Laminated stone panels are like sandwiches because they have layered materials. But the question is, what materials do we use to laminate with stones?
Aside from having a natural stone, stone laminates can have a composition of aluminum, fiberglass, granite, glass, ceramic, and other materials. We do this for efficiency and affordability while not sacrificing the quality of the construction material.
In this article, we are going to explain the following:
- what these materials are;
- what are their benefits and;
- the reason behind stone laminating.
Laminated Stone Panels: What Are They?
A laminate is a composite with more than one lamina (or laminae) that we combine using adhesives. A lamina is a thin sheet of a specific material, such as limestone.
When we recommend to our clients the use of laminated stone panels, we tell them that it is like a sandwich; both have different layered materials that, when joined together, create an entirely new one.
Why Do We Use Laminated Stone Panels?
We use laminated stone panels because of their:
- reduced weight
- reduced cost
- improved durability
This is also why we call them “lightweight stones” because they are not as heavy as the whole and natural ones that take as much manpower to carry and install. Plus, they may cost a lot, especially if you plan to use them as wall cladding.
If you want to explore more laminated stone panel advantages and disadvantages, we have an article here. But right now, we are going to focus on their composition.
What Is a Lightweight Stone Composed Of?
A lightweight stone can be composed of more than two layers, but usually, it is just the following:
- natural stone
- backing made of aluminum and fiberglass (two of the most common) or ceramic, depending on the usage
First Layer: Natural Stone Veneer
Of course, it cannot be a stone panel without the actual stone. The choices we recommend here are marble, limestone, granite, and travertine.
Kinds of Natural Stone
1. Marble. This stone is famous for its breathtaking patterns, unique colors, and natural gloss (although different finishes are available).
The only downside is that marble is not resistant to ultraviolet (UV) light, so it will fade when exposed to sunlight unless sealed with protection from the latter.
2. Limestone. A young marble with soft and earthy colors and equally beautiful patterns that is also applicable outdoors.
3. Granite. The granite colors are more on the bolder and darker side of the palette. This stone is also heavy and difficult to install, so laminated granite is a significant advantage.
4. Travertine. Different brown shades are the signature style of travertine and are as durable as the previous stones mentioned, making it one of our recommendations for laminated rocks.
5. Onyx. A flexible and durable stone that is notable for its translucent properties. Onyx is an architectural staple in exterior wall cladding because light makes its colors and veins more visible.
Second Layer: Backing or Base Panel
This layer is composed of a material that strengthens the lightweight stone. It can be one of the materials that we will enumerate below.
Aluminum is abundant and versatile, making it arguably the most critical metal in laminated stone panels because of its properties.
We use aluminum honeycomb because the hexagonal honeycomb shape in construction can distribute the strength in all parts of the surface. In this case, the laminated stone panels will have less material and decreased weight.
Laminated stone panels or lightweight stones usually have aluminum honeycomb as backing to improve flexural strength and stiffness. Even though we commonly utilize them for wall cladding (which is not structural), it’s important that they can resist tension and compression.
Some of the features of aluminum honeycomb are:
1. Flexibility and Malleability. Because of these qualities, aluminum is effortless for us to customize in terms of shape, size, and application.
This is essential since we will use laminated stone panels in different architectural designs. Sometimes, the styles can be challenging to follow using traditional stones (e.g., wall cladding in complex shapes).
2. Heat Resistance. The natural stone in the first layer already has strong heat resistance. When we add the aluminum, we can be more confident that the laminated stone panel does not crack due to high temperatures.
3. A Good Insulator. One of the most challenging obligations of exterior wall cladding is to help regulate the temperature indoors. Aluminum is a reflective insulator because it reflects heat to where it came from, keeping the indoor temperature regular.
4. Resistance to Corrosion. If you are worried about laminated panels getting rust because they have metal, don’t be; aluminum doesn’t rust and has strong corrosion resistance.
