An Award-Winning Technical Innovation in Stone Cladding and Veneer Is Now Available in Southern Africa.
Written by Matthew Ziranek: Published in Leading Architecture & Design Magazine – August 2018
Stone Cladding lends a timeless, natural aesthetic to a built surface while being weatherproof and relatively maintenance free. The challenges and limitations of stone cladding boil down to the size, quality and weight of available materials and the skill of the contractor required to achieve the desired finish. Richter Stone-Veneer, a newly available innovation in cladding, is set to change the cladding game completely. Now skilled contractors as well as DIY enthusiasts can create beautiful, even, stone-clad finishes composed of real stone with a fraction of the weight of traditional cladding, while requiring minimal skill and effort to apply. The Granite Company, based in Cape Town, have recently become suppliers of this German-engineered technical innovation, making it easily available for the first time in Southern Africa.
The stone veneer is actual quarried stone with all it’s time-etched character and beauty, backed with a resin and glass fibre reinforcement. It’s light, flexible and has a uniform thickness that can be easily installed by relatively unskilled hands. Imagine laying down flexible sheets of linoleum tiling cut with wood working tools and you’ll have a pretty close idea of the installation process. This unique, state-of-the-art cladding product is available in thicknesses from around 2mm and weights as little as 2kg per m2. It’s flexible nature also means it’s easily applied to curved surfaces, opening up new design possibilities that were difficult, if not impossible, to achieve in the past. Being composed of real stone, it’s weatherproof and ready for outdoor or interior and requires the same minimal upkeep as traditional stone cladding.
The extremely light weight of the stone veneer means the usual structural considerations associated with traditional cladding can be completely done away with. For example, granites, slates and quartzites weigh at least 60kg per m2 for 20mm thicknesses (17m2 and you have 1 ton of material). An average weight for stone veneer is around 2kg per m2 with the Microstone variation weighing even less. Factor this in to a building plan and suddenly walls and surfaces that could never conceivably handle the weight of stone now become canvasses.
Another huge advantage of Richter Stone-Veneer is it’s available dimensions. Regular stone tiles are typically available in relatively small sizes and become unwieldy to handle and install as they get bigger and heavier. Stone veneer comes standard as 1220 by 610mm sheets with up to 2800 by 1250mm sheets available as well. This means massive areas of single-tiled surfaces now become easily achievable. The stone veneer is also simple to cut making any required tile size a cinch. The tiling pattern is no longer dictated by the supplier’s available sizes but instead fully in the hands of the designer. Richter Stone-Veneer is also more environmentally friendly than traditional cladding. By using far less stone in the cladding process quarries become able to supply for many times longer, thus heavily reducing the environmental impact.
The veneer comes in 4 different basic types:
- Stone-Veneer has a resin and glass fibre backing and is 2mm thick. It’s suitable for traditional stone-cladding applications and can also be applied to almost any solid base, even drywall or cabinetry. It will bend around a minimum radius of approximately 200mm. A peel-and-stick version of the veneer is also available with self-adhesive tape that can be cut and applied by a DIYer with standard woodworking tools.
- Microstone is an even thinner and more flexible type of veneer that is backed by fabric and approximately 1mm thick. Because of it’s fabric backing and thickness it has an even greater flexibility for application to more tightly curved surfaces.
- Translucent stone is a thin veneer with a clear backing which can then be backlit, accentuating all the texture and patternation of genuine stone, creating exquisite, ambient environments. It’s approximately 2 – 2.5mm thick.
- Finally there is Nanostone, with a cotton fleece backing, in thicknesses from only 50-100 microns and able to flex around a radius of as little as 2mm. Being so thin and flexible, it can be used on almost any surface requiring an extremely thin stone coating. The imagination of the designer now becomes the true limiting factor instead of the usual limits of the materials themselves. For example, high-end luxury car manufacturer Bentley have been using Nanostone since 2015 to create bespoke dashboard veneers. The culmination of research and development in stone-veneer technology, Nanostone has won numerous awards for design and innovation.
