Artificial stone: pros and cons

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Natural stone has long become the personification of strength and durability for us. This natural material has been used in construction for thousands of years, and we still have the opportunity to touch here and there the masonry made at the dawn of our era. Natural stone is diverse and beautiful, its qualities are time-tested, and houses built today using stone will serve our grandchildren and great-grandchildren. So was it worth looking for an alternative to the stone, because, as you know, people do not look for good from good. However, natural stone still has some drawbacks, which was the reason for the creation of an artificial analogue, more convenient to use..

Artificial stone production

Artificial stone: how it all began

So, back in the 19th century, the artificial stone “Coad” appeared, which immediately fell in love with the builders. Still would! After all, it was much easier to transport tiles made of durable concrete that were relatively light compared to natural stone, or even to make them on site, than to carry the stone from afar. But the natural stone also had to be mined. To make the Coad stone, concrete was poured into special rectangular shapes made of cast iron or wood. The success of the world’s first artificial stone determined the further development of this direction in the production of building materials and architecture. Following the Coad came the Victoria Stone. For its production, crushed granite and Portland cement have already been used. This material has already imitated the cut of natural stone.

The production technology has also changed somewhat. Now the molds, filled with a mixture of cement and stone chips, were placed in the sand for two weeks. This made them stable and made it possible to achieve a clear geometry and high-quality solidification of the material. Since then, the technology for the production of artificial stone, of course, has undergone some changes, has become more perfect, allowing you to get a greater variety of textures, structures and colors, but its essence has remained the same.

Artificial stone: how everything is happening now

Today, sand, Portland cement, polyester resins, crumbs of various types of stone and mineral dyes are used for the production of artificial stone. An artificial stone based on gypsum is also produced. As you can see, this material is quite natural in composition – there are no synthetic components in it, due to which it does not have a negative effect on humans and the environment..

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The prepared composition is poured into special forms that exactly repeat the texture of the natural breed. After that, the molds are placed on vibrating tables, where the mixture is shaken, compacted, gets rid of air bubbles and voids – this is the so-called vibrocasting method. When using the method of vibrocompression, the mixture in the molds is subjected to vibration under high pressure, which makes it possible to achieve a high density of the finished material. Then the stone blanks go through several stages of drying. First, as a rule, they are placed directly in the molds in special heat chambers, then they are dried in other ovens already without molds and, finally, they are finally dried after quality control until reaching the tempering strength. So, in general terms, the production of artificial stone is carried out.

Different manufacturers can certainly make certain changes to this technology. For example, some types of stone are not heat treated. The color technology of artificial stone can also vary significantly. To paint only the surface of the tile is not the best option, over time the paint will peel off, and the stone will lose its visual appeal, and due to chips, the artificial origin of the material will be striking. High-quality artificial stone is painted using double or even triple technology. In the first case, the dye is introduced into the composition, poured into the mold, and the surface of the finished tile is also painted to give it a certain shade. The triple dyeing technology also provides for the application of dye to the molds before filling them.

Artificial stone: applications

Today, artificial stone can be found everywhere, if you look closely, of course. And if you know that buildings are most often faced today not with natural, but with artificial stone. Or they are not completely revetted, but only decorated. And fences decorated with artificial stone can also be seen quite often.

Artificial stone in the interior

In general, this material is widely used in landscape design. In interior decoration, it also found its application not only as a facing material for walls and floors, but also for the manufacture of decorative elements and even interior items: countertops, bar counters, window sills, columns, baths – this is the main list of where in the interior premises use artificial stone.

Types of artificial stone

Such extensive possibilities of using artificial stone are due to its external variety and characteristics. Today there are a huge number of types of artificial stone imitating a variety of natural stone types: granite, malachite, jasper, onyx, marble, etc. However, in general, all types of artificial stone can be divided into three large groups, depending on the composition, appearance and field of application:

  • porcelain stoneware
  • agglomerates
  • concrete based stone
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Porcelain stoneware

It is produced by vibrocompression under high pressure and subsequent firing. The composition of porcelain stoneware contains:

  • two or more types of clay
  • feldspar
  • mineral supplements
  • coloring pigments

Porcelain stoneware looks more like ceramic or even glass rather than stone. It is an extremely durable material resistant to various influences and temperature changes. The only thing that can have a negative effect on porcelain stoneware tiles is hydrofluoric acid, as it can react with glass.

