Interior and exterior wall cladding with engineered stone has become common, although exterior wall cladding may have more risks associated with this type of application. Interior and exterior wall cladding has specific ruling, especially when related to the fixing techniques. Needless to say that exterior wall cladding above 3m should be done with mechanical fixing.
What is mechanical fixing?
Mechanical fixing is a method which is used to install wall panels, basically stone panels are fixed to the facade of a building with the use of mechanical fixing devices, these devices are normally made from stainless steel or aluminum. In the last decade or so, many anchoring systems have appeared in the market, being that each one has a specific characteristic.
The most common and one of the first wall cladding systems used was the hook or anchor system. This system is the least expensive, but also the one that is more difficult to apply on building facade. It's basically mounted on a one piece hook, the quartz panel (same system for stone panels as well) is held up by 4 hooks on it's ends. Each quartz panel will have to be drilled on the end to fit the plastic bit before it gets set into place.
Although price will play a big part in deciding which system to choose from, the one I recommend for engineered stone application is the ones that are window type anchoring systems.
These systems are easier to install, as you don't have to level each panel, the building facade will have vertical or horizontal grids pre-levelled, therefore the quartz panel will be fitted in quickly.
Due to engineered quartz and engineered marbles thermal expansions and contraction variances these mechanical fixing systems work well, as the pieces will have some room to settle in. Nevertheless the window type system, have no tension points on the material and work perfectly with engineered stone.
What problems may arise with exterior engineered stone applications?
So we've gone through the mechanical fixing, these systems solve most of the application problems regarding engineered stone. However their are other problems which we should mention. Regarding quartz engineered stone, UV effects will in time (think of a 10 year period) destroy the polyester bonding, making the surface look dusty (which is the disaggregation of the resin and the quartz grit), this erosion process will take years and on a building facade you will not notice it due to distance. Some exterior applications have been done with bush hammered finish, which hides the problem. Another thing regarding exterior use, be careful with colours, use white or light colours for external application, or you might end up with a funny looking wall. I once seen engineered quartz wall turn from a navy blue to a baby/greenish blue .... the image of the company was based on a navy blue, they ended up bush hammering the facade improving slightly the colour.
When we look at engineered marble, well as natural marble it has the acid rain effect, this means polish will disappear in the first six months or so, and it will also have the UV problem just like the quartz based material.
Looking at exterior applications, I figure every product which is going to be exposed to weather will eventually end up having less durability, you just have to plan ahead and enjoy the unique look of your facade while it lasts.