The Art of Hardscaping: Unveiling the Benefits of Polymeric Sand

polymeric sand

The Art of Hardscaping: Unveiling the Benefits of Polymeric Sand

Fill the Gaps with Polymeric Sand

Polymeric sand is to hardscaping what grout is to stone veneer. It fills the gaps between each stone, adding an attractive, durable border that protects the structural integrity of the mosaic.

Polymeric sand is what it sounds like: grains of sand mixed with polymers that bond together once mixed with water. While it is not the only type of material used for filling joints – standard fine sweeping sand is still more widely used by installers – it offers advantages that make its modestly higher price point worth it. 

Stop Weeds and Ants

Among them, joints filled with polymeric sand can stay intact for up to a decade. Unlike standard sand fill, they are resilient in the face of heavy rains, winds and freeze-thaw cycles, and can’t easily be picked apart by ants.

Patios and walkways sealed with polymeric sand are also less likely to suffer weed outbreaks. Because the grains are bonded tightly together like cement, vegetation can’t push through like they can with loose fill and seeds won’t have cracks to seep through. Once weeds get established, they can spread rapidly and become tough to control.

 “Every spring I would go out thinking I could knock the weeds out in one day, and then you realize just how many joints there are. And I’d say wow, I did not anticipate this being as hard as it is,” Instone Video Producer Ken Czechanski recalled of his old patio, which did not use polymeric sand. “It’s long and arduous to sit there on your knees scraping them out.”

Additional Benefits

In a recent episode of InBuilding Design, Czechanski welcomed the crew to his Chicago area backyard to chronicle the replacement of his cement paver patio with one made of Aura Natural Landscapes natural stone pavers. Another benefit he’s noticed to using polymeric sand is its ability to protect the base of the patio. As seen in the episode, his old patio had multiple loose pavers that presented a trip hazard and pooled water during storms. Just as potholes form when water freezes and melts beneath the roadway, excess water seeping through your joints in the winter can chip away at a patio’s stability. Czechanski immediately noticed that the polymeric sand was helping control stormwater more effectively.

“When it rains, as soon as it stops, you can see the stones begin drying immediately,” he said. “Polymeric sand is protecting the base and preventing the stones from shifting.”

Polymeric sand is available in a variety of color blends, giving contractors plenty of options to fulfill the desired look of the project. Czechanski considered three colors that could serve as an accent to his Aura Sandy Point granite stones – a gray, a tan, and a brown.

“We ended up going with the brown because it provided a nice contrast to the stones, which were lighter like the beach,” he said. “It also helped to highlight the pattern, which had brown speckles in it.”

Installing Polymeric Sand

Filling joints with polymeric sand is simple. As seen in the clip above, the first step is to pour the sand onto the patio and use a broom to sweep it into the gaps. Excess sand is carefully swept off the patio to ensure it won’t bond to the stone face later.

Once the joints are properly filled, the installers wet the patio down with a garden hose on a shower setting – strong enough to rinse off any residue, but light enough that it won’t blast out the sand. The water activates the polymeric sand and makes it bond together.

Try out Color Combinations

You can use the Instone Visualizer to help select a stone and polymeric sand combination that’s right for your project. The online tool enables you to upload photos of a property and instantly simulate what it would look like with Instone’s full range of products.

Although Instone doesn’t carry polymeric sand, the Visualizer does model several colors to give users a sense of how it would look with various stone types. Customers may purchase polymeric sand through their dealer or browse product choices at a local home improvement store.

From Patios to Pools: The Secret To Choosing The Right Stone

Aura Blue Sandstone
Aura Blue Sandstone

From Patios to Pools: The Secret To Choosing The Right Stone

When it comes to hardscaping choices, applications matter. A property owner may have their heart set on a stone color or finish, but there are times when the available options would be a poor match for the project.

“For a front walkway, you want something that complements the house and front steps, since it’s a focal point,” Instone Vice President of Natural Stone Products Justin Alicandro said. “For a patio, the homeowner can go with whatever they like best because you don’t typically have limitations. But for a pool, you are limited. It’s not as simple as picking a color you like and going with it.”

Alicandro offered some key guidelines that buyers and installers should keep in mind when choosing the right natural stone for their projects.

Budget First

A good first step for any project is for property owners to assemble as much information about the job site and their goals as possible to get the most accurate estimate. If installing a patio, they should measure the space, take pictures of the construction area, and provide it to the dealer. A professional can spot details like undulations in the turf that will require extra grading that impacts the cost.

With that done, the client will be better equipped to select a product that fits into their overall budget. Instone carries the largest selection of natural stone in the country, from fine, hard-to-find products available at the highest price point to similar-looking alternatives that cost much less. Alicandro estimates that there can be a 30 percent difference between the most and least expensive natural stone products. With patio projects often topping 1,000 square feet, the material choice can significantly affect the bottom line.

Pool Decking

When it comes to surrounding a pool, buyers should think with their feet. Since these areas will be enjoyed with no shoes on, it’s best to avoid finishes that are rough to the touch and stone types that will generate too much heat. Stones with natural finishes can be abrasive, become stubbing and trip hazards, and trigger accidents with children. It’s also best to avoid dark stones that attract the sun – think of the difference between walking on black asphalt and a white sidewalk in the summer. Light color stones like travertine and quartzite are beautiful and more practical.

Alicandro said homeowners often splurge on elaborate pools with top-of-the-line mechanical infrastructure but talk themselves into saving money by using concrete stamp decking. He urges them to resist the temptation to skimp at the end of the project.

“If you’ve already spent $150,000 on pool construction, spend the extra 10 percent or so and go with what you love, and that’s natural stone,” he said. “At the end of the day, this is what your family, friends and neighbors are going to see.”

Finishes

Customers should consider the pluses and minuses of the available stone finishes for their specific project.

Natural Cleft: Many would argue that natural cleft is the most beautiful, natural-looking finish on the market. That doesn’t mean it’s the right choice. For those living in cold northern climates, the bumpy, tough surface can make it difficult to shovel snow when used as a walkway stone. It is also rough on the feet as pool decking and its unevenness can cause furniture to wobble as a patio stone.

Honed Finish: A high percentage of stones with honed finishes are used for pool decking since it’s comfortable to walk on. Stone with honed finishes are sensitive to exposure to snow salts, though, so they are not advisable for walkways. Since patios aren’t used often in the winter, these finishes can be a sensible choice.

Thermal Finish: The most popular finish of all, thermal has a natural, textured look and feel. It is practical in just about any application – it can be salted, it’s easy to clean, and has the fewest number of drawbacks.

