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Why Thin Masonry Veneers Are Surging in Popularity

Since the 1950s, manufactured stone has been a lightweight alternative to natural stone. It is particularly popular with wood frame walls where building codes often stipulate that natural stone cladding requires more wall support, footings, and expansion joints.

Over the years, manufacturers have solved a number of problems present in early versions of manufactured stone, particularly its sometimes inauthentic look and texture. Manufacturing innovation in finishes and installation methods has generated an uptick in face and size options.

Although the actual material costs of manufactured stone and natural stone veneers run neck and neck, manufactured ends up being the most cost-effective. It weighs only a third of natural stone, which saves on shipping, lifting and installation. It is also a more economical and environmentally sound option in areas without natural quarries.

While natural stone is confined to the palette that Mother Nature has presented, manufactured stone products are available in almost limitless colors and textures.

Market Conditions Driving Popularity

Manufactured masonry thin veneer usage is on the rise. According to a study by business consulting firm Principia Partners entitled Masonry Veneer 2012, the North American market for general masonry veneer in residential and commercial applications reached more than 160 million square feet valued at nearly $700 million in 2010. The firm maintains that the residential market for masonry veneer will continue to be a primary driver of new growth.

According to the study, masonry veneer including manufactured stone, thin veneer stone, thin brick, and masonry panels, simulates stone or brick appearance at an installed cost of 50 to 60 percent that of full-dimensional masonry — a figure made even higher with the shortage of skilled masons to install full-dimensional masonry.

Property owners are increasingly using masonry veneer products because they are significantly more affordable than natural stone and full-dimensional brick. According to our extensive research, property owners continue to seek products that are aesthetically pleasing, offer a wide range of design options in color, form, and texture, and can be easily installed. Ken Jacobson, partner at Principia Partners

Design Applications

Thin veneers have wide range of applications in settings from residential single-family homes to multistory commercial buildings and multifamily construction. They are used extensively not only in façades and foundation facings but in many interior settings as well, creating striking effects.

Archways, entrance pillars, courtyards as well as accent walls, alcoves, stairwells, chimneys, mantels, and fire pits are all popular candidates for thin veneer installations. Further, thin veneer can be an effective solution in both new construction and renovations, and can be fabricated to replicate a natural or specified material.


Considered a premium aesthetic as both a full application or as an accent, manufactured thin veneer is widely used in interior settings, as the 1-inch depth of a typical unit leaves more space than the full 4-inch profile.

Accenting one part of a wall in a living or dining room can add visual interest and high drama at a relatively low cost.

  • In the kitchen, stone veneer backsplashes, islands, walls, and entry arches can enhance the appearance of the room, adding a rustic feel, or emphasizing a natural aesthetic.
  • Fireplace upgrades, changing or reinforcing the design sensibility of the space-a rugged surface around the fireplace, for example, may add warmth and texture to a modern room.
  • Door and window surrounds, transitional walls & arches can bring the dramatic richness and warmth of natural stone without the drawbacks.


Manufactured thin veneer can be used to striking effect in both complete coverage or as an accent to the exterior of a structure, with a combination of different surfaces and textures adding interest and depth. Appropriately colored and textured units can help the structure blend in to its natural surroundings, be they marked by stone outcroppings or deep woods or other types of landscape.

Simple or multidimensional designs for outdoor living can also be created with a combination of thin veneer products. Popular trends include:

  • Built-in seating
  • Water and fire features
  • Outdoor kitchens
  • Outdoor living settings
  • Wrap columns
  • Erosion control
  • Seat walls and raised gardens
  • Multidimensional poolscapes and patios.

Manufactured Stone is Here to Stay

Manufactured stone has come a long way since its humble beginnings. It is now more aesthetically pleasing than ever and more economical and versatile than natural stone. Be sure you’re up to date on all the latest innovations in this exciting, growing market.

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