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

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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 to get you started.

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. 

Creating a Decorative Fireplace With Stone Veneer This Holiday Season

Creating a Decorative Fireplace With Stone Veneer This Holiday Season

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‘Tis the season when your home becomes the focal point for holiday gatherings. There isn’t a better centerpiece than your fireplace for making memories with family and friends. But is your fireplace looking a little drab? Give it a makeover with stone veneers.

The look of a natural stacked-stone fireplace adds charm to any space, and it’s easy to do. Thin stone veneers can be adhered around an existing fireplace made of brick or tile. The industry term is a “fireplace surround,” because that’s exactly what it does to give your fireplace a new look.

 

Installing a Thin Stone Veneer Fireplace Surround

Like the name sounds, a fireplace surround includes all the elements surrounding the firebox itself, which includes the area inserted into the wall where the fire lit. Thin stone veneers can be installed around the firebox and up to the mantel area or all the way up the ceiling to give the look of a natural stone chimney.

Cultured Stone Echo Ridge Country Ledgestone

Thin stone veneers are natural or manufactured stones usually about 1-2” thick that can be attached over an existing brick fireplace. Because thin veneers are lighter in weight, they are faster and easier to install than building a new stone fireplace, saving you time and labor costs. Not to mention not having to take on a messy demo project in your home before the holidays. Not only will you achieve the look of a full stone fireplace, you’ll have the same durability and low-maintenance care.

If you’re handy around the house, you could DIY your fireplace surround. Puzzle lovers will enjoy the process of putting the pieces together in place. If you’re unsure of your DIY skills or you’re in a time crunch to get it done before a holiday party, it will be easier and faster to contract a professional mason or contractor.

Stone Veneers for Your Fireplace Surround Makeover

Dress Up Your Stone Fireplace for the Holidays

Once you have your new stone veneer fireplace done, you’ll want to dress it up with some holiday cheer.

Cultured Stone® Chardonnay Dressed Fieldstone

Start With Greenery

A big staple for your fireplace decorating is the lush greenery. Place garland across the mantel and perhaps drape down the sides of the firebox area (be sure to keep all décor from getting too close to the fire and heat.). Within the garland, the possibilities are endless to nestle fairy lights, figurines, ornaments, fruit such as cranberries, flowers such as poinsettias, pinecones and more. Perhaps, hide an Elf or two. 

Pangaea® New England Quarry Ledgestone

Color Coordinate

Pick a color theme and coordinate your holiday décor. It could be traditional Christmas colors of red and green, more frosted wintery shades of blue, white and silver or even something offbeat such as pink. If you put up a Christmas tree, you can match your fireplace décor with your tree décor by using bauble, ornament, ribbons and candles in matching colors.

Interloc New England

Match Your Décor Style

Is your style ultra modern, vintage/retro or farmhouse? Make your holiday décor match your design style in your home, or give it a style all its own. Modern style may use sleek ornaments, metallics and high-contrasting colors, while farmhouse leans to soft neutrals or all-white with black trim. Mid-century modern has become very popular, with more of this type of décor hitting the market in playful colors of pink, teal and orange.

Once the stone veneer is set and garland is hung, all of us at Instone wish you a joyful season by the fire with loved ones. 

Ready to dress up your fireplace with stone veneer? Make your wish list and contact us for samples of Pangaea, Cultured Stone and Dutch Quality stone veneers. 

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Cottagecore Style: Bringing Nature Indoors with Stone Veneers

Cottagecore Style: Bringing Nature Indoors with Stone Veneers

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As winter moves in, if you’re looking for ideas to cozy up your home, look no further than the cottagecore trend. This lifestyle aesthetic celebrates the slow-paced, romanticized aspects of countryside living and bringing elements of nature indoors. Cottagecore began with streams of photos on social media around 2018 and really gathered steam during the pandemic for those wanting to embrace staying home and sheltering from the fast-paced, modern world. The look is now hitting the mainstream as an interior design style that provides balance from the hustle of life as we begin post-pandemic normalcy.