Stairs Treads and Sills

Natural stone stair treads are typically placed on top of a veneer, so it should either complement or contrast well with the other material. Although buyers should consider how the stairs will be used when selecting a finish (e.g., will people walk it barefoot, will it need to be shoveled), the selection is less about the physical and more about what looks right with the stone or veneer used for its base.

The choice considerations are similar for natural stone windowsills. For example, Alicandro said a popular trend of late has been to go bold with a black sill over a gray veneer. Sills are all the same basic size and shape, he noted, so the choice is largely one of aesthetic preference.

Outdoor Kitchens, Fireplaces and Firepits

Choosing the right stone for outdoor kitchen, fireplace and firepit areas is similar to selecting stone for sills. Since these heated gathering places all typically sit on top of patios, the stone styles should complement one another. If an outdoor kitchen is added to an existing patio, veneers should be selected that work well with it. If they’re all being installed at the same time, the color choices should be coordinated in advance.

Careful consideration should be given to the stone used for an outdoor kitchen’s countertop, though. It is possible for oils and wines to stain stone, so a dark color is the safest bet. But if a lighter stone is desired, Alicandro recommends going with thermal and leathered finishes. The thermal treatment will give it a textured feel, while the leathering adds an antique look that makes it harder to stain.

Getting Started

Homeowners can consult their local stone dealer or supplier for recommendations on materials and top local installers. Dealers will have a list of businesses who they’ve worked with and received positive reviews from their customers. Contact Instone today to learn about dealers in your area or visit Instone’s Aura Natural Landscapes page for catalogs and videos featuring our wide variety of natural stone products. 

For more help with your dream exterior home project, visit our blog on the do’s and don’ts of planning a backyard makeover. 

Exterior Home Design Trends for 2024: Stone Edition

Exterior Home Design Trends for 2024: Stone Edition

Dark Is In For Exterior House Colors

Not all choices in life are black and white, but when it comes to stone veneer color choices, they increasingly are. As we gaze into the crystal ball of stone exterior home trends for 2024, Instone Northeast Territory Sales Manager Mike Kornele predicts that we can expect to see more veneers where black takes the leads, complemented by white or light gray highlights.

“It seems like over the last couple of years, everything has been trending to that more modern look – squared off, smooth facing, contemporary finish. Darker colors are definitely in,” he said.

While the timeless grays and earthtone veneers that sell well every year continue to hold their ground, the allure of dark stones is on the rise.  Homeowners looking to make their indoor and outdoor spaces stand out are opting for those bold alternatives. Kornele points to Pangaea Natural Stone’s Black Rundle and Cambrian color Ledgestones and Castlestones as prime examples and hot sellers.

Pangaea® Natural Stone Black Rundle
Pangaea® Natural Stone Black Rundle
Pangaea® Natural Stone Cambrian Ledgestone
Pangaea® Natural Stone Cambrian Ledgestone
Pangaea® Natural Stone Cambrian Fieldstone
Pangaea® Natural Stone Cambrian Fieldstone
Pangaea® Natural Stone Cambrian Fieldstone
Pangaea® Natural Stone Cambrian Fieldstone

In the world of manufactured stone veneers (MSV), Kornele envisions a continued embrace of stones that offer an “in and out” look to them – those with depth and interesting textures that draw the eye. With the market now offering an array of MSV colors and finishes, customer preferences have moved away from the flat planes that once dominated the industry.

However, it’s important to note that exterior home color trends can vary by region. Kornele observes that the modern veneer trend is thriving along the East Coast, while new inland areas are leaning towards stones that blend seamlessly with Colonial and farmhouse-style architecture.

The Color Palette for Outdoor Pavers and Hardscaping 

When it comes to outdoor pavers and hardscaping, shades of gray and blue have consistently dominated year in and year out, according to Instone Vice President of Natural Stone Products Justin Alicandro. Instone boasts one of the widest selections of blues and grays in the country, thanks to Aura Natural Landscapes, ensuring there’s a color to suit every design vibe.

For those leaning towards a darker tone, Blue Mist granite is a top contender. If you prefer a lighter touch, check out the Blue Ice Natural, Blue Ice Thermal, Imported Gray, or Silver Ridge granites. Alicandro notes that Misty Blue Marble and Silver Travertine are in high demand for pool pavers.

However, Alicandro has noticed a surge in stones for pool areas that are pure white or close to it, like Arctic Cloud marble. This white marble is loved for its subtle grey veins that flow through each stone. “This is extremely popular for pools because it stays cool, and the sandblast finish provides texture for a non-slip patio,” he said.

Alicandro also expects earth tones Oxford Buff, a light tan/cream-colored stone, to maintain its strong momentum from last year. Customers view it as a more durable, attractive, and budget-friendly alternative to Midwest limestones, he said.

Another intriguing trend Alicandro has seen is the use of natural stone accents to complement manufactured hardscaping materials. For example, contractors are pairing natural stone pool coping with concrete pavers; natural stone stair treads with concrete retaining walls; and natural stone widestock to cap concrete walls. This trend is gaining traction as natural stone pieces can be larger, providing a more appealing look. For example, concrete coping is typically produced only 18 inches long, while natural stone sections can extend up to 4 feet.

“It’s less jointing for the capping. It’s a more attractive look and a trend that’s happening more and more each year,” he said.

Outdoor Kitchen Popularity Is Surging
Stone Veneer Adds The Distinctive Touch

For masonry professionals, get ready to shift your gears when it comes to veneer installations on outdoor kitchens. Modular outdoor kitchen materials, like those offered by Isokern Fireplaces & Chimneys, have significantly reduced installation time and complexity, making projects that were once the domain of only wealthy homeowners attainable for a broader audience. But homeowners are cladding these outdoor kitchens in stone veneer to give these modular structures a distinctive style.

“It seems now more and more Mrs. Smith wants a kitchen that’s going to be more unique than Mrs. Jones’s kitchen, so they’re getting into a lot more veneer work,” Kornele said. “Everybody is always going to be doing their water tables, foundations, entryways, stoops, and things like that, but outdoor kitchens are definitely on the rise. That’s a market that’s going to be pretty solid for the next couple of years.”

Isokern Fireplace
Pangaea Ledgestone

Of course, the right veneer style is just one part of the equation – homeowners also need to select pavers that harmonize with them. Kornele suggests most people prefer a healthy contrast in stones so that they stand out without being overly flashy

“When you’re choosing your colors, you want things that are going to complement each other, but you don’t want things that are exact, because you don’t want to step back from your project and see a blob of one color,” Kornele said. “You want the colors to stand out and be distinct, but you don’t want them to battle each other.”It’s a decision driven by personal preference, but it can be made simple by Instone’s Visualizer. The tool allows users to create instant digital overlays showing how stone products would look on photos of their home or property

“It is a very efficient tool,” Alicandro said. “In the old days, you had to get physical samples of stones and put them next to each other to see how they’d look together. Now you can look at multiple combinations in a matter of minutes.”

