Fakes Worth a Second Look

Laminate countertop fakeImage: Formica Corporation

Some faux finishes won’t fool any eye. But these fabulous fakes look authentic and save you real money.

Every homeowner wants an upscale look for less. But saving money comes at a price; sometimes you sacrifice quality and lifespan.

What’s a value-conscious homeowner to do?

We’ve selected four faux products that look like their upscale counterparts, but have lower price tags and, in some cases, identical lifetimes.

Synthetic Slate Roofing

Synthetic slate roofImage: All Weather Products Ltd./Ken Lillejord, photo

Real slate tiles are an elegant roofing material and can last several lifetimes — sometimes more than 150 years. But real stone is heavy, expensive, and becoming so rare that it’s hard to find a craftsman to install it. 

That’s why synthetic stone tiles are good substitutes for the real thing. Synthetic slate, made from rubber, plastic, or a combination of both, won’t have the all the color and shape variations of the real stuff. But because it’s way up on a roof, synthetic will fool all but the most discriminating eye. 

Plus, faux slate is:

  • About a third cheaper than real stone.
  • Lots lighter (so you don’t have to install extra structural support).
  • Is typically guaranteed for 50 years.
  • Often contains recycled materials.


  • Real slate installed: $7.82-$10.52/ sq. ft.
  • Synthetic slate installed: $4.33-$6.31/ sq. ft.


  • Real slate: 100 years to forever.
  • Synthetic slate: 50 years.

Artificial Lawn

Artificial grassImage: Easy Turf

A perfect lawn is hard to grow, even harder to maintain. Unless it’s fake.

Today’s artificial grass looks like fescue or zoysia, but it’s not prey to weeds, drought, and root-eating grubs. Install it and you’ll have a lawn that neighbors will believe is real — from a distance. It’s essentially maintenance-free — no watering, weeding, and mowing.

Of course, artificial grass doesn’t feel, smell, or totally look like real lawn. Fake grass heats up in summer and can’t absorb and break down pest waste like real grass can. 

Some HOAs ban fake grass; but some water-starving towns ban new lawns — so it’s a draw on that point.

Price (for a 500-sq.-ft. yard):

  • Real turf: 37 cents per sq. ft. to install: $840 per year to maintain.
  • Artificial turf: $12.50 per sq. ft. to install: $0 to maintain. You’ll recoup install costs in about 7 years.


  • Real turf: Forever if you water, weed, fertilize, aerate, and dethatch.
  • Artificial turf: 15-25 years.

Faux Crown Moulding

Synthetic crown mouldingImage: ChrisLovesJulia.com

Crown moulding gives any room an elegant, finished look. But wood crown moulding is expensive and heavy, usually requiring a two-person, hold-and-nail team, jacking up the price to $8 to $35/ft. installed. Ouch!

Synthetic crown moulding is made from polystyrene or polyurethane high-density foam. It is:

  • Lightweight and easy to work with — cutting down on installation time.
  • Good for DIY projects.

Best of all, synthetic crown is typically 15-30% cheaper than wood. The more elaborate the detail, the more you’ll save over a comparable all-wood counterpart. 

However, synthetic crown moulding has some drawbacks:

  • It’s relatively fragile; long pieces can break if not supported. 
  • It dents easily.

Price (3½-inch-wide simple crown):

  • Poplar: $1.37/linear ft.
  • Faux: $1.08/linear ft.


  • Wood: As long as the room stands.
  • Faux: Ditto.

Laminate Countertops

Laminate countertops come in hundreds of styles and colors that give your kitchen the high-end look of marble or granite for about one-third the price.

Until recently, the ugly, black, telltale edges of laminate sheets were giveaways that your stone countertop was a fake. But today’s manufacturers have created seamless-edge technology that looks like the bullnosed or ogee edge treatments found on stone. 

Of course, laminates don’t have the durability of stone. They can scorch and scratch, and repairs are cumbersome. However, laminates are stain-resistant and will shrug off wine spills that porous marble and some granites suck up. 


  • Stone installed (marble, granite): $60-$100/sq. ft.
  • Laminate installed: $7-$30/sq. ft.


  • Stone: Forever, although it can chip, and you should seal it periodically.
  • Laminate: Decades if you’re careful not to scratch or burn countertops.