What is Cottagecore Interior Design Style?

Rustic, farmhouse and antique furniture, vintage collectibles, handmade items and decorative textiles, fresh and dried flowers, warm tones of aged and well-loved pieces are just a few of the elements you’ll want to incorporate to create this vibe in your home.

If it looks familiar to you, it may be because it borrows elements of other popular design trends such as shabby chic, cottage, granny, and English country. The idea is to strive for simple pleasures and comfort with a focus on nature and sustainability. A large aspect of cottagecore is using and repurposing items you already have—or have gathered from your own rural property—such as produce and flowers and handmade items. It also involves bringing in vintage or antique items, rather than those that are mass-produced, to produce a sense of calm and tranquility.

For Tara Kelly, whose blogs on The Art of Cottagemaking and Instagrams are filled with English-cottage style decorating tips, handmade how-tos, recipes and gardening inspiration, she says cottagecore is about creating a lifestyle that speaks to you, “I grew up on a small farm, so it’s about getting back to my roots and country life,”. she says. “Cottagecore embodies a slower way of living, less reliance on modern technology and appreciating the little things, as little or ordinary as they may seem. It’s about how I choose to go about living life: engrossed in nature, putting myself and my family first, and creating things that feed my soul.”

How to Use Stone Veneers for the Cottagecore Look

Adding elements of stone to your interior and exterior environment is a seamless fit for this design style to reflect nature and old-world charm. There are several ways you can use stone veneers to easily and instantly create the cottagecore look of a quaint home in the European countryside.

Add a stone feature wall: Create interest on a bare wall by using stone from top to bottom for a feature/accent wall. This wall could be anywhere in the home, from enhancing a headboard behind the bed in the bedroom, to a living room or a dining room. The look of natural stone will warm up the space with texture and color (not to mention it will look great for Instagram photos and videos or as a backdrop for Zoom meetings.) If you don’t want to commit to a full wall, stone wainscoting can also add some natural-looking texture to a space.

Do your kitchen backsplash in stone: A big part of the cottagecore lifestyle is spent in the kitchen. If you look at any cottagecore content creator’s social pages, you’ll find photo after photo of people baking pies and pouring tea. So the kitchen is the perfect place to incorporate stone into your backsplash, making you feel you’re cooking in an authentic English country kitchen.

Redo your fireplace surround with stone: If your fireplace is outdated and just not giving snuggly vibes, you can use stone veneers to basically wrap your existing fireplace and make it look like it was built with authentic stacked stone to add character and a vintage look.

Home exterior: Spice up the entryway of your home by using stone veneer for a textured, timeless look. Use it around doorways, posts and lampposts or as a wainscot siding.

Design Inspiration: Cottagecore

Need some more inspiration? Check out our mood boards:

What Stone Veneers Work Best for Cottagecore Décor?

We suggest these stone veneer options for your cottagecore home upgrade:

Pangaea – a high-quality natural stone veneer with easy installation made by a sustainably-forward-thinking company.

Cultured Stone – a manufactured stone veneer that is made with eco-friendliness in mind by using an average of 58% pre-consumer recycled content.

Dutch Quality – a manufactured stone veneer inspired by nature. It is made using art and technology for an authentic natural stone look.

Install a stone accent in your home, gather some wildflowers from the field and you, too, can be like an Instagram cottagecore influencer pouring a long, slow cup of tea before you tuck into a freshly baked pie and crack open a vintage book in front of your stone fireplace.

Ready to go cottagecore? Make your wish list and contact us for samples of Pangaea, Cultured Stone and Dutch Quality stone veneers.

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.

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!