Choosing Manufactured Stone Veneer: A Quick Guide to Colors, Factors, and Brands

Echo Ridge Country Ledgestone
Cultured Stone Veneer

Choosing Manufactured Stone Veneer: A Quick Guide to Colors, Factors, and Brands

The Mason’s Pallet

Just as every artist has their palette of paints, every mason has their pallet of stones. 

No decision in an indoor or outdoor stone veneer project makes an artistic statement like the choice of material colors. Materials like stone have the power to set a tone, make a bold first impression, and pay tribute to the personality of a homeowner.

Manufactured stone veneer (MSV) aka stone siding provides masonry professionals a full spectrum of color options. While natural stone is colored through ancient geologic processes that are beyond human control, there’s an artistry to the creation of MSV that allows for personalization in both shape and shade depending on demand.

Cultured Stone Aspen Country Ledgestone
Cultured Stone Aspen Country Ledgestone

Unmatched Color Schemes

Cultured Stone, the first-ever MSV manufacturer and industry leader,, offers over 75 stone colors in two dozen textures and styles. They are also the producers of various brick veneer profiles and colors, including Tenley Brick, hailed by Azure Magazine as “structural as well as decorative … and [introducing] a contemporary spin to old-world character.” Dutch Quality Stone, on the other hand, is available in 36 colors and is a great cost-conscious alternative produced by Westlake Royal Stone Solutions, Cultured Stone’s parent company.

These collections pay meticulous attention to detail and boast an extensive range of colors. Incorporating a stone profile that harmonizes with your exterior color palette or compliments the interior with an accent wall is a great way to elevate the look and feel of a space. This is precisely why they stand as the preferred selection for architects, masons, and discerning homeowners alike.

Cultured Stone’s color palettes are inspired by nature and align with the latest design trends and styles, ensuring its array of veneer ensures its veneer colors look vivid and compelling. Iron oxide pigments are applied by hand to each mold before the concrete and aggregate mix is poured, ensuring the color seeps thoroughly into the stone’s face and all the way around its edges.

“The coloring line is the most detailed and sought-after job in the plant,” Joe Marxkors, Sales Area Manager at Westlake Royal Stone Solutions said in an episode of Instone’s “InBuilding Design” exploring the benefits of MSV. “It takes 10-15 years to get there. You could have up to 10 different colors on one stone.”

As a result that craftsmanship, Cultured Stone has created some of the most realistic looking manufactured stone on the market. Marxkors sometimes carries a briefcase with a block of natural stone and a similar MSV version and challenges viewers to guess which one is real. Even the most seasoned masonry professionals often get it wrong.

“Cultured Stone the brand looks like the most natural stone product in the industry,” Instone CEO Kevin Grotke observes in this discussion on the differences between natural stone and MSV. “They are the founder and leader of the industry. They go to a great extent to capture the texture and the coloring of the stone.”

Manufactured Stone Veneer Color Considerations

Several factors may determine the veneer color a mason chooses for a home. Its appearance must complement the overall home design, enhance its curb appeal, and harmonize with the surrounding environment. Here are some key factors that masons tell us influence their color choices: 

  • Architectural style plays a significant role in color selection. A traditional or rustic-style home may benefit from earthy tones like brown, beige or gray, while a modern or contemporary-style home will look sleek with vibrant colors like black, white, or shades of blue.
  • Existing exterior elements such as the colors of the roof, siding and trim should be taken into account to create a cohesive and balanced appearance.
  • Surrounding landscapes are often considered to ensure the home blends with its environment. For example, a material like Cultured Stone’s white Fossil Reef Coral Stone is a natural pick for a home in a coastal community, while the rugged and earthy Bucks County Dressed Fieldstone is a great match for a home on a wooded property.
  • Neighborhood character should also be taken into account. Whether to use a veneer that blends with the surrounding homes or a bold color that makes it stand out from the crowd is an important design choice.
  • The climate and natural lighting in the area are factors to consider. In regions with intense sunlight, lighter colors may be preferred to reflect heat and keep energy costs down. 
  • Last but not least, homeowner preferences are of course crucial in the decision-making process. Masonry professionals should guide their clients’ choices to ensure they fulfill the vision for their home.
Stone Veneer Buyer's Guide: Colors, Factors, Brands: Dutch Quality Tuscan Ridge
Dutch Quality Elkwood Tuscan Ridge

CULTURED STONE TOP 5 COLORS OF 2023

FLIP CARDS TO REVEAL COLORS

Echo Ridge Dressed Fieldstone

Grays with blues and browns

Bucks County European Castle Stone

Cream with Brown & Red Features

Chardonnay Alpine Pro-Fit

Khaki with Charcoal & Reds

Gray Southern Ledgestone

Varying Gray Shades

Aspen Dressed Fieldstone

Dark Beige with Brown & Gray Highlights

DUTCH QUALITY TOP 5 COLORS OF 2023

FLIP CARDS TO REVEAL COLORS

Prestige Weather Ledge

Prestige

Cream with a mix of greys and orange

Winter point

Winter Point

Light gray with darker tones

Elkwood

Blend of grays and ruddy colors

Sienna

Reddish-brown with gray features

Quail Grey

Mid-tone gray with dark and lighter elements

Stone Siding Home Exterior Color Trends

Even with the endless variety of MSV colors available, there are a few timeless styles that are always in demand. MSV is made to mimic the appearance of natural stone, so veneers that have gray or beige bases like granites, limestones andsandstones maintain their appeal over the years, even as design trends change. The top five regionally-based est-selling Cultured Stone and Dutch Quality veneer colors of 2023 are a reflection of that.

Your Trusted Stone Supplier for Manufactured Stone Veneer

Instone carries manufactured stone and brick veneer brands in hundreds of color options for both interior and exterior home renovation projects. Contact our team today to discuss the perfect material, color and finish for your project today.

Natural Stone vs. Concrete Pavers: The Ultimate Patio Material Showdown

Aura Patio design
Aura Patio design

Natural Stone vs. Concrete Pavers: The Ultimate Patio Material Showdown

So you’re weighing the pros and cons of natural stone vs. concrete pavers for your patio. As you move ahead with your research, allow us to share a few data points for consideration.

  • The Parthenon was built in 447 with marble.
  • Stonehenge was built around 2,500 BC with bluestone and sarsen (a sandstone).
  • The Sphinx was built around 2,500 BC of limestone.
natural stone examples
The Parthenon; Stonehenge; The Sphinx

These breathtaking structures, still standing strong after thousands of years, were all made of natural stone – some of the same varieties of stone we use for patios, pool decks, and walkways. Look at pictures of these wonders. The stone radiates atmosphere, history, and mystery. Can a concrete stamp do the same?

