Cultured marble can provide a unique and durable wall cladding solution. If we consider interior use of cultured marble it can last almost forever, being wall cladding it certainly will be protected against many things, namely traffic. Cultured marble in external environment may have some problems, but it is a durable product.
I've mentioned cultured marble, which makes my scope of products relatively big, although each one will have specific features which we will have a chance to view.
Cultured marble can be divided into two main groups, one that is a cement based product, uses cement bonding. And the second type is a polymer base product, which uses resin as a bonding agent. When we try evaluate quality in these types of product, we have to go much beyond just its physical appearance, we need to see how well it's compacted. A well compacted product means you will have less bonding agent, and more natural marble, there are people who tend to call cultured marble to things that look like marble, but include 0% natural marble in it's making. Many manually made cultured marble wall cladding products are very low quality, with very low compaction levels, basically a product made by artisans. The products made with Breton technology, namely the Breton Block system are the ones I've seen with better quality performances, making it the most perfect cultured marble I've seen. This means it actually has very similar characteristics to natural marble.
Polymer Based Cultured Marble
The use of a polymer base in the cultured marble business brings several advantages to the final product, especially quality wise. For one thing, using polymer based materials, the water absorption of the natural stone reduces significantly. Being made greatly from marble, which in its natural state absorbs water, the same stone used in cultured marble will have a better behavior regarding water absorption.
Another positive thing about polymer base, is that it actually gives the cultured marble better mechanical features (especially when using polyester resin based material). The gloss of the polished cultured marble surface is a very good one, comparable to the natural marble itself.
Current building laws will oblige the use of specific application methods depending on the height and weight of the wall cladding. Currently in most countries, you may apply wall cladding using adhesive glue up to 3 m high. Above 3m you should use mechanical fixing to ensure safety in the application; this especially applies for exterior use.
In exterior use the polymer base material has advantages and disadvantages, being that exterior wall cladding should be fixed with mechanical fixing devices, there are several type of fixing systems to choose from.
In exteriors cultured marble with polymer binding may present some additional problems that you will have to be aware of. Being marble based, acid rain and pollution will gradually affect your exterior wall cladding, although the effect on polish can be relatively quick, the stone itself is quite durable.
The use of light colors that reflect the UV rays will improve your materials durability, dark colors are not advised for several reasons, one of which is that discoloring is very common, due to UV ray action and weathering, its common to see dark colors gradually discolor.
Another negative thing relating to polymer binding, besides the anti-UV additives that the product should have when destined for external use, truth is that UV rays will gradually destroy the polymer, so depending on the exposure of the wall cladding, in 10-20 years time, you’ll see the polymer with severe structural damage.
Polymer base cultured marble has also an elasticity problem, when made with less efficient manufacturing processes it may use more polymer binding, which technically gives it more elasticity. A cultures marble made with technology as I referred earlier will have between 5 and 10% resin in its composition, making it a relatively stable product for exterior use. These products also have high standards for size and thickness tolerances, making them an easier product to apply and very stable in use. Other products will need more attention during application.
Cement Based Cultured Marble
In this group of cement based products we can find several types of cultured marble, from products made through individual molding to big industrial block molding. Nevertheless they all have molding in common.
There are many types of manufacturing systems for these products; one very common is a hydraulic type cultured marble, which commonly uses a two layer system, a rough bottom, with a perfect cultured marble covering. As I said before, Breton does have, in my honest opinion, one of the most advanced technologies, that furnishes top quality to the final product. The base of this technology is the vacuum vibro-compressing system, which really reduces the quantity needed of binding agents.
These cement bonded products have high water absorption indexes and due to its cement base will have lower gloss levels than polymer based material.
The cement based cultured marble also tend to made in very thick pieces to maintain its integrity, while polymer based material are really perfect and stable.
As mentioned before, using adhesive glue with cement based cultured marble depends on the weight per sqm factor and the height of the application. Make sure you obide by the law and make sure the adhesive glue is proper for the type of material you’ll be using.
Exterior use for cement based cultured marble, same applies here, above 3 m, use mechanical fixing for the cultured marble wall cladding.
The cement based cultured marble has some advantages in exterior use, namely that the UV rays do little damage to the product, although some pigments may discolor with extensive UV ray, the problem is minor.
Regarding the acid and pollution damages, if the product is a cultured marble it will have a negative effect on the surface, and will in time suffer minor damages.
The cement based cultured marble will last longer than polymer based material.
Great Ideas for Cultured Marble Wall Cladding
Cultured marble made with high quality technology can provide you with some great products for exterior use. A bush-hammered finish for example will resist relatively well to some problems mentioned before, and will improve the products whiteness, as bush-hammering tends to brighten the base color. Also you may gain a sparkling look, white cultured marble is made with crystallized white marble grains, which have some impure elements like quartz and micas (in relatively small quantities), these are just enough to give your bush-hammered finish a very mild sparkling detail.You may also use unique colors or combination of colours which will absolutely enhance your design. It's easy to find at affordable prices cultured marble, looking at other options it will come out more expensive in many cases.