ORIGINS AND DEVELOPMENT
As the name Richter Stone suggests, the product was created by Mr Eberhard Richter, a specialist in the furniture veneer industry since 1984. Towards the late 90’s, he realized that his newer innovations in design and surface veneers allowed him to move out of an already saturated furniture market. His focus is now exclusively on technically innovative surface products.
Based in Melle, Germany, Mr Richter’s company Richter Akustik & Design won the Design Plus Award from the German Council for the Nanostone product in 2009. They were also presented with the Gold Technology Award for special design and performance for creating the Nanostone product at the ZOW show in Verona Italy— an International Design
Forum held in cooperation with the Italian Design Association. The company took home the Top 100 design innovator award in 2009, 2010, and 2011, being recognized as among the top 100 innovators in Germany.
AVAILABILITY IN SOUTHERN AFRICA
The Granite Company, a stone supplier based in Cape Town, has recently acquired the exclusive supply rights to distribute Richter Stone-Veneer products in Southern Africa. They currently stock various granite, natural gemstone and engineered stone, along with a memorial stone range.
I interviewed The Granite Company co-founder and executive director, Greta Del Sal, to find out more.
1. Tell us a bit about the Granite Company’s history as a business and stone supplier in Southern Africa.
Myself and two friends wanted to work together and decided to become partners, and we opened The Granite Company in Cape Town over two years ago. The mission was to supply the Western Cape area with high quality granite slabs and tombstone material at competitive prices. This was made possible by a continuous supply chain, direct from the family-owned quarries I run in Sonop and Brits. It was a natural progression that I would establish a business in Cape Town, as that is where I live when I’m not at the quarries.
I believe that what has contributed to our success is that we really take care to listen to and understand our customers’ needs. We then work to exceed expectations in every way we can. Nearly any solid substrate including wood, drywall, metal, concrete, wood, fiberglass, tiles, cabinetry and painted surfaces.
2. What made you decide to supply this product to South African markets?
We became aware of this product range recently through one of our export customers, and were immediately interested. The South African market is increasingly evolving towards matt finishes in natural stone with thinner surfaces, that are easier to install.
3. What do you think the availability of Richter Stone-Veneer will mean to architects and builders here?
Stone-Veneer is perfect for buildings that have a weight problem, as 1m2 weighs only 2kg. It is also flexible and can be applied to curved surfaces with ease.
4. What advantages and benefits do you personally think stone-veneer has over traditional stone cladding?
The Stone-Veneer is a uniform thickness that is easy to apply to any surface. Whereas quartzite and slate tiles come in different thicknesses, which requires the tiler to separate them, install the thicker tiles first, and then work his way through to the thinner tiles. These will need more cement mix to ensure a level finish. The Stone-Veneer gives a luxurious look as it comes in large sheets up to 2.8m by 1.25m in length, while ordinary tiles are max 0.6 by 0.6m. The installation takes less than half the time too.
5. Who do you think these stone-veneer products are most suitable for in South Africa?
Everyone… building industry, wall-covering inside or outside, flooring, furniture industry, cabinet doors, table tops, interior architecture, reception desks, corporate walls, ceilings, vehicles, ship, air craft interior, automotive interior, yacht interiors, trade show exhibits… there are no limits!
6. What kind of delivery times can purchasers of Richter Stone-Veneer expect once ordered?
7. This is a relatively new product. What kind of instruction and support is there regarding working with Richter Stone-Veneer to ensure it’s correctly installed?
It is so easy to install that even an experienced DIY home owner can install it after watching a YouTube online video. The installation tools required are exactly the same as used by tilers, and any tiler will have no problem adapting to installation.
8. Do you offer any kind of warranty?
We offer a 7 year guarantee but the stone-veneer normally lasts a life time.
9. Are you planning on bringing in any other kind of new or innovative stone products in the future?
Yes. We are bringing in a range of sintered stone.
10. Finally, how can we find out more about Richter Stone-Veneer and how to order it?