“When you have natural stone, you have a story behind it,” Instone Territory Sales Manager for New England Jake Alicandro said in a recent episode of InBuilding Design.

“You have a stone that’s coming from the earth, that’s been here thousands of years, vs. a paver that’s manufactured, that’s only a few months old or so.”

Don’t Oversimplify Patio Paver Cost

Too often, the choice of natural or artificial hardscaping comes down to cost  and the notion that concrete products will save you money. Sometimes that’s not even true. There are manufactured pavers that cost more than natural products, so buyers should compare the specific products they’re considering. 

Overall, the gap between the initial costs of concrete pavers and natural stone pavers like those produced by Aura Natural Landscapes have been narrowing. But when comparing prices, it’s important to factor in the costs of upkeep and the expected life of the product. The greater durability of natural stone can save money in the long run on repairs, maintenance, and the need to replace materials vs. concrete pavers, which are prone to suffer chipping, cracks and deterioration. 

And then there are the intangibles. Getting beyond the initial material purchase, here are a few reasons why purchasing natural stone products is money better spent.

Natural Stone Pavers Retain Their Natural Beauty

aura oxford buff sandstone patio
Aura Oxford Buff Sandstone

Mother Nature is a talented designer. Natural stone is full of the speckles, swirls, tints and other details that give each piece its own unique character. There’s a reason why many manufactured stone varieties are created to look as much like natural stone as possible.

“The great part of natural stone is the creativity you see within it,” Alicandro said. “You have stones that have a lot of movement in them, and there are stones that are very uniform and linear. The possibilities are endless when it comes to natural stone.”

You can amplify those qualities by laying out your stones in irregular patterns. Irregular pavers are pieces of stone that are not uniform in shape and size, like squares or rectangles, but can be arranged together to create attractive mosaics that call other patterns in nature to mind. Aura Natural Landscapes irregular pavers come in consistent cuts designed to fit together like a puzzle, making them 10 times faster to install than other irregular flagging products.

Aura irregular pattern patio
Aura Silver Ridge Irregular Pattern

Eliminate the Vulnerability of Concrete Pavers

Manufactured pavers have come a long way, but even the best of them can’t match the shelf life of natural stone. They are far stronger structurally.

According to the American Society for Testing and Materials (ASTM), an independent organization that develops standards for construction materials, typical granites can withstand 16,000-25,000 pounds per square inch (PSI) of pressure; sandstones upwards of 15,000 PSI; and limestones in the range of 8,000 PSI. The regular concrete used for projects like patios and sidewalks support in the neighborhood of 2,500 PSI.

Even if your stones or concrete won’t be used for a project that will bear the brunt of heavy weights on a regular basis, the elements will deal plenty of abuse over time. The harsh freeze-thaw cycles of the Northeast and the extreme heat waves of the South expand and contract your material, causing a gradual degradation. Concrete pavers are more vulnerable to these swings. .

The fresh appearance of concrete pavers also won’t hold up like a high-quality natural stone. Concrete paver colors are made with pigments and dyes that eventually fade from exposure to sun and the elements, while standard white concrete tends to stain. Take a look at the sidewalks and curbs around your town – are they pretty to look at? And while trends in paver colors and patterns come and go, a classic natural stone never goes out of style.

Aura commercial paver project
Aura Italian Bluestone Sandstone

 The Eco-Friendly Choice

The concrete manufacturing process is energy intensive and can rely on chemicals, rocks, cement, and other ingredients being shipped from far and wide. The Natural Stone Institute notes, “From an overall sustainability perspective, natural stone has a lower environmental footprint than precast concrete. This is due to the minimal resources used to quarry, fabricate, finish, and transport natural stone. … Every step in the precast concrete manufacturing process requires the use of a lot of energy, which contributes to their total global warming potential.”

No environmental harm comes from the disposal of stone. In fact, the waste materials from quarrying and preparing natural stone flagging can be recycled for a range of uses, including gravel, artificial reefs, the foundations of construction sites, the bedding beneath patios, and even as ingredients of concrete.

For these reasons, using natural stone can help a project earn points to attain a U.S. Green Building Council Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design (LEED) certification.

See the patio where Aura sandy point pavers replaced concrete pavers
Aura Sandy Point

Go Natural

To learn more about the possibilities for a property you own or are working on with natural stone products, visit our Aura Natural Landscapes page . There you can browse its online catalog of granites, sandstones, marbles and other natural stone varieties in a range of colors and patterns, all competitively priced. You can also count on Aura’s design services team to collaborate with your architects, consultants, and other professionals through each project phase.

Contact Instone today to get the conversation started!

3 Superior Building Materials for Luxury Home Construction and Renovations

Pangaea Fieldstone House
Pangaea Fieldstone House

3 Superior Building Materials for Luxury Home Construction and Renovations

High Quality Stonework Transforms Homes

From cellar to ceiling, from front yard to fence line, nothing can transform a home quite like high-quality stone work. Natural stone products have the power to set the atmosphere of a room, boost curb appeal, and make a property feel like a personal vacation getaway. 

When it comes to high-end residential building projects, choosing the right products can make all the difference. Luxury building products possess distinct characteristics that set them apart from standard materials. The allure of exquisite craftsmanship, superior quality, innovative features, customization options, and the ability to fulfill client expectations drives builders to seek out these materials.

Aura Silver Ridge granite patio
Aura Silver Ridge Granite

Instone carries a trifecta of natural stone brands that experts consider as best-in-class for veneer, hardscaping, and fireplaces: Pangaea Natural Stone, Aura Natural Landscapes, and Isokern Fireplaces & Chimneys. Used in combination, the trio works together seamlessly to make residential building projects and luxury home renovations beautiful on the inside and out.

By using luxury building products in their projects, builders can create remarkable structures that exemplify sophistication, durability, and unparalleled beauty.

Using low-quality materials can have the opposite effect. In an episode of our InBuilding Design series covering the differences between natural and manufactured stone products, Instone President Kevin Grotke observed that lesser-quality artificial stones look “obvious” and can cheapen the look of a home.

“Sometimes we’ll call it ‘Chiclets’ when you see an entire stone painted red, and then brown, and then orange – it just looks fake,” Grotke said. “I think the unfortunate thing is, a lot of people don’t know what they’re putting on their home, and it’s permanent.”

Chiclets’ example

Ultimately, the highest-quality materials elevate the overall construction experience and deliver exceptional results that leave a lasting impression on both builders and their clients. Their innovative design, factory preparation, and packaging also allow builders and contractors to complete jobs faster, saving homeowners money in the process.