5. Impact Resistance. Exterior wall claddings protect the walls from external elements such as unprecedented impacts.
While we guarantee that natural stone also has strong resistance to impact, the force should be transferred to the aluminum layer.
6. Lightweight. A contributor to aluminum’s flexibility in construction is its low density.
A glass core is suitable with onyx because of its translucent nature, and it will not hinder lighting from bringing out this stone’s deeper color and veins. It can be:
- Tempered – we also call this safety or toughened glass because it’s stronger and more versatile than annealed or ordinary glass.
- Laminated – this has two plies of glass that we combine to create a more robust version. Laminated glass is preferred in areas always hit by calamities because it takes a lot of impact before it cracks.
Other qualities of glass aside from what we mentioned include:
1. Waterproof. That is why glass is suitable for areas with heavy rains because water will not penetrate the structure and is easy to clean.
2. Corrosion and Rust Resistant. Glass doesn’t react with oxygen, moisture, and weather which adds to its durability.
3. Vermin Resistant. We won’t have to worry about pest infestation such as termites if we use glass as the stone laminate’s backing.
Laminated stone panels with ceramic backings are also durable and can withstand different forces when we use them as either wall cladding or flooring. However, the ceramic-backed lightweight stone will be heavier than those backed by aluminum or fiberglass.
1. Hardness. Ceramics is a hard material—even harder than the metals we usually utilize. This makes them more resistant to wear and tear.
2. Refractory. Ceramics can withstand heat, although depending on their quality, sudden temperature changes may cause them to crack. But don’t worry; cracks in ceramics do not happen overnight.
3. Stain and Oxidation Resistance. Even though this will be the backing material of the laminated stone panels, being resistant to unpleasant marks and stains is beneficial in keeping the beauty of wall cladding or flooring.
We know you’re wondering why we will use natural stone as backing if we need lightweight stones.
We often combine marble sheets with granite bases—especially when the thicker portion at the back will be installed—because granite is lighter than marble. It’s cheaper than marble too.
Of course, the thickness will still be reduced compared with solid marble or granite. The measurements will depend on the project, but the marble will be down to 5 millimeters (mm) instead of 20 mm of a pure slab.
The following are some notable qualities of granite:
1. Hard. Granite scores 6 to 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, which means it will be difficult to break.
2. Crack-resistant. We rarely see cracks in granite, and when we do, it’s usually because of extreme wear and tear, and the shots don’t affect the quality of the panels because they are still intact.
3. Weather Resistant. This is why granite is one of the best stones for outdoor use because we don’t have to worry about UV, plus rain and snow that cause moisture to seep through. However, we should also ask our supplier about the proper granite care.
What Are Honeycomb Panels?
We often hear the word “honeycomb” or “hexagonal honeycomb” together with laminated stone panels. But what does this mean?
Honeycomb panels are shaped exactly like a honeycomb, except that in construction, this is to:
- minimize the amount of material that we need to use and;
- minimize weight.
Laminated stone panels or lightweight stones usually have aluminum honeycomb as backing to improve flexural strength and stiffness. Even though we commonly utilize them for wall cladding (which is not structural), it is essential that they can resist tension and compression.
Laminated Beige Limestone With Aluminum Honeycomb
This triangle-shaped lightweight limestone panel was easy for us to shape because aluminum is malleable and flexible, aside from our stone factory’s complete equipment. But the product is durable and stiff because of the stone’s quality and the aluminum honeycomb.
Lightweight Marble Stone Panels
Laminated stone panels or lightweight stone is popular in construction, such as wall cladding, because of their increased durability compared to traditional rocks and the decrease in weight.
The materials we use to laminate with natural stone can be aluminum, fiberglass, ceramic, or other materials depending on the usage of the lightweight panels. However, aluminum honeycomb is the most common choice for the panel’s backing.
What kind of laminated stone panels do you need? Where are you going to use them? Let us know in the comments below.