Stone veneer promises the look and feel of solid rock, minus the bulk. And today's offerings are svelter than ever—some are less than 2 inches thick. With something that manageable (or with its cast-stone equivalent, made of portland cement mixed with lightweight pumice and mineral oxides), it's easier than ever to add character to a fireplace surround or make a foundation wall look like it's part of the landscape. There is one place where veneer is heavier than its full-size cousins, and that's on your wallet, but the added expense is more than balanced out by lower installation costs. You may not even need a mason; some of these ultra-thin examples are suitable for do-it-yourselfers. And at as little as 12 ounces per stone, you can sling these rocks for hours.
These quarried stones secretly hide a flat back, but look like round river rocks when they're mortared onto a wall. Approx. $10-$12 per square foot; Natural Stone Veneers International.