Below we explore why Pangaea, Aura, and Isokern are an ideal triple play for custom home construction and renovations. 

More Than A Pretty Face

Pangaea Natural Stone Veneer

Pangaea Natural Stone veneer stands apart from its peers on the strength of its quality and innovative features. 

  • Stones are available in seven unique patterns and styles, each with multiple color options, providing plenty of possibilities to suit any living space. 
  • Pangaea’s pallet layers come pre-arranged in an optimal blend of stone colors and sizes so they’re ready for immediate installation. Each pallet of Pangaea stones comes pre-cut, tooled, trimmed, and fitted, simplifying the installation process and ensuring greater quality control. 
  • Additionally, each stone is pre-scored with grooves to ensure secure, long-term adhesion to any surface. 
Pangaea designed living room
Pangaea Fieldstone Westcoast

Handpicked Stone & Personal Attention

Aura Natural Landscapes

Unmatched quality, consistent availability, and superior stone fabrication services, that’s Aura Natural Landscapes. Customers and masonry professionals alike consider Aura a premier partner from sourcing to completion.

Aura’s extensive network offers access to the top stone products from quarries around the globe, whether for patios, steps, poolside pavers, pebble edging, walkways, or other hardscaping improvements. 

  • Aura offers a deep catalog of granites, sandstones, marbles, and other natural stone varieties in colors ranging from classic speckled grays to ruddy earth tones, all competitively priced.
  •  A project’s design professionals can also count on Aura’s design services team to help unlock their creative ability by collaborating closely with architects, consultants, and others through each project phase.
Aura misty blue granite patio
Aura Misty Blue Marble Blue Mist Granite

Superior Warmth & Selection

Isokern Fireplaces

Isokern manufactures high-end modular fireplaces made from pumice (volcanic rock), the most energy-efficient material on earth.

  • The Icelandic pumice used in Isokern components has remarkable refractive properties that distribute heat back into a room. This sets it apart from site-built concrete, metal, and masonry fireplaces. 
  • Modular Isokern fireplaces are not only quick to install, often taking less than a day, but are also more cost-effective compared to traditional masonry fireplaces. 
  • Isokern includes options for wood-burning and gas, vented and vent-free fireplaces. This makes them suitable for both indoor and outdoor use. Isokern offers a complete line of fireplaces and complementary products, including firebrick, fireplace stone, flues, and Isoset mortar.
Isokern Magnum series
Isokern Magnum Series

The Allure of Luxury Building Products

Luxury building products hold a distinct appeal in the construction trades. Builders who are dedicated to creating exceptional and high-end structures understand the importance of selecting materials that will help them exude that quality. Here are some of the top attributes Instone’s masonry and installation partners say they look for in their products. 

Exquisite Craftsmanship: Builders seek out materials that display exceptional attention to detail and meticulous artistry. Whether ornate moldings, intricate metalwork, or finely crafted custom cabinetry, these elements showcase the dedication and expertise of skilled artisans. 

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Superior Quality and Durability: Builders prioritize materials that are designed to stand the test of time, ensuring that structures maintain their appearance for years to come. From top-of-the-line veneer for a façade to flagging that can endure harsh freeze-thaw cycles, natural stone products offer unparalleled strength and resilience. 

Eco-Friendliness: Homebuyers and developers are factoring sustainability into purchasing decisions with more prominence than ever. Builders are responding by expanding their use of environmentally friendly materials and seeking out manufacturers that go the extra mile to reduce their carbon footprints.

Pangaea is recognized internationally as a trailblazer for the steps taken to make its operations and products more sustainable. Among them are its recycling of waste materials and water, renewable energy use, and specially designed packing crates to thwart the spread of invasive pests. 

Isokern uses all natural pumice the natural insulator and reclaims the pumice out of vast lava fields. In addition all of the products are recyclable, exceed EPA standards and help reduce greenhouse particles.

Unique and Customizable Options: Builders are drawn to luxury building products that allow for personalization, ensuring that the finished structure stands out as a one-of-a-kind masterpiece. From custom-designed tiles or irregular flagging, the ability to tailor these products to the project’s specific requirements allows builders to create a truly exceptional and personalized space for their clients.

Prestige and Client Expectations: Luxury materials evoke a sense of prestige and exclusivity, reflecting the status and lifestyle that clients desire. These products help builders fulfill their clients’ aspirations and create an atmosphere of opulence and refinement. 

Explore Our Luxury Look Book Here

Elevate Your Work

Pangaea Natural Stone, Aura Natural Landscapes, and Isokern Fireplaces and Chimneys present a winning combination for upscale home projects.  

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Precut Irregular Flagging Shakes Up The Industry

Precut Irregular Flagging Shakes Up The Industry

Aura Natural Landscapes revolutionary new product wows installers and homeowners

This seasons’ most sought-after product for backyard patios bring a rustic, natural look that standard backyard pavers can’t beat. Thanks to consistent cuts, and stone pavers that fit together like pieces of a puzzle, irregular flagging is in high demand. Irregular flagging is showing up in backyard patios, walkways, and poolside hardscaping. 

Installers commonly assume that irregular flagging projects take more time and money than standard ones. This is because the stones used have different thicknesses and shapes. However, Aura Natural Landscapes is turning this notion on its head by producing precut, consistent stones. They are 10 times faster to install than other irregular flagging products. . 

Irregular flagging, sometimes called irregular pavers, are flat pieces of stone that are not uniform in shape and size. Arranged together, they create attractive mosaics that can call other patterns in nature to mind, like the turtle shell or rocks scattered along a brook. Irregular stones are often also spread apart as stepping stones. They can form a paver walkway on surfaces like grass lawns, gravel paths, or mulch bedding.

 

Paver walkway ideas - Aura Natural Landscapes Irregular Flagging

Eliminate Joint Pains in Paver Installations

 

Instones VP of Natural Stone Products

“Irregular flagging is most attractive when masons can work the stone and create consistent joints throughout the whole patio or surface,” Instone’s Vice President of Natural Stone Products Justin Alicandro said. He noted that many irregular flagging applications aren’t completed this way, though, due to the cost of installation. With most products on the market, achieving consistent joints requires the mason to shape each stone so it fits smoothly next to the other irregular shapes. This is a process that can be laborious and lead to waste. 

“Just in a 2-foot stretch of one joint, you’ll see some installers go from 3 inches to a half-inch wide,” Alicandro said. “They just shape it quickly and throw it down, even though it looks sloppy.” 

Aura’s irregular flagging solves this issue thanks to its signature precut, repeating pattern of seven stones that fit easily together. The eye sees an irregular pattern, but for the installer, it’s a no-hassle job. 

