The Pros and Cons of Brick vs. Faux Stone

As a homebuyer, you want the best quality materials for your home’s exterior. Of course, we all want to make a great impression! But beyond the aesthetics or curb appeal that we see from the street, your exterior cladding also needs to protect your family and your investment for the long term. As such an important part of the home, doesn’t it make sense to pick a high performance exterior? Today, we’re here to help you sort through the multitude of exterior options – in particular the growing category of artificial or faux stone.

When exploring the world of exterior cladding the choice can be overwhelming. Faux (or artificial) stone is a growing category that delivers the ‘look of’ brick or stone and (because it’s manufactured) comes in a wide variety of shapes, profiles, colors and styles. Beyond the broad selection, this relatively new cladding seems to be gaining popularity also because it’s touted as quick and easy to install.  But as the phrase goes, you can’t have it both ways: with artificial stone you get the aesthetics (sort of), but not the performance of real masonry. Our research tells us that these faux cladding products haven’t been proven over the long term and may even leave your investment open to serious damage.

Let’s go over some of the factors that cause artificial stone to fall short of real masonry. The most prevalent issue is improper installation. If installers don’t get it right and create a perfect seal, water gets behind the cladding material. When water seeps behind the adhered faux stone, it can cause structural damage to your home and moisture-related health problems for your family.

Damage caused by installation errors applies to the full range of faux stone cladding products (be it polyurethane or concrete-based). According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (IACHI), “There have been reports of serious foundation rotting due to improperly installed veneers in homes less than two years old.”  You can read more about these findings here. In fairness, all exterior products are engineered to perform well; however, if a type of cladding is so prone to installation problems it’s a choice you may want to steer clear of.

Other issues with artificial stone cladding can definitely lead to disappointment and frustration. Discoloration is common from walkway safety salt and harsh chemicals like pool chlorine – and even sunlight fades the color from faux stone over time. Artificial stone also requires maintenance, repairs and cleaning – a regular, time consuming chore that real masonry walls rarely, if ever, require. Plus, a damaged panel or section is difficult to repair if you consider that the waterproofing must also be thoroughly re-checked.

Further to the everyday wear and tear that affects the aesthetic performance of faux siding, we need to consider the energy performance of exterior cladding. Generally speaking, artificial stone cladding provides far less thermal protection than real masonry walls. Artificial stone, regardless of what material it is made from, simply lacks sufficient mass to provide a thermal barrier between the outside climate and your home.

In terms of durability and protection from the elements, nothing outperforms real brick exteriors. Even in the harshest climates, brick lasts for generations and requires virtually no maintenance over a lifetime. Brick is so durable, it can be reused on another building decades later. An environmental group in Europe is taking advantage of brick’s longevity and saving resources in the process; their project is dedicated to reusing bricks for new buildings. You can learn more about their fantastic project here!

At this point you might be asking “but, what about the price?” – surely something as durable as brick must be far more expensive than an artificial replica. We’re happy to tell you that brick is not only affordable, but actually less expensive per square foot than faux or artificial stone. Here are some price comparisons in major cities:

Listed pricing is for 2,266 sq. ft. of exterior wall space for a 2-story home including product and typical installation and is based on data by RSMeans | The Gordian Group, Installed Cost of Residential Siding, Comparative Study; 2017.

The pros for brick don’t stop here. You can actually enjoy savings over time by choosing brick. Your replacement, maintenance and cleaning costs are virtually zero over the lifetime of your home. Plus, brick provides an excellent thermal barrier which means everyday savings on energy costs. You’ll also enjoy lower insurance premiums because brick exteriors offer better storm and fire protection. And when you sell, your masonry home will command on average a 6% higher resale price* compared to homes with synthetic cladding.

With brick you really can have the best of both worlds – great aesthetics and performance, at an affordable price. With dozens of colors and styles to choose from, General Shale brick offers you the design choice you want. Why not visit your local dealer or check out our Brick Ideas Brochure to get started?