5 Steps to Expertly Source Natural Stone: The Landscape Architects Resource

5 Steps to Expertly Source Natural Stone: The Landscape Architects Resource

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With more people spending time outdoors, backyard designs are in high demand. And so is beautiful stonework to create all the amenities for luxurious outdoor living: patios, pools, spas, outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and fire pits, as well as the hardscaping: steps, walls and walkways.

5 Steps to Expertly Source Natural Stone: The Landscape Architects Resource

Instone can provide landscape designers and architects with the stone information, samples, technical specs, shop drawings and custom stone fabrication they need to complete projects and satisfy clients.

It starts with a plan set. When that is sent to Instone, the Fabrication and Design Teams get to work to provide the support that landscape architects’ needs.

A Stone Sourcing Checklist for Landscape Professionals:

“Availability is key,” says Instone’s senior estimator, Nicole Blackburn. “We can let them know what standards we have in stock and how fast they can get it. We provide samples for their requests. We’ll also provide options based on our experience and expertise. We will let them know the time it will take to get the product and the price point so they can take it back to the homeowner to decide on what they want.”

Instone also gives landscape architects 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.

Example of the product specification Instone provides for each of its Aura stone products.

“Usually, they want to know the density of the stone, how durable it is, how it will hold up under the weather conditions and if the stones get hot underfoot. We can provide all of that information,” says Blackburn.

When the 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 a 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 their needs.

Once all parties approve the specifics, the work begins with fabrication cuts on the natural stones to prepare them for installation.

Because timing is everything with stone, Blackburn advises homeowners and landscape architects to plan ahead. “Most people want to start backyard projects as soon as winter is ending. The weather is warming up, and they want the stone quickly. They may be limited to what we have in stock, or they will have to wait if their heart is set on a particular stone, we work to get it for them.” She recommends people start their planning process before or during the winter months, so if there is some wait time, the project will be completed by the start of summer.

Instone’s Fabrication and Design Teams are here to help landscape architects and designers get what they need quickly and professionally to create beautiful outdoor living spaces for their clients.

6 Places Your Outdoor Design Needs Stone Fabrication & What’s Possible

6 Places Your Outdoor Design Needs Stone Fabrication & What’s Possible

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When creating a project with hardscaping, most of the work can be created with standard-size products. But if you want something a little more unique or specific to the project, Instone’s in-house fabrication and design teams are at your service.

Going beyond standard will give you the flexibility to create backyard patio ideas uniquely you. Feature non-standard shapes, specialty finishes or cut to size pieces in your outdoor kitchens, fire pits, pool coping, water features, wall caps and staircases.

Our design team can work with you on any project to do custom natural stone cuts and finishes for the specification of Aura® Natural Stone Landscapes products. We can also be your partner in the design of large-scale projects offering project management solutions, estimating, engineering and global sourcing of stone products for a truly turnkey solution.

Our Design Services Manager, Zach Beaulieu, shares the details on all our fabrication and design departments offer.

Introducing Instone’s Fabrication Services 

When you want something custom to match your artistic vision in stone for a residential or commercial project, or you’re inspired by something you’ve seen in-person or on-line, let Instone’s fabrication team bring your hardscaping vision to life. 

“We do custom orders,” says Beaulieu. “Instone carries standard stock sizes of Aura products, but if a client wants something a little different, we can cut it to different sizes and finishes.” There isn’t a request the team can’t handle regarding sizes, cuts, finishes, edges or shapes. “

There are certain situations where most jobsite tools just won’t be able to perform the work needed to cut and finish stones efficiently and effectively. That’s where Instone’s shop equipment and expertise comes into play. Many of the large-scale machines at the shop are stationary and require special calibration to make them operate properly and the expertise of our fabricators is an important factor in getting those nuances and details just right.

From slab countertops to custom stone finishes, Instone’s equipment and craftsmen provide you with access to the most cutting edge technology and customization to get the job done right. 