 

Aura Natural Landscapes Irregular Pattern

Consistent Thickness Reduces Time and Waste

Another challenge with installing the majority of irregular flagging products is their varying thickness. Most are extremely inconsistent in thickness which creates installation issues. This forces the mason to either shape or cut the stone to a routine width in order to lay the pavers. Or, they need to  add/remove subbase material beneath every stone to ensure they don’t bulge or dip.

Aura eliminated the need for that work by producing its irregular flagging stones at a consistent 1.5” thickness. Installers can simply screed the sub-base and start laying stones one after another. Installing Aura irregular pavers proceeds at a pace no different than regular pavers. 

“With most install jobs, the cost is 70 percent labor and 30 percent material,” Alicandro said. “Because Aura is precut and the thickness is gauged, it saves a tremendous amount of labor.”

Landscape designer Cysilia Schaub chose Aura irregular flagging when she needed hardscaping materials for an extensive lakefront backyard project. The job called for materials that accentuated the property’s natural environment and were durable enough to withstand heavy foot traffic and could be delivered and installed on a tight deadline.

“The way this product came – precut, premeasured in each pallet to fit the pattern, the material was gauged, thermaled on the top, the joints were perfect – the installation was really quick,” Schaub said.

Versatile for Outdoor Living Designs

Aura has two attractive colors of standard stock irregular stones available for a quick order: Blue Mist and Silver Ridge granite. For projects with lead times greater than about four months, Aura can make just about any other color in its stone catalog available for order, Alicandro said.

The stones can be cut easily with a regular masonry saw to fit them against a house, steps, or other structures. Instone’s in-house fabrication and design service is available to assist with any special cuts needed for your project. Coordinating treads, coping and widestock are also available for a cohesive outdoor space. 

Irregular flagging projects have been especially hot in markets like the Midwest and northern New England, where people tend to have larger properties that can showcase the sizable stones. Although they are commonly used in projects 1,000 square feet and larger, Alicandro said it ultimately comes down to the taste and vision of the property owner.

To learn more about the possibilities for a property you own or are working on with irregular pattern products, visit our Aura Natural Landscapes page.

Backyard Makeovers: What You Must Know Before Planning a Backyard Project for Summer

Backyard Makeovers: What You Must Know Before Planning a Backyard Project for Summer

The Do’s & Don’ts Of Planning a Backyard Makeover

Dreaming of summer already? Even though the weather outside may be too chilly for dining al fresco or a dip in the pool, the winter is actually the perfect time to start planning your backyard makeover projects. We recently interviewed Paul Saladino, owner of Stone Creations of Long Island, who shared his dos and don’ts to make sure that your project goes as smoothly as those summer days you’re day dreaming about while the snow falls. Whether building a pool, patio, fireplace, outdoor kitchen or the full works, Saldino will set you on the right path to completing your build in time for outdoor fun and entertaining with family and friends. 

DO Have Inspiration

Saladino says the first question he always asks his customers is, “what inspired you to do this project?” Is it something you saw on social media, something at a neighbor’s house?” “Years ago, everyone got their ideas from catalogs. Now it’s all social media,” says Saladino. “Once they tell me the idea for what they want, I can start a design and work in the different elements.”

If you don’t have an inspiration yet, there is a wealth of content online, from Pinterest to Instagram, to get ideas for your backyard stone project. You can even check out our very own Pinterest page for some more backyard makeover inspiration.

Still have a creative block and need some help getting started and inspired? Our good friends at Tilly Design can hold your hand through the design process.

DO Build in Phases

Creating a backyard oasis sounds like a dream come true. But it’s a big project and investment. Saladino suggests setting the expectation of doing your backyard amenities in phases. “You don’t want to go and spend a quarter of a million dollars and get yourself deep in debt. Phase it out. Start with a pool, then a patio the following year,” he says.

Check out our Guide to Building a Backyard Oasis for design and material inspiration for for pools, patios and outdoor kitchens to more extravagant pavilions and beyond. 

DO Plan Ahead

Saladino says one of the most frustrating things he experiences as a builder is when a customer comes to him with a request for pool in May, expecting the project to be installed in two weeks. Contractors book jobs far in advance, and summer is their busiest time of year. If you want a pool in time for summer entertaining, the winter is the ideal time to get started planning. “I always say two seasons out. Give yourself six months to get your inspiration together, get the permits, get the contract done, check the liabilities and insurance of the people doing the work, then book them,” he says.

DO Make The Time 

There’s no set amount of time a job will take. It depends on the project’s complexity and also making allowance for bad weather days when the project needs to be paused. Saladino says to expect about two weeks for each phase.

Natural stone pavers and stone veneer are the star of this backyard makeover.

DO Your Research

A must is to check out the company that is doing the work and make sure you get along with them. Check references, check licenses and check insurance. Saladino says to ask to see their paperwork, don’t just take their word for it. “Some guys are like, ‘yeah, yeah I got it,’ real nasty about it when asked for papers. These are not people you want to work with. Tell them you want to see it. Any licensed contractor would be more than happy to show their papers.”

A liability contract is important with coverage of a million or two. Also, make sure every worker on site is covered under the company’s workman’s comp. “You want to know they’re not just picking up workers on the corner,” says Saladino. And check that the state attorney licenses your contractor.

Most importantly, get everything in writing. “You want to have the contract, the warranty and go over every single detail,” Saladino says.

DON’T Go with The Lowest Bid

Backyard makeover build projects can run from affordable to luxurious. The cost depends on the size of the project, the materials you use, the labor, and the job’s complexity. Saladino says whatever you do, don’t try to save money. “You’ll get prices that are on the high end and the low end. Try to stay in the middle. Never go with the lowest bid and try to save money. Those contractors will try to skimp on the materials they use and cut corners. Skip a few dinners, save your money and get it done right,” he advises.

He adds to also plan for a little extra in case something comes up that will increase the cost of the project. “If a contractor gives you an estimate, add 10% just in case. If you don’t spend it, great. “You don’t want to get halfway through a job and run out of money. Put a little extra in the cookie jar.”

DON’T Disappear During the Job

When you have builders doing work on your property, it’s your responsibility to check the work daily and ensure the work is going according to your plan. “Don’t go on vacation with the idea that when you come back, you’ll have a pool,” says Saladino. All the decision makers in the household should also be looking at the job daily to make sure it’s what was agreed upon by all. Revisiting any work will cost you more money, time, and aggravation.  

DON’T Be Afraid To Ask Questions 

Saladino says you shouldn’t be afraid to ask questions before or during a build. “Check progress daily to ensure everything is going as planned. Sometimes they miss things and you’ll want to catch any mistakes right away. Morning meets are often the best time to connect with your contractor. “


Checklist for Homeowners When Planning an Outdoor Project

Get Inspiration 

Pinterest is a wonderful platform to explore for outdoor project inspiration. Search for terms like these to explore boards and starting pinning your favorites……..

