone veneers

1. Durability
The stone surface speaks for itself. Since the surface of the veneer is natural stone, it’s durable & resistant to extreme weather conditions, whether scorching hot or freezing cold. This is the main reason that it can be installed outdoors. Unlike so many other cladding options, the stone surface is also resistant to scratching & chipping, & with the proper installation & maintenance, it’s bound to last a lifetime.

2. Ease of installation
Unlike most cladding options, flexible stone veneers are extremely light-weight, only being around 1.5 kilos per standard sheet. That, combined with the thinness, contributes to ease of installation, to the point where the product is DIY. No need for special equipment or an installation team, just an angle grinder to cut the sheets, a PU adhesive to paste it, & finally a penetrative sealant on top of the surface. You’ll not only save up on labour cost, but also, it’ll be something fun for you to look forward to do in the weekend, especially if you’re a DIY enthusiast!

3. Versatility of application
Natural stone veneers can be installed on both indoor & outdoor surfaces, but that’s not the best part – seeing that it can endure extreme weather conditions as well as be installed on top of any kind of substrate, applications are limitless for your home renovation or building construction project, from indoor & outdoor floors to walls & even ceilings. Common applications that’s popular include splashbacks, feature walls, fireplace exteriors & even furniture! It’s also a beautiful product to install on your cabinetry, bathrooms & bedrooms.

4. Water & heat resistance
Natural stone veneers are naturally water & heat resistant, since the surface is natural stone. So, you can install it in places where water & heat resistance is an absolute necessity, including outdoors.

5. Visual appeal
Natural stone veneers have an elegant look, whether it’s installed indoors or outdoors. The natural stone surface is unique in appearance & since each sheet is unique from the other, it creates a theme of its own.

6. Low maintenance
Once a penetrative sealant is applied on the stone surface after installation, it’ll preserve the surface & the most basic dust & day to day dirt can be easily cleaned with water.

7. Lightweight
Unlike other cladding options, the natural stone veneer is an extremely thin slice of rock, weighing only around 1.5 kilos per standard sheet, so it’s the perfect solution when you want an elegant stone appearance, without the weight & difficulty in installation. It’s also perfect for installation on structures that are unable to bear heavy weights.

8. Affordability
Compared with other cladding options & considering the advantages it offers, natural stone veneers are affordable. Not only saving up on the labour cost if you do it on your own, but each sheet is extremely cost effective for the benefits & unique stone look it offers.

Thoughts to ponder…

It’s no doubt that engineered stone is extremely popular, & with very good reason, since it’s aged well throughout time. However, compared with newer cladding options, such as natural stone veneers, it’s important to understand that it may not be the best choice to go ahead with. If your project requires a cladding option that can be installed outdoors, needs to withstand harsh temperatures, & needs to handle hot appliances such as pots & pans, then definitely the better option would be to go ahead with natural stone veneers than engineered stone.
Or how about if your application requires flexibility & lightweight? Again, natural stone veneers are the better option compared with engineered stone. If you want a unique appearance for your cladding, then natural stone veneers are extremely unique when compared with the uniform look of engineered stone. While both natural stone veneers & engineered stone may well withstand the age of time, natural stone veneers, with the proper aftercare, may well last over a lifetime unlike quartz engineered stone. Finally, you’ll need to keep in mind that unlike engineered stone, natural stone veneers do not pose any health hazards, & only standard protection gear needs to be worn, & there is no risk of silicosis, unlike engineered stone. Keeping all these facts in mind, you can make a decision now on which is the cladding option you prefer, engineered stone or natural stone veneers.

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