Stone is a desirable look for many properties. Architectural elements made of stone have a classic look that fits well with a wide range of architectural styles. But natural stone has not been a common material in construction for many decades as it is expensive and requires experienced craftsmen to carve and install.
Instead, cast stone and, more recently, glass fiber reinforced concrete (GFRC) have been the materials of choice for any architectural designs that require a stone look. There are several significant differences between these two materials that can serve to make one or the other the right choice for your building project.
Comparing GFRC and Cast Stone
Both GFRC and cast stone are cast and molded products. The manufacturer produces them by filling molds with the appropriate mixture. Once the molded item is cured, the manufacturer demolds it and ships it to the construction site where a contractor can install and finish the element as desired.
As molded products, it is possible to achieve a wide range of different shapes, sizes, and designs, including ornamental designs, in GFRC and cast stone. This part of the process relies largely on the mold. But outside of the use of molds in the production process, cast stone and GFRC have several differences.
Cast stone is a mixture of rock aggregates, often including ground granite, marble, quartz, and limestone. These aggregates are mixed with Portland cement and any other necessary additions for coloring and the curing process. When cured, cast stone can resemble one of several natural stones but with the possibility of achieving a high level of detail or greater size at a much lower price. Cast stone is moderately weight bearing but is more commonly used for ornamental elements.
GFRC consists of cement reinforced with alkali resistant fiberglass. It is extremely lightweight as a result with strong interior strength. GFRC is non loadbearing but it is suitable as a facade element that can surround structural architectural elements. GFRC initially has an appearance similar to concrete, although it can be finished in a variety of textures and colors to look like natural stone.
Some of the ways in which GFRC stands out over cast stone include:
- Faster to Produce – GFRC cures in approximately a day. Cast stone can take up to a week. This makes it far faster to make multiple GFRC elements.
- Lighter – Because of the addition of fiberglass GFRC is extremely lightweight without compromising on internal support. This makes GFRC less costly to ship and easier to install.
- Durability – Both GFRC and cast stone have reliable durability in a wide range of conditions. They are waterproof, freeze thaw resistant, and extremely easy to maintain.
- Installation Knowledge – Cast stone is considered a division 4 masonry material and so requires a masonry contractor for installation. GFRC can be installed by any licensed contractor with a simple installation process.
- Stronger – Tensile strength, flexural strength, and other strength capabilities of GFRC are far superior to those cast stone per square inch. Architectural elements crafted from GFRC will often be longer lasting and perform better over time.
Whether you choose GFRC or cast stone for your architectural project depends on budgets, timelines, and the specific elements you are constructing. To get more information about GFRC and determine how it might be superior to cast stone for your project, reach out to our team at GC Products. We can provide more information on the various products we can create with GFRC, our manufacturing process, and more to help you get started.