Set in stone, on a budget

Chilstone Architectural Stonework dispels the myth that incorporating stonework into a development is a costly and time-consuming process.

Replacing damaged or crumbling stonework can be tricky, and adding stonework details to a property can prove costly. Not only do you have to match the colour to avoid unsightly differences that can ‘glare out’, but you must also find a way to match the details if you want to restore stonework. Hand carved stone is expensive to buy and labour costs can mount up.This begs the question, how do you blend in new work in a discrete and cost-effective way?

Cast stone is essentially a mixture made from reconstituted stone, but because it doesn’t start off solid and is shaped in moulds, it has several flexible uses that many housebuilders don’t think of. Some companies use skilled craftsmen who hand finish their products, so you don’t have to skimp on details and can create a fine texture, almost identical to Portland stone.

Restoration

When restoring a property, some craftsmen can take an impression from existing stonework and cast a mould for a new addition to replace the damaged piece. Cast stone can be coloured to match the shade of your existing stone and it weathers to blend in naturally. Hever Castle in Kent has used this method to repair its statement staircase after the balustrading was damaged by a fallen tree in the famous 1980s storm. Hever needed something substantial, but didn’t want to close the staircase for the many hours labour needed to hand carve the details from natural stone. Kew Gardens also used this method to replicate some long forgotten stone urns.

Replication

Garden ornaments can be cleverly resorted in this way too. The Temperate House at Kew Gardens is a famous example, with the urns that adorn the roof edge appearing as though they have been there for several decades (pictured right). They haven’t been there for as long as many assume however. The original urns were removed and placed in storage during the Blitz, for fear of falling stone damaging Kew and its staff. After the war the urns remained in storage, forgotten until one gardener rediscovered them. Sadly, many urns had been stolen in the years that had passed and only a few remained intact.

Kew Gardens approached a cast stone company in Kent to create moulds from the remaining urn and replicate them to line the roof edge once more, restoring the temperate house to its pre-war glory.

This method has been used in many ways, including the restoration of Victorian style window surrounds to a mismatched terraced house, whose previous owners had replaced the feature windows in the 1970s with something now ugly and dated. The neighbouring houses were used to make the mould, creating smart new Victorian style stonework on the house front to match the rest of the street.

Antiquing

Cast stone can be made to look old. Garden designer John Everiss used this method to age the stonework in his People’s Choice Award-winning Artisan Garden for the 2016 RHS Chelsea Flower Show. He wanted his ‘temple’ creation to look like it had always been there and would stand for many years to come. Using a mixture of paint colours, soot and antiquing spray, over a few weeks the stone darkened to the right shade for his powerful and enthralling statement garden at Chelsea. He even had the cast stone piece engraved to make his message more striking.

Steel Reinforcement

Exploring reinforced cast stone components, combining style with strength, can prove to be a key addition to transform building plans. They can make archways weight-bearing and open up many different design possibilities. Cast stone components can interlock or be made bespoke, designed using CAD drawings.

Talking to cast stone manufacturers early in the process can really help with building solutions and save hours of work. Most are happy to offer free quotations and work with architects and builders. From classical designs to contemporary lines, they often have a set of established moulds that can be adapted or incorporated effectively to save money and time, maximising your budget.

Finishing touches

Simple coping and pier caps can add longevity and a stylish finish to walls and gate posts, adding kerb appeal and channelling rain away from brickwork to extend the life of your wall. Stone window sills and door surrounds can make a home appear polished and increase the value cost-effectively. New builds in villages or semi-rural spaces can make a quality statement and add to the local ambience. Adopting a classical design using stone sills, door surrounds and porticos can add stature to a build that stands it apart.

While natural stone will always have its uses, it is worth considering cast stone a practical alternative for homes and gardens, large and small.

Chilstone Architectural Stonework create bespoke handcrafted fire cast stone.