Calling all you weekend warriors! If your concrete foundation could use some oomph, a faux stone skirting installed against it can net you instant curbside appeal—while being seriously simple to install.
Panel designs, textures, and colors have all come a long way in the last few years. The quality stone veneers on the market now look realistic enough to fool even the most scrutinizing neighbors. With a variety of styles to choose from, you can easily capture the rustic appeal of southwestern sandstone, the imposing presence of a stately brick bungalow, or even the quaint river rock exteriors of an ancient English chalet—all without spending a fortune on quarried stone, or hours toiling with scratch coats and heavy rocks.
Let’s run through the ins and outs of stone veneer installation, including the best ways to incorporate panels with your existing design scheme.
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What Makes Stone Panels Different from Real Stone?
As we hinted at before, natural stone is expensive, labor-intensive, and costly to install. Stones weigh a lot, and they have to be attached to surfaces using a scratch coat—a coating of mortar and metal lath that’s applied to the wall first, before laying the stones. Additionally, since stones generally come in irregular shapes and sizes, they often have to be cut, broken, or fit together by hand, and that can drag out a project.
Stone veneers and stone paneling offer an affordable alternative to natural stone. Instead of being laid one-by-one, they’re mass produced and molded into sheets made of cement or polyurethane. That makes them lighter and cheaper than hand-built stone facades. Additionally, cement adheres more readily to your concrete foundation, so generally all you need is a layer of mortar applied behind the panels to get them attached.
Of course, nothing is ever as simple as it seems. Cementitious products may cost less, but they just don’t compare to stone when it comes to managing stormwater runoff. In fact, cement draws moisture, which can eventually cause problems with mold and rotting down the line. In fact, if you live in an area with colder temperatures, the faux stone products may frequently freeze and thaw, and you may wind up with broken or cracked panels, if you’re not careful. To avoid this issue, opt instead for natural thin stone veneers—a product made with thin slices of quarried stone. It mimics the behavior of manmade panels, without the moisture problems.
How to Install Stone Veneers
You can add faux stone panels to your home’s foundation with relatively little fuss. First, rent or purchase a pressure washer to remove any residue from the cement, and cut back any weeds or shrubs that may be blocking your access.
Next, allow the foundation to dry thoroughly, or if you’re short on time, use a leaf blower to dry it out fast. Apply a concrete bonding agent to the wall with a paintbrush, and let it sit until it feels tacky to the touch.
In a wheelbarrow, mix together masonry sand and masonry cement in a three to one ratio to make your mortar. Separately, in a large bucket, combine acrylic polymer together with water, as per the instructions on the container. Add the polymer mixture to the mortar in the wheelbarrow and mix thoroughly.
Using a masonry trowel, spread the mortar against the concrete foundation at a half-inch depth. Smooth the surface flat, then use the trowel to rake lines into the mortar. Now spread a half-inch thick layer of mortar onto the back of the panel, and press it against the wall. Tap the panels with a rubber mallet to make sure they properly adhere. Continue working like this until you’ve covered the whole area.
Which Kind of Stone Is Right for My Home?
Selecting the right stone to complement your existing siding means thinking about your home’s general aesthetic, and what will integrate well with your property’s exterior look. When you go to buy your panels, purchase a few different samples first to give you a feel for exactly what you want—that way, you can compare it with your home’s siding to see how they look together. Still, you can use these tips to make the selection process easier.
- Create Contrast with Color. To borrow a phrase from TV’s Project Runway, you don’t want your stone accents to be too matchy-matchy. Look for colors that complement, rather than blend into, your home’s siding. On the same token, however, you should also avoid clashing color combinations. So if your exterior siding is a soft golden yellow, skip the purplish stones and choose something with blue, gray, or white undertones.
- Integrate with Your Home’s Style and Time Period. Variegated stacked stone looks great with the angular lines of a modern home, whereas a more mosaic effect makes the perfect accent for a 30s-style brick bungalow. Likewise, you wouldn’t put sandstone on your Victorian rambler. Take time to look for something that really works well with your home’s design.
- Weigh Your Siding’s Existing Pattern. Stone can be as texturally exciting or subdued as you want, so it can really play off your home’s existing siding. If you currently have wood cladding in a more muted palette, opt for something multicolored, with large, irregular stones, that will really add interest to your exteriors. On the flip side, if you already have bold colors or textured brick installed on your home, a minimalist color scheme can work to break up these intense design statements.
- Factor in the Color of Your Roof and Shutters, As Well. All the exterior elements of your home need to work together to form one unified aesthetic. If the color of your roof, your shutters, or other outdoor features don’t match with your stone, it can definitely feel like something is off. Make sure the veneer you choose coordinates well with the color of these pieces, as well.
All in all, for a weekend project, stone paneling offers a quick, simple way to update your home’s foundation on the cheap. It’s curbside appeal, from the ground up!