  • Patios
  • Outdoor living
  • Stone veneer
  • Pavers  

There are many online sources to help you create a vision or plan for your backyard oasis. Here are a few from Instone: 

  1. 6 Places Your Outdoor Design Needs Stone Fabrication and What’s Possible
  2. Use Aura Natural Stone To Turn An Ordinary Backyward Into An Oasis
  3. Summer is the Perfect Time for a Pizza Party with the ISO’ven

Make sure your backyard makeover ideas and materials are appropriate and available for your area. Instone can assist you and your contractor/builder with locating a dealer in your area. Contact us here. 

Plan Ahead 

  • Start planning your backyard makeover project in winter to break ground in spring/summer.
  • Plan for larger projects in phases and anticipate two weeks for each phase of work.
  • Check that you have the space to accommodate your project(s).
  • Find out what building permits are needed.
  • Review bids and consider the quote that comes in the middle, never go with the lowest bid to save money. 
  • Check out the license and insurance of the company you want to work with.

During The Build

  1. Make sure you have the money to pay in full when the build starts and anticipate that the cost can go up as the project moves along.
  2. Put it on your schedule to be home during construction.
  3. Review the work daily to maintain good communication with your builder and to ensure there are no mistakes that would cost you more money and delay the project.
Backyard makeover that mix and matches natural stone for a wonderful result.

Terms To Know Before Starting A Backyard Makeover

Stone Samples – Ask your local dealer for stone samples to pair with other finishes and colors and to perform your own tests. Place the samples in different areas in the stone installation area to see how it changes in various lighting and with different conditions (i.e. when wet, dry). 

Square Footage – Learn how to calculate the area for your stone project to set realistic estimations and a budget before you meet with your contractor. The calculation at its basics is length multiplied by width, but this can get a little tricky if the space is not perfectly rectangular or square. This means there may be times where you need to get approximate square footages instead. There are other variables as well of where you may need to subtract from the area like if there was going to be a firepit, water feature or flower beds in that area. This work will help save time and effort on everyone’s part. It will also help you to determine if that material you fell in love with is a fit for your project. 

Stone Fabrication – Seeing, understanding and approving of your backyard design before it is sent to a fabrication shop is key to ensuring that your project meets your expectations. You may also learn more about the wide-variety of finishes, edge profiles (split face, eased edge, bevel), and the cuts that can bring your project to life and in line with your vision.

The Instone Team - Here To Help With Backyard Makeovers

When Instone’s Fabrication and Design teams receive a plan (or drawing) set of a full backyard design, takeoff and stone schedule, they then provide an estimate to your local stone distributor. Once the quote is approved, the shop drawing process begins for each stone. It includes the type of stone, dimensions, finish and fabrication work such as edging and placement according to the stone schedule. Instone works closely with local distributors, landscape designers and contractors to ensure the shop drawing is perfectly constructed and accommodates the needs of their projects. 

Technical data – Instone will give your contractor the technical data including the stone’s stocking sizes and country of origin, as well as mechanical properties such as density, water absorption, and rupture compression strength. This information is helpful so you can have a conversation with your contractor when they reference the materials you select for the backyard makeover project. For example, will the stone you use around your pool be slip resistant and suitable for a salt water or chlorine? Will the stone be warm or cool on bare feet? What are the care and maintenance considerations? These are all good questions to ask when sourcing your project materials. 


If you have questions or need assistance sourcing material or a dealer in your area, contact Instone today. Start planning in the winter months for a fun-filled summer in your new outdoor space. 

Guide to the Home’s Hottest Natural Stone Colors for 2023

Guide to the Home’s Hottest Natural Stone Colors for 2023

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The start of a new year is the ideal time to gather inspiration for those exciting outdoor living spaces and home exterior upgrades. In recent years, homeowners have claimed more outdoor space than ever before, transforming neglected square footage into thriving year-round outdoor spaces for entertaining and dining. Many homeowners also boosted their curb appeal and property value with easy exterior stone siding. But let us not forget those interior updates as well, where stone fireplaces and feature walls can make all the difference in your home’s wow factor. Make a resolution to update your home, inside and out, in 2023 with Instone’s hottest stone colors and styles on the market.

So what’s trending in stone colors and style? To find out, we spoke with Justin Alicandro, Instone’s VP of natural stone products, who shared the most popular stones from the Midwest to the East Coast.

Blues and Grays Dominate

Beautiful blue and gray tones and tints have been extremely popular along the East Coast for years. The demand has almost outpaced the availability, which is why Alicandro brought Aura’s Blue Mist Granite to Instone. It quickly became a best-selling product. The timeless elegance of the bluestone wash mixed with the grainy grays of granite makes this stone pleasing to the eye. The blue tones pair nicely with homes with a cooler color palette. Alicandro says the blue and gray colors will continue to dominate along the East Coast for years to come.

Looking to go with blues and grays for your home’s exterior siding or outdoor renovation project? Here are some complementary stone veneer colors, styles and brands available through Instone:

Make Way for the Buffs

Look out blues, there’s a new color in town! Alicandro says buff tones are gaining traction as a popular look for landscaping, with Aura’s Phoenician Buff leading the charge. 

This stone features pale speckles and veins of gray and pink mixed with beige-buff coloring to create beautiful texture and movement with a gentle warmth.

Another buff stone is Aura’s Oxford Buff Sandstone, which Alicandro says is relatively new, but quickly gaining popularity. “It’s really catching the eye of homeowners,” he says. The taupe beige sandstone is speckled with darker tones of black and brown for a classic neutral that will go with warm color palettes.

When planning your project in buff tones, here are some complementary colors, styles and brands available at Instone:

Lighter Colors Are In

Lighten up! At least in your backyard space. That’s what Alicandro says is trending at the moment. “I see the lighter colors coming on strong. We have some travertines that are ideal for these palettes.”

Silver Travertine has become in high-demand for pool stone, says Alicandro. “It’s popular because it’s light, and doesn’t get as hot in the summer, so people won’t burn their feet on it.”

As for granites in lighter colors, Alicandro recommends Silver Ridge Granite. “This is really a nice, light granite with a lot of character and movement throughout. It’s very unique,” he says, adding that the product is exclusive to Instone and recommends placing orders this winter for those spring and summer patio and pool projects.

