How to Get the Best Appearance from Your Cast Stone
Cast stone is a great material to use to add a natural, stone finish to your home, garden or when installing any other feature (whether architectural or decorative) at your property - without breaking your budget. Whether you’re opting for a traditional or modern feel, cast stone offers versatility, durability and high aesthetic value.
However, it is still important to take care when handling and installing cast stone at your property. Though it is highly regarded for its strength, cast stone can still be vulnerable to cracks and breakages if not handled or cared for properly. Since it’s likely that the predominant reason you’ve chosen to use cast stone is for its grandeur appearance, you likely won’t want this to be compromised.
Fear not, for in this article we’ll discuss some different ways you can ensure that your cast stone stays in stellar condition and looking the best it can.
Despite being renowned for its strength, cast stone is a fragile product - especially within the first year of it being cast. When cast stone is made, the curing process takes approximately two weeks (depending on the size of the cast stone), in which it is dried away from direct sunlight and winds before being put into protected storage for the curing process to finish.
Once cured, it can still take a further 90 days for it to reach full strength, though it will continue to cure and strengthen for up to a year. Because of this, it is important that you handle your cast stone with the utmost care upon receiving it and before you plan to use it.
Upon receiving your stone, it is best to keep it in its pack so that it is safe until you’re ready to use it, then only taking the pieces you need at a time. This is so that any stone that is not in use is kept protected from site contamination and accidental damage - ideally somewhere where the pieces cannot be knocked or broken.
When picking up and working with your stones, it’s important to be careful not to drag, knock or point load corner and edge pieces especially, since these are particularly vulnerable. By handling your stones carefully in these ways, they will remain in their best form, boasting their high quality performance.
Use a Matching Coloured Pointing Mortar
When using architectural cast stone and joining multiple stones together, a pointing mortar will need to be used in order to seal the gaps between their joints. In order to keep the appearance of your cast stone structure as seamless and coherent as possible, we recommend that you use a pointing mortar that matches the colour of your cast stone.
This also helps to make it look like one large piece rather than multiple smaller units, since this is how they are usually delivered in order to keep the weight of pieces more manageable to carry and to avoid the need for a mechanical lift.
Here at Shropshire Brick & Stone (UK) Ltd, we supply a pointing mortar mix that effectively matches the colour of our cast stone. This is supplied in two separate packs (one with the unique aggregate mix to achieve the desired colour, and the other with white cement) and is easily achievable to make yourself, however it’s important that you follow the instructions to ensure that the right colour and consistency is achieved.
This involves mixing four parts of the aggregate mix to one part cement. A lot less water is also required compared to a typical mortar mix; our advice is to mix the dry ingredients together first, then slowly add water in small amounts, mixing with a small finger trowel. You’ll want the consistency to just be turning into a workable, yet still fairly firm, paste. This is because the pigment will migrate if the mixture is too watery, thus making the final colour lighter than the surrounding stone - defeating the initial goal.
As such, it is best to only mix a small amount at a time for each joint, rather than mixing it all at once. For an extra clean finish, it’s best to tape either side of the joint with masking tape before adding the mortar. This will prevent any stains from getting on the surrounding stone and will make it easier to neatly trowel the mortar to a smooth, flush finish.
Cleaning Your Cast Stone
Due to its porous nature, cast stone should never be cleaned using bleach or other highly acidic ingredients, such as vinegar, since these can strip the stone and leave it in a weak state. Instead, it is best to simply use a mild detergent and hot water when cleaning your cast stone, which should remove any and most contaminants from the surface of your stone.
To remove any particularly tough stains or lichen blooms, then a pressure washer may be used. However, it is best to use this on a low pressure setting and hold the handle at a reasonable distance away, since you could damage the face of your stone or blow out any pointed joints if extreme care is not taken.
If you are adamant on pressure washing your cast stone, then it’s important that you don’t do this within its first year of installation while the stone is still going through the final stages of curing.
Adding Character to Your Cast Stone
While you may wish to leave your cast stone as it is for that classically simple and clean look, some people may choose to add some character to their cast stone by actively changing its appearance in order to achieve a more weathered appearance, for example.
If you have a cast stone item, be it a statue or a planter, and are looking to give it that weathered appearance, then there’s a simple way you can achieve this without needing to enlist the help of a professional or playing the waiting game. All you need? Yoghurt.
That’s right, regular plain, store bought yoghurt is all you need to promote the weathering of your cast stone decorative piece. Being plentiful in live bacteria, yoghurt contains the perfect bacteria's that are needed to help speed up the weathering process, which they do by encouraging these bio cultures to grow on the stone - thus activating the weathering process in a matter of days, rather than months.
All you need to do is simply take a pot of yoghurt (ensure that you buy plain or natural yoghurt, such as Greek yoghurt) and paint this onto your cast stone piece with a brush. If you are working with a larger piece of multiple pieces, then you can add some semi skimmed milk to the yoghurt for a runnier consistency, allowing it to go a bit further whilst achieving the same results. Then you just wait a few days to see the weathering process starting to take action! (It’s worth noting that this may take a little longer if your cast stone items aren’t in a shaded area).
Use a Trusted Supplier
Of course, if you want to ensure that you are receiving high quality cast stone with a finish that reflects said quality, then purchasing from a trusted supplier is essential.
By finding a supplier that specialises in cast stone, offers professional advice on how to care for your cast stone and supplies a range of both architectural cast stones and decorative cast stone products, then you can be confident that they are reliable to buy from.
Here at Shropshire Brick & Stone (UK) Ltd, we offer various cast stone products that can be made to order depending on your needs and requirements, offering a range of nine different colours that you can choose your cast stone to come in. We take pride in the appearance and quality of our cast stone, so that you can, too.
Get in Touch
From window sills to porticos, decorative features to bespoke items, we have all the supply, skills and expertise needed to meet your cast stone requirements.
If you would like to learn more about the range of cast stone products we supply and to enquire about having your exact specifications met, then get in touch with us today to arrange your free quote.