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Style Set in Stone
Published: 09/21/2013

Part of our unique Northwest style, informal and organic is the use of natural materials that accentuate the beauty of the region and reflect our environment.

Back in the day – and that day was a long time ago - when a contractor or a homeowner wanted to use "river" rock, which is really beach rock, the only indigenous rock around, he took a wheelbarrow to the beach several times and picked what he needed to complete whatever design he had in mind on whatever surface. That practice is no longer allowed; we are now admonished to take nothing off the beach.

Alternatively, contractors buy rock from quarries in Montana and elsewhere, granite from the Midwest, or they might suggest Cultured Stone, a faux product used for fireplaces, retaining walls and chimneys. There are all kinds of uses for stone, both authentic and faux: counter tops, pavers, fireplace surrounds and chimneys, deck features, small installations inside or out. "Even though we no longer raid our beaches for perfect rocks, we can find quarried rock that works just as well and looks great," said John Nelson of Coaster Construction. "We buy stone from a man who's been in the business for years, Don Olmstead from The Dalles, whose business is Nature's Edge Masonry. He owns a quarry in Montana and can supply us with what we need. We recently completed a house in Cannon Beach that has a uniquely designed fireplace surround and chimney, all done in stone. Don and the homeowner collaborated on the design and came up with a work of art that is functional and whimsical at the same time."

Among all manufactured stone on the market, Cultured Stone most resembles the real thing. That's because each mold used to produce Cultured Stone is painstakingly crafted from actual rocks to give you the look and feel of what Mother Nature intended. They have an unmatched variety of colors and textures providing countless ways to create custom looks

The faux product is about a fourth the price of the real thing, so it might be a satisfactory substitute. "The difference in price between real and faux is primarily in the labor costs. Real stone is heavy, requiring structural underpinning and preparation. Faux stone is much easier to handle. Also, real stone lasts forever where as faux stone can fade and exterior installations can fail over time."

If you decide to include stone in your remodel or new construction, consider all the alternatives before making a choice because it will likely last longer than anything else in the house. - By Valerie Ryan

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