Some of the options available include:

  • Straight cuts
  • Radial (curved) cuts
  • Edge finishes 
  • Rockface
  • Bullnose
  • Half Bullnose
  • Chamfer
  • Thermal
  • Shotblast
  • Eased – 1/8, ¼, 3/8
  • Slow C
  • Leathered
  • Top finish for countertops such as a leather finish
  • Profiles: custom shapes for countertops such as L-shapes

This customization can be applied to any of the following projects:

  • Outdoor kitchens
  • Sills
  • Firepit caps
  • Spa coping
  • Stair treads and wall caps
  • Monolithic steps

Want more inspiration?

Review our portfolio of custom projects. 

Available materials: 

Introducing Instone’s Design Services 

Instone’s Design Team works on large-scale, high-end residential and commercial projects, including backyard renovations, main street businesses to college campuses. Natural stone can beautify just about any space.

According to Beaulieu, “The design team offers solutions depending on what the project entails.” That usually means working with the landscape architect on the stone aspect of the project. We can help with color recommendations and stone sourcing, fabrication, and estimating the value and engineering. We also create a stone schedule, which assigns each stone piece a code that dictates placement in the project, like a giant puzzle with instructions for assembly.”

Usually with these large-scale projects, there are a number of parties involved, including landscape designers, landscape contractors, project managers, local dealers, wholesale stone distributors and quarries where the stone is sourced. Beaulieu says they primarily deal with the landscape architect, who creates the initial design, but all parties agree on the final outcome.

The timeline of projects of this magnitude can vary from weeks to years, depending on the complexity involved and availability of the materials. Instone’s design team will work efficiently to ensure your stone products meet your needs and source the optimal material for your project and timeframe.

See our webpage for details on the options available for fabrication and design.

Explore the Wonderful World of Accent Walls

Explore the Wonderful World of Accent Walls

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Shannon Hart is the senior interior designer for Minneapolis, Minnesota-based Studio Grey. The studio specializes in creating notable commercial and residential environments using interior design, furniture, fixture and lighting specifications, and coordination of graphic design elements. Shannon shared her thoughts on the ways feature walls enhance spaces, things to keep in mind when planning them, and which Instone materials might be the perfect fit for your project. 

No one wants a 0/10 from Room Rater. When staff meetings, client presentations and practically every other aspect of our work lives life migrated to Zoom two years ago, it created a sudden demand for backdrops that looked stylish and professional. Studio Grey received its share of inquiries.

“The requests came in to add some layering, so you’re not just a floating head with a blank wall behind you,” said Shannon Hart, the studio’s senior interior designer. “In those instances, depending on budget, we typically recommend installing a stone wall behind you – something textural but neutral. You want to avoid a lot of red paint or a crazy wall if you want people to focus on what you’re saying.”

Like virtual meetings and many other pandemic-spurred trends, the accent wall is here to stay. Accent walls, also called feature walls, have a separate look than the other walls in a room, creating a visual departure that can bring a space to life. 

Artepiso Cedar available from Instone.

“We use accent walls as a way to create rhythm but also to break up a space. In a room with white or simple walls, you can use color, wood, stone, or graphic patterns to add extra texture and layers,” Hart said. “It gives your eye a place to focus on and adds intrigue to the space.”

Pangaea® Westcoast available from Instone adds the WOW factor on this fireplace and accent wall. 

Instone offers a variety of options for accent walls, such as its Pangaea® natural stone veneers and Artepiso 3D concrete tiles. Pangaea’s thin stone tiles are striking, easy to install and available in seven natural colors. With dozens of shapes and textures to choose from, Artepiso tiles are versatile, can be painted in solid colors or patterns of your choice, and reflect light in stimulating ways.

Artepiso Cedar available from Instone. Photo from the Instone headquarters. 

The When and Where of Accent Walls

An accent wall can be used in virtually any kind of space, Hart said. When considering one for your home or office, she said a good first step is to think about what the flow of the space is and where the highest impact would be. If people walk by a wall every day without glancing in its direction, it may not be the best outlet for your creative energy. 