Alicandro says Gray Granite is in the same color range as Silver Ridge but without the movement. “This is a more formal-looking, light-colored granite.” Here are some complementary pairings for a light- color project palette:

Home Improvement Projects

Just fell in love with a stone color and style but not sure how to begin planning your new project? Check out our blog on creating a backyard oasis with natural stone for a little help. Some projects to consider:

  • Curb appeal – siding, entryways, driveways, walkways, steps, pavers, curbing, walls
  • Interior – fireplace surrounds, feature walls, bars, kitchen islands
  • Backyard entertainment – patios, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces, fire pits, pizza ovens
  • Water elements – pools, hot tubs, fountains

This winter, spend some time indoors planning your next home project thanks to a little inspiration from Justin and our wide variety of the hottest stone colors and styles of 2023.

Fill out the form below for access to our 2023 Color Guide!

We want to know your favorite stone color combination! Vote for one of the combos above in the comments below.

The Homeowner’s Guide to Building a Backyard Oasis With Natural Stone

The Homeowner’s Guide to Building a Backyard Oasis With Natural Stone

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Imagine stepping into your backyard and having everything you love right at your fingertips.

—a pool for cooling off, a fireplace for warming up, and an outdoor entertainment area for drinks and dinners. If you’re planning to create a backyard oasis, whether small or big, there are a few things you should keep in mind. We spoke with landscape designer Cysilia Schaub with The Concrete Service, Inc. to find out what you need to know before you start designing your backyard project.

Landscape Designer, Cysilia Schaub

What’s Your Vision for Your Backyard Oasis?

When you look out back, what do you want to see? Maybe it’s a pool for the kids and a patio dining area for you? Schaub suggests starting by living in your space for a little while to get a feel for how you might want to use it. Then make a wish list. Be sure to have all parties involved who will be using the space, such as both partners in a couple.

“If it’s just the wife doing the design, then the husband may come in and want something different. Then the designer has to do a lot of extra work going back and redoing the plan to accommodate them both, which can also push out the timeline.” Schaub says.

She suggests putting what you want in your wish list and your likes and dislikes. If you see something at a neighbor’s house or online, add it to the list to share with the designer. “That way I can make sure to start steering them in the right direction,” says Schaub.

If you need some more direction when it comes to the design process from inspiration to finalizing a design for a contractor, Tilly Design is a great resource for helping you create a custom landscape design.

Timing Is Everything

Being aware of timing is also important. Schaub says many homeowners want to start a backyard project as soon as the warm spring weather hits. But then they face the reality of waiting for materials, available contractors or the project taking longer than they imagined. She says it’s a good idea to start planning a year to six months in advance. “If you only give your contractor a couple of months to come up with the design, figure out a budget and get everything mobilized, chances are it’s not going to happen. If you want a project for next summer, start planning this summer.”

Start By Contacting a Reputable Landscape Designer or Architect

As a homeowner, it may be daunting to know whom to call to start a backyard project. A little industry insight: A landscape designer can create a backyard project based on their experience and knowledge. They may not be formally educated in the trade or have a degree in a related skill. A landscape architect may have a higher education in engineering or civil architecture. Some design-build firms are both design and install, and have a collection of landscape designers and builders who work for them and can complete a project from beginning to end. Some designers work independently to design a project and then can recommend contractors to do the work.

Schaub says finding the right people is really important. Not only are you making a major investment in your home, and you want the work to be done well, but you also have to work—and live—with these people around your home potentially for months. “You’re going to have to look at and be with them every day,” she says. “You want to trust them and get along with them.”

Be sure to take the time to research them and meet them. Look at their portfolio, understand their experience. Get a sense of how they work and their capability of handling your project so you both feel comfortable going in.

The Onsite Walk-Through to the Design

Your landscape professional will first want to do a walk-through of your property and discuss what you want to do. Keep in mind that functionality is a priority over aesthetics. Your intended use of the area must be established. Then you can make it pretty. Once the designer understands your vision, they will create a design for you to approve or ask for revisions. Schaub says it’s worth including a building contractor in the discussions to note any challenges to technical aspects of the installation and to make sure the design is within budget.

Natural Stone vs. Manufactured Stone or Concrete

Schaub notes that a big part of the budget will be determined by the cost of the materials, followed by the labor cost. When your design is getting to the final stage, your designer will likely bring you samples from a company like Instone for you to select the stone style you want. While natural stone such as Aura Natural Landscapes may be a bit more expensive than manufactured stone, Schaub recommends it because the benefits outweigh the cost. “A big benefit is the aesthetic. The color and movement of natural stone just looks so much better,” she says. “Concrete products are made to mimic natural stone and some do it well, others don’t.”

She adds that the durability of natural stone also can’t be beaten. It’s stain resistant, scratch resistant and fade resistant. It’s been on earth for millions of years and can withstand the elements. While some concrete products try to include these benefits, Schaub cautions, “By the time you’re getting into the price range of a concrete product that has all of these features, it’s pretty close to the price of natural stone. So it’s pretty easy to make that jump and just go with natural stone.”

Here are some selections of Aura Natural Landscapes:

Benefits of Using Aura Natural Landscapes

Schaub says she’s now worked with Aura Natural Landscapes for several projects. She says what she likes about it is how consistent the product is. “The colors and thickness of the stone are exactly what you’re expecting, which is really important from an install standpoint.”

She says the availability is also better than other products meaning short lead times. “It’s not uncommon to have to wait three months for materials. But with Aura, I can usually get it within a couple of weeks. And their customer service is great. I’ve had questions about how to manipulate the product, and they are quick to respond.”

What Can You Put in Your Backyard?

Some options to consider when setting up your backyard oasis include:

Features:

  • Outdoor kitchen/bar
  • Pool
  • Patio
  • Garden
  • Sitting area
  • Fireplace
  • Fire pit
  • Water feature (fountain, waterfall)

Design Style:

  • Formal
  • Informal
  • Modern/Contemporary
  • Woodland/Natural/Rustic

While it’s easy to want everything, and improving your backyard space will bring a higher return on your home’s value, it’s better to start small than go overboard. You want to make sure you’re going to use everything you put in. A simple design may also be more attractive if you want to sell your home later on to someone who will like what you’ve done rather than someone who may want to rip out an overdone backyard. And remember, the more complex the project, the longer the installation will take.

Other Considerations for Your Backyard Oasis

Schaub says you also want to consider what is already in your backyard. Is there a view you want to take advantage of? Are there slopes that need to be accommodated with steps and proper water drainage? Are there mature trees with large roots? Your designer will help you work around challenges and take advantage of the natural beauty of your property.

Also, note what permits you may need to do building work. These can range from county soil and erosion permits, building permits and permits if your property is on an inland lake or stream. Check your local township and state requirements for what’s needed. In addition, check what setbacks you have to follow for your particular property. Your landscape designer should be able to help you find out what permits you need for your specific design.

So if you’re thinking about a backyard makeover, the time to start planning is now. Make your wish list and contact us for samples of Aura Natural Landscaping products!