Porcelain stoneware tiles

At the same time, porcelain stoneware is difficult to process and cannot be restored. Therefore, it is used, as a rule, for flooring, less often for wall cladding. The texture of porcelain stoneware tiles can be very different: glossy, matte, polished, glazed, embossed, have anti-slip notches. Floors and steps made with porcelain stoneware are capable of withstanding severe loads and pressures reaching 200 kg / cm2.

Agglomerates

Or conglomerates are a fairly large group. These are materials in which polyester resin is used as a binder and various fillers – quartz sand, crushed marble, limestone, granite or other rocks, as well as coloring pigments. Artificial stone made in this way has a great external variety, it can imitate such rocks as malachite, onyx, lapis lazuli, jasper, as well as various types of granite, slate, marble. Agglomerates have good bending and compressive strength, as well as serious frost resistance – up to 50 cycles. But the resistance to abrasion and ultraviolet radiation in anglomerates is slightly lower than that of natural stone. In addition, acidic liquids can stain the material that can only be removed by sanding. Finally, you should know that it is undesirable to use anglomerates for underfloor heating, since the polyester resin included in their composition tends to deform when heated..

Agglomerates or conglomerates

The strength of the agglomerates depends on the filler. Those materials, which contain quartzite, are practically not inferior in strength to porcelain stoneware. The area of ​​application of agglomerates is quite extensive – these are finished products: bathtubs, countertops, and cladding, and decorative trim elements. There are also conglomerates on the market intended for the floor. They are based on stone chips, and cement is used as a binder. The material obtained from these components by vibration compaction is stronger than natural stone and is successfully used for cladding floors, walls and even building facades, as well as for finishing stairs, stages, swimming pools and bathrooms..

Concrete-based artificial stone

The most common type of this finishing material. Its composition is as follows: ordinary or Portland cement, sand, various fillers (pumice, ceramic chips, expanded clay, etc.), plasticizers, reinforcing additives, hydrophobic substances and coloring pigments. This material can be used for both exterior and interior decoration of buildings..

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Artificial stone is an extremely diverse material, not only in terms of appearance and scope, but also in terms of its characteristics. Different types of artificial stone have different parameters. But there are also advantages and disadvantages common to all types of this material..

The advantages of artificial stone include:

  • less weight
  • ease of processing
  • ease of transportation

Facing made of artificial stone does not require, as a rule, strengthening the bearing surface. It is attached to cement mortar or special glue. Another significant advantage of artificial stone is that various defects on its surface – cracks and chips – can be eliminated in most cases without problems. Facing and artificial stone products do not require any special maintenance during operation. True, sometimes it may be necessary to treat the stone surface with water-repellent compounds. The expediency of this depends on the type of artificial stone and the conditions for its use. The convenience of artificial stone is due not only to the fact that this material is easy to process, but also to the presence on the market of tiles of various shapes, designed for decorating window and door openings, corners and pediments. The artificial stone contains no combustible substances, therefore this material is absolutely reliable from the point of view of fire safety.

Concrete-based artificial stone

It remains only to talk about some of the disadvantages of such a finishing material as artificial stone. In general, it is difficult to name the disadvantages of artificial stone and disadvantages. It is only inferior to natural stone in some parameters. Artificial stone is less durable and resistant to abrasion. As already indicated, some of its types are less resistant to temperature effects, the influence of ultraviolet radiation and various acids. Certain types of artificial stone are also susceptible to moisture, so they require treatment with special hydrophobic agents..

On the modern Russian market of building materials, there are a large number of both domestic and foreign manufacturers of artificial stone. The choice of this material is enormous. Any private developer, representative of a construction company, architect or designer will find a suitable option for themselves in accordance with their goals. Of course, if you are going to build a house with the expectation that its walls will stand in a few centuries, it is probably better to choose natural stone. But if your plans include building a house for yourself and your children, then an artificial stone for decorating it can be a very good choice. Most likely, even your grandchildren will find this finish in a very good condition..

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