Know your budget before deciding what materials to use and whether you’d like to cover the full wall or just a section, Hart said. It also helps to think ahead about your long-term goals for the design. Paint or wallpaper accent walls are simple, inexpensive and can be switched easily down the line, while stone arrangements can last and maintain their beauty for many years.

“Consider how long you want to be in the space and how often you’re willing to switch it out. If it’s something that’s bricked in, that’s got mortar behind it, that’s a more intensive install. If I were to recommend a stone, I’d say lean toward something neutral that won’t age itself if it has a specific style to it,” Hart said, adding that Pangaea’s natural black, grey and white stones are excellent options. 

As an alternative to the stone, Hart said many of Artepiso’s 3D tiles can be used to project a fun and kinetic environment – perfect for a tech office or modern commercial spaces, for example. Some of its more natural shapes, like the half-circle Amazons, would be great choices for a home accent wall.

“Geometric shapes are very energetic, if you will, so I think they might be best in a more lively setting,” Hart said. “You can keep the natural shapes for your own soothing spaces if that’s what you prefer.” 

Artepiso Andes available from Instone.

Building Accent Walls Around Existing Features

Hart said there’s no reason why you can’t create accent walls around existing features like windows and fireplaces. Removing old mantels and dressing up the fireplace with new materials can make a huge impact on the room in a cost-effective way. However, she cautions that the variety of materials used should be minimized to avoid the wall looking chaotic, especially if you plan on adding accessories such as artwork and framed photos. 

Geometric accent wall. Design by Studio Grey and photographer Spacecrafting.

Some of her favorite uses of accent walls were in Studio Grey’s design in the commons areas of the Trademark Apartments, a student-centered complex located near the University of Minnesota campus. Mosaic tiles from a local manufacturer were used to add dressing and color in a mailbox wall area that was functional but not pretty. The project employed plenty of natural features, like an accent wall in the lobby with faux moss panels planted between wooden columns that gives the feel like you’ve entered a forest.

Geometric accent wall. Design by Studio Grey and photographer Spacecrafting.

For a society that spends so much of its time in built environments, Hart said you can’t go wrong by bringing a bit of the outdoors indoors. 

“There’s a reason Mid-Century Modern is so popular right now. There’s a lot of natural, soothing shapes and materials in there, so lean into that and lean into that we’re people on a green earth and share our nature. We all need a little soothing in the times we’re in,” she said

The Do’s and Don’ts of Caring for and Cleaning Your Natural Stone Products 

The Do’s and Don’ts of Caring for and Cleaning Your Natural Stone Products 

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You decided to get beautiful, natural stone products on and around your home. Now how do you keep them clean?

You decided to get beautiful, natural stone products on and around your home. Now how do you keep them clean?

You may already know that natural stone is one of the most durable products on earth because it comes from the earth. If you have natural stone veneers or Aura natural stone landscaping products, here are some tips for care and maintenance.

Keep It Simple to Clean Natural Stone

We consulted Instone’s Territory Sales Manager and A-Team member, Jake Alicandro, to find the best ways to care for your natural stone. He says just ol’ soap and water will usually do the trick.

“I always recommend starting slow, and if you need something a little more aggressive, going up from there,” Alicandro says. You can use any type of mild soap detergent, such as dish or hand soap, and mix it with a little water. Wet the stone first, and then use a bristle brush and soap solution to wipe the stone clean.  

The last step is to make sure you rinse thoroughly. “You don’t want to leave any cleaner on there because once it dries up, it can cause hazing on the stone,” he says.

What Not to Do

Alicandro said maintaining natural stone is pretty straightforward. “It’s more a matter of what not to do than what to do,” he says. One big “don’t” to remember is, never use a product with acid, particularly muriatic acid, in it.

