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Landscape Design Trends: Man-Made Stone? Pros and Cons

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Landscaping with the purpose of changing the aesthetic and function of your backyard space is likely to involve stone at some point in the process. Stone is a material that continues to remain at the center of modern landscaping and outdoor lifestyle design, and for good reason.

When it comes to crafting new ideas for your backyard living space, natural stone is an attractive choice: it makes for an elegant statement piece and is completely durable. However, some logistical obstacles like weight, cost, and style have inspired innovation in manufactured alternatives that duplicate the benefits of natural stone, without some of the difficulties.

Man-made stone has grown out of its early development stages and is now a realistic option for homeowners looking to upgrade their outdoor spaces with less hassle and difficulty. Here’s an overview of how things stack up between natural and manufactured options.

“Write your sad times in sand, write your great times in stone.”
– George Bernard Shaw

Manufactured and Natural Stone Overview: 

There are many natural and man-made stone products to choose from.  The growth of landscaping across the country has increased the quality of stone products across the board, so there are a ton to choose from.  

Manufactured stone is usually a mix of concrete blended with aggregates and iron oxide pigments, and cast in models that are shaped from real stone. From most sides it has similar shape, color and texture of real stone, while the backside reveals its cast shape. There are many sizes, textures, and colors to choose from. Typically the ‘natural’ quality of the manufactured stone is proportional to the price.  The newly introduced premium looking products cost a little more than the ‘concrete’ blocks of the past.  

Natural stone is also found in a variety of colors and textures, but the availability can often vary depending on what part of the country you live in.  Located in the Mid-West, we can usually source about any size and color of natural stone. Our most common natural stone installations are patios, stairways, and retaining walls.

Choice and Customization: 

Natural stone is uncustomizable. While undeniably gorgeous, the actual selection of color and style is limited to what is currently available.

Cast stone allows your landscaping dreams to be limitless. There are new styles and colors on the market all the time, not to mention fewer logistical issues, such as availability and transport. Working with a landscape designer will help you to take full advantage of all of the newest and trendiest options available to realize any number of modern styles in your own backyard.

Case Study: See photographs of one of our landscape design projects, that uses manufactured stone in a dramatic and sweeping home entryway.

Weight:

Manufactured stone is usually easier to work with and comes in a large variety of thicknesses to accommodate many installation requirements. If needed, we can use a lighter weight manufactured stone that won’t stress the foundation of your landscaping project like some natural stones might. This is most useful when installing patio stone on top of existing concrete. Depending on the situation, we may be able to install a thin stone right on top of your existing, ‘outdated’ concrete. This is a big time saver, and a big upgrade to the look of your patio or covered porch area.

The weight of natural stone is typically much heavier than manufactured stone and usually requires heavier machinery to install. Depending on the access to your project site, manufactured stone may be the easier route.

Installation:

The installation methods can be very similar for both natural and man-made stone. Real and manufactured stone should both be installed by professionals. While each has their own unique challenges in weight and maneuvering, utilizing the skills of a professional is worth the investment.  By hiring a professional, you will make sure your outdoor living space is everything you want it to be, and that it stays perfect for many years.

Cost:

The price of manufactured stone installed is usually less than the cost of natural stone installed. This is not a clear cut rule however, as there are many options available. When looking at patio options, for example, many premium man-made stones cost just as much as natural stone. When working with a designer, ask for information on a few different types of material, so you know the different options and price points.

Durability:

While natural stone tends to be more durable, manufactured stone is closing the gap quickly. With improved production methods and materials, questions about the lifespan of cast stone are becoming an afterthought. You may still get what you pay for, with cheaper cast stone being less durable or fading in color, but well-manufactured stone from a reliable source has the potential to be nearly indistinguishable from the real thing.

Examples of Man-Made Stone used in Ted Lare, Landscape Designs 

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Which one should you choose?:

There are a lot of stone options to choose from when looking at a new project. Often it just depends on the look and feel you want for your space, while considering the overall price of the project. Typically, natural stone is going to give you a more timeless look, using materials that will never go out of style. Limestone pathways for example have been installed for hundreds of years, and continue to look great. Man-made stone gives you the option to replicate the timeless look of natural limestone or bluestone. However, it also gives you the option to break away from the mold, and do something different and new.

If you need help, get in touch with our design office and we can pair you up with one of our talented designers. We offer a great selection of both natural and man-made stone and have some personal favorites we can show you as well.

Case Study: See photographs of natural stone, used in one of our landscape design projects to create organically shaped pathways

Examples of Natural Stone used in Ted Lare, Landscape Designs 

Case Study: Wondering how they look in combination with each other? See one of our design projects that harmoniously uses a mix of both natural, and manufactured stone

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Landscape Design Trends: Seat Walls & Columns

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Seating is about inviting people to feel at home and relaxed, and this trend is all about making it easier to relax outdoors.

While extra chairs can eat up space and distract from the aesthetic of your outdoor space, a seating wall incorporates comfort and entertainment into your backyard. Often seating walls provide overflow seating for larger backyard gatherings, in addition to furniture.

“Smart people that like good health spend several hours outdoors daily in the shade of trees.“
– Steven Magee

Retaining Walls, Upgraded:

Retaining walls are an important structural “cornerstone” to landscape design. In the process of landscaping your space, a change of grade or natural slope can be elegantly contained with a visually pleasing barrier. Retaining walls are elegant solutions to practical layout problems in your yard.

A seating wall upgrades the utilitarian retaining wall to do even more. Not only functional and beautiful, people can sit on it comfortably as well. Suddenly, late nights spent with family and friends outdoors gets an intuitive upgrade. Hosting a larger gathering becomes easier, and nobody has to worry about finding a place to sit with this subtle design solution. Your retaining wall now has a stylish and practical purpose, and you’ll find your backyard will quickly become the go-to place for gatherings.

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How-To:

When you’re looking to build a seating wall, the first thing to focus on is comfort. You’ll want the wall to be easily accessible, so your wall should be a comfortable height and have a wide capstone. With a wall that is about 18” high and a cap at least 12” wide and stable, the rest of the wall is flexible to whatever you imagine!

Construction methods vary depending on the material chosen. Some seating walls may require a concrete footing to frost depth, while others may only require a compacted gravel base of nine inches.

Freestanding and Functional:

Seating walls aren’t restricted to retaining walls, and can have so many practical functions paired with stunning aesthetic. Circular seating walls can invite people inside to enjoy a roaring fire, or invite people to picnic on flat capstones.

Dressing Up the Design:

The beauty of these seating walls is that they don’t need to be purely functional and can be dressed up with containers of flowers, or dressed down with timber or stonework. Whatever your choice of design, elegant stone wall features are a classic way to add depth and shape to the landscape of your yard, introducing practical ways to enjoy your outdoor space more.

Peruse our portfolio of landscape design projects, organized by category and design material, and start envisioning your new backyard escape

Stone Columns:

Stone columns can be both beautiful and structural, depending on how they are incorporated into the design. Often, stone columns are used to add one more level of detail in a pergola, or covered patio design, by wrapping the timber pos in stone. The use of stone upgrades the overall ‘look and feel’ of the space, and compliments the other stone elements of the design such as a patio or fireplace.Stone columns can also be used as stand-alone elements in the landscape, used to frame a view or just add an interesting vertical element in the design. Whether you’re thinking about installing a seating wall for your home, or looking into adding columns into your yard for visual interest, our landscape designers can advise you on the best practical and creative solutions for your yard. Get in touch with our design office, and start talking through design ideas and options for your backyard escape.