Fireplacefacelift A great fireplace not only adds value and warmth to your home, it's a natural focal point for winter entertaining. But if you're having a hard time envisioning your guests sipping cocktails around your straight-out-of-the-'70s hearth, it may be time for a fireplace facelift.

Half of all American homes have at least one fireplace or freestanding stove, according to the Hearth, Patio & Barbecue Association. Fifty-nine percent of those homeowners consider the fireplace to be a major design feature of their home, and 73 percent of woodburning fireplace owners say they use them to enhance the home's atmosphere. An out-dated fireplace, however, can detract from the overall appeal of your home.

One of the easiest and most cost-effective ways to dress up an aging fireplace is to give it the look of stone. Stone has been a favorite material for fireplaces since people first started building hearths. Durable and beautiful, stone's natural variety and richness of color marries well with virtually any design or décor.

The cost and weight of real stone, however, may have some homeowners thinking they can't have the naturally beautiful fireplace they fantasize about. Cultured Stone manufactured stone veneer solves that problem by providing the appearance, color and feel of real stone without the weight, cost and need to completely redesign your fireplace. Cultured Stone veneers from Owens Corning, made from custom mixtures of natural ingredients including Portland cement and lightweight natural aggregates, exactly mimic the look of the natural stones from which they were molded, right down to the smallest detail.

"To refurbish an old fireplace with full thickness natural stone, you'd need professional help, a significant budget and the patience to endure your fireplace being ripped apart and then rebuilt," says Bob Heath, marketing leader for Owens Corning Cultured Stone. "But because our manufactured stone has corner pieces and is about a quarter of the weight of full thickness natural stone, installation is efficient and easy."

More than 20 different styles replicate the look and appeal of natural textures, and shapes such as Cobblefield, Limestone, Fieldstone, River Rock and various styles of Ledgestone. Most Cultured Stone styles also are available in several natural and designer colors, ensuring you can match virtually any taste or décor.

Finding the look that's just right for your fireplace facelift has also become easier, thanks to interactive programs such as Fireplace Design Solutions from Cultured Stone. This easy to use software allows homeowners to virtually design and visualize a new or remodeled fireplace. The program leads users through every element of fireplace design or redesign, including surrounds, ceiling heights, hearth configurations and mantle designs. The tool allows users to print out photo-realistic images of the fireplace they create and estimate the quantity of product and materials needed.

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