“I’ve been to multiple job sites where people put it on, and it literally burns the stone,” says Alicandro. “It turns it brown, like rust spots on granite or any light-colored stone. After spending all this money on getting beautiful natural stone, you don’t want to ruin it.”

He also advises people to steer clear of sealing natural stone. “Natural stone is as tough as it possibly gets. It’s much tougher than a manufactured stone. If you have a patio made of concrete, I’d recommend using a sealer,” says Alicandro. “But for natural stone, I would not recommend using it. You don’t need it, and it can cause problems with the stone.”

Bring on the Power

If you need something a little stronger, Alicandro says you can use a power washer to clean natural stone. He says there are two things to watch out for: One is to be cautious of any joints between the stones that are filled with polymeric sand.

“Stay away from that with the power washer because it can cause it to come out,” says Alicandro.

He also warns about the sheer force of your power washer and not to put yourself or anyone else in the path of the stream. “If you put your finger in front of a power washer, that thing will rip your skin open—unfortunately, I know that from experience.”

Conquering Stains, Moss and Efflorescence

Alicandro says there are three issues to look for that require specialized cleaning products beyond soap and water.

The most common issue is staining from food around outdoor kitchens or dining areas. Grease and oil stains are common when cooking and serving food over stone veneers and Aura pavers. Alicandro recommends cleaners such as  Prosoco Restoration Cleaner.

“Restoration cleaners aren’t overly aggressive. They won’t damage the stone.“ There are several different restoration cleaners, so be sure to check to make sure it can be used on your type of stone.

Another issue to watch for is moss and mildew; for that you can use organic cleaners. 

Lastly, an uncommon issue worth noting is efflorescence that can form when moisture is underneath or behind a stone.  

“It can cause a white calcium to come out on the top surface of it and make the stone look streaky,” Alicandro says. For that, he recommends efflorescence cleaners. “You use it by diluting the product, putting it on the stone, and it’ll take off the white, calcium substance,” he says.

Natural stone is an investment worth making, not only for the beauty of the look on your home but also for the easy upkeep, thanks to its durability. With some simple care and maintenance, you can keep your stone veneers and landscaping looking good for years to come.

Instone Presents: InBuilding Design A New Online Show For Pros and the DIYers

Instone Presents: InBuilding Design A New Online Show For Pros and the DIYers

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At Instone, we sell rocks. But what does that mean? If you’ve ever wondered, then we have a show for you!

Instone introduces the InBuilding Design Series, a new show that gives you a backstage look at Instone’s products and hot tips for installation for both professionals and at-home do-it-yourselfers (DIY). Plus, there is some fun trivia and we have friendly competitions between the Instone team and their expert guests.

Launching June 23, the show stars Instone’s COO, CMO Rob McKay, as our resident pro, and Video Producer Ken Czechanski as the “new guy” asking the questions you might have been afraid to ask. 

The show’s format is similar to a relaxed afternoon out in the garage sharing a beer with some neighbors.

“At Instone, people always ask what we do for a living, and sometimes it’s hard to explain without getting too technical,” says McKay. “People don’t typically see our type of product in Home Depot like they do paint and flooring. Our goal is to talk about the products in a casual, friendly way over a couple of drinks and demystify the whole thing.”

The show will focus on a separate product for each of the upcoming nine episodes. They also bring in an expert on that product.

“The idea is to provide education, but also keep it light, so it’s entertaining,” says McKay. Guests participate in games, knowledge tests and various challenges around the product. Will they rise to the challenge? You’ll have to tune in to find out! 

The show is designed to appeal to both the professional and the DIYer by providing information about Instone’s products and just being a fun show to watch.

“This isn’t a corporate training video,” says McKay, “The professionals don’t really need training, but they will walk away possibly having learned something about the product they didn’t know—and it’ll be entertaining.”

