Cast stone is one of the most popular building materials out there. Renowned for its versatility, strength, and resemblance to natural stone, it’s been used in everything from shopping centres and office blocks to the balconies of Buckingham Palace.
With over 50 years of experience, Mexboro is one of the UK’s premier manufacturers of cast stone pieces. Read our guide below to discover all you need to know about this unique building material.
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What is Cast Stone?
Cast stone is a type of precast concrete designed to replicate the appearance and texture of natural stone. It’s a dense, durable, and strong material that can be moulded into various shapes and sizes.
Cast stone has been used as a building material for centuries, with a history that can be traced back to ancient civilisations. The earliest known examples of cast stone were found in the ruins of ancient Rome and Greece. French masons developed a new method of creating cast stone in the 12th century, which advanced into the form we know today during the 19th century’s Gothic Revival.
What is Cast Stone Used For?
Cast stone is a common component in thousands of different build projects, both architectural and decorative. Some of the many things it can be used for include:
Cast stone is also used for a variety of other landscaping features, such as fountains, planters, and statues.
What Are the Benefits of Cast Stone?
Cast stone has several advantages over natural stone, including:
Cast stone can be made to look almost indistinguishable from natural stone, at only a fraction of the price. It can also be coloured to match the surrounding architecture.
Cast stone can withstand harsh weather conditions, including extreme temperatures, UV rays, and moisture. It is also resistant to chipping, cracking, and fading, which makes it an ideal material for outdoor use.
Cast stone requires minimal maintenance, and it can be easily cleaned with soap and water. It does not require repainting, reducing its long-term maintenance costs.
Cast stone is produced in a controlled environment, which gives it consistency in colour, texture, and quality.
What Is Cast Stone Made From?
Unlike natural stone, which is sourced from mines or quarries, cast stone is made by mixing a combination of different materials. The exact composition of the mixture may vary depending on the manufacturer and the intended use of the cast stone.
The fine aggregates used in cast stone can include crushed limestone, sand, and other materials, which give the cast stone its texture and colour. Pigments are often added to the mixture to give the cast stone its desired colour.
Cement is used as the binding agent to hold the mixture together, while water is added to facilitate the mixing and casting process. Admixtures may also be added to improve the workability, setting time, or other properties of the mixture.
Once the mixture has been prepared, it’s cast into moulds to create the desired shape and size of the cast stone. The moulds may be made of various materials such as rubber, fibreglass, or metal, depending on the complexity of the design.
After casting, the cast stone is cured in a controlled environment to guarantee proper hardening and strength development. Once cured, the cast stone may be finished by sanding, polishing, or other techniques to achieve the desired texture.6
Is Cast Stone the Same as Concrete?
Cast stone is a type of precast concrete material, but it’s not the same as regular concrete. While both cast stone and concrete are made from a mixture of cement, aggregates, water, and additives, cast stone typically contains finer aggregates than regular concrete, which gives it a smoother and more consistent appearance. It also doesn’t contain any bugholes or air voids.
Cast stone is designed to mimic the appearance of natural stone, with a texture and colour that resembles the type of stone it’s intended to imitate. Standard concrete, on the other hand, is plainer and more utilitarian. This is why cast stone is more commonly used for decorative purposes than concrete is.
Is Cast Stone Expensive?
Not at all – in fact, cast stone is one of the most cost-effective alternatives to natural stone you can buy. It looks incredibly similar to natural stone, often resembling it so closely that it’s hard to tell them apart, but is significantly more affordable piece for piece. This makes it the perfect choice for many ornamental and architectural uses.
What Is the Lifespan of Cast Stone?
Cast stone can last a century or more, depending on how it’s manufactured, what form it’s in, and the elements it’s exposed to.
Cast stone is a robust material that’s resistant to damage from moisture, freezing and thawing cycles, and other environmental factors that can cause natural stone to deteriorate over time. It’s also resistant to fire, pests, and other hazards that can affect other building materials.
With proper care and maintenance, cast stone can retain its beautiful appearance and functionality for many decades to come.
Does Cast Stone Crack?
When manufactured and installed properly, cast stone is very unlikely to crack. Its durable composition makes it resistant to the weather and general wear and tear, so it’s rare for it to get damaged enough to crack or chip.
With that said, cracks aren’t unheard of. Cracking can occur due to a variety of factors, including exposure to freeze-thaw cycles, excessive stress, or inadequate curing time during manufacturing.
Columns and porticos are particularly vulnerable to weathering due to their exposed nature. However, the good news is that they can be restored to a like-new state as long as the damage isn’t too severe.
At Mexboro, our expert craftsmen can use precise methodology and colour-matched materials to bring columns back to their former glory. They take great care to make sure the end result is nearly indistinguishable from the day the columns were first constructed. Get in touch to learn more about our restoration service!
Do You Need to Seal Cast Stone?
In most cases, yes. Sealing helps protect the surface of the cast stone from damage caused by exposure to water, dirt, and other environmental elements. It can also help prevent staining and discoloration caused by exposure to certain substances.
The specific type of sealant and the frequency of application will depend on the type of cast stone and the conditions it will be exposed to. We’re happy to provide recommendations on how to properly seal your specific cast stone unit, so don’t hesitate to ask when you reach out.
Why Choose Mexboro for Your Cast Stone Products?
For over five decades, Mexboro have been one of the UK’s leading suppliers of bespoke concrete and cast stone pieces. Our cast stone products have been used by organisations as varied as English Heritage, the National Trust, the PSA, and the Ministry of Defence. We pride ourselves on creating premium pieces ideal for any project, whether commercial or residential, new build or restoration.