For Czechanski’s role as “the new guy,” he represents the curious neighbor who might want to know if they could use an Instone product in their DIY project. “I speak for the guy who might be wondering, ‘can I do this myself?'” says Czechanski. “I’m there to fill in the gaps for people who may not understand everything and make sure they say it in layman’s terms.” Czechanski also brings in the comedic element. “I’m an improviser, so I’m used to looking at things differently. I like to bring out who the guests are as people. There’s some good-natured ribbing going on.”

Whether you’re a professional or a homeowner DIYer, the InBuilding Design Series has something for you.

“Ultimately, I want to make the products more accessible for people,” says Czechanski. “I want them to feel more confident about using the products because if I can figure it out in the 15 minutes of the show, then there is hope for everyone!”

And while you’re getting to know Instone’s products, here are some fun facts about the team:

Rob McKay’s Fun Fact: He was Santa Claus and the Easter bunny in his local shopping mall for four years. People lined up and waited for an hour to see him. And he has the photos to prove it!

Ken Czechanski’s Fun Fact: He can sing! We just may ask him to show off those pipes on a future episode!

So crack open a cold one and sit back and enjoy InBuilding Design with your friendly Instone team!

Instone Presents Isokern Fireplace Training

Instone Presents Isokern Fireplace Training

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Are you a dealer or sales representative who would like to add Isokern fireplaces to your next quote but you just don’t feel comfortable selling it? Then Instone has your solution!

We offered complimentary training live-streamed on Thursday, June 16 10 a.m. CT / 11 a.m. ET for you to learn everything there is to know about Isokern fireplaces and accessories so you can sell them with confidence.

Together, Rob McKay, Chris Miller and Samantha Espino demystify the process of putting together a complete Isokern system and make you more confident talking about the features and benefits of an Isokern over a traditional fireplace. 

“We’re trying to make the product more familiar,” says McKay. “Our sales reps say, ‘It’s a fireplace, I don’t want to say the wrong thing.’ But they shouldn’t be scared of it. It’s pretty straightforward and we’ll show them how.”

What Is Isokern?

If you don’t know about Isokern fireplaces, they: 

  • Are made from Icelandic volcanic pumice, the most energy-efficient material on earth, which has incredible refractive properties, reflecting heat into the room instead of absorbing it like other site-built concrete, metal, and masonry fireplaces.  They will last a lifetime.
  • Can be installed in less than a day.
  • Are less expensive than traditional masonry fireplaces.
  • Are available in wood-burning and gas, vented and vent-free.
  • Can be set up indoors or outdoors.
  • Come with complementary products like firebrick/fireplace stone, flues, and Isoset mortar.
  • Come in different design styles.

Think of the ways you could add this onto orders for new home construction and additions happening this summer. If you’re selling stone veneer, you can easily add on a fireplace. “It adds more value for you and your customer,” says McKay.  It’s a win-win!

The Training Features Three Segments:

An overview – What are Isokern fireplaces? What are they made of? What are their key selling points?

Competitive analysis – How do Isokern fireplaces compare to similar products on the market and what makes them better?

Quoting how-to – A walk-through of how to work with a blueprint of a home, what measurements to take, and how to put together a quote for a customer.

McKay says this new livestream approach to Instone University training makes it instantly accessible to their sellers and dealers. In addition, the training session will be recorded and available for playback on Instone’s website. “We used to go to a lot of locations and do live training, but a lot of times people forget what they heard. This way, they get the live experience but they can also go back and watch it for things they might have missed or forgotten.”

And of course, it wouldn’t be Instone without the friendly and welcoming attitude they are known for. “We’re very professional, but we’re not buttoned-up,” says McKay. “We’re proud of being the best at what we do, but we also keep it open and very natural. It’s casual in the sense that you can come to us and ask any questions.”

The goal is to establish Instone as a resource for dealers and sales representatives to get to know the product offerings and the best way to sell them so they can better serve their customers. As McKay says, “We want to be the knowledge center of all the products we sell from the product basics to the installation.”

Learn more about
Isokern Fireplaces