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Stone housing

Adrien Quenneville

Joined: Jan 04, 2011
Posts: 55
Stone housing has been around for ages. While it doesn't have the same charm as say, building a cob house out of your bare hands, it is structurally strong, durable, and can be built with different rocks, creating colorful patterns.

Why have we not discussed it yet? Is it too expensive and hard to build? Perhaps not suited for our climate?

Andrew Parker

Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 350
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a

A patient search of this site will bring up a number of discussions about building with stone.

Stone has charm and is as accessible a material as cob, and though your hands may be gloved, there can be the same level of self-sufficient satisfaction. One will probably require some practice structures before building anything significant -- but the same can be said of cob. Any masonry structure becomes problematic when considering insulation and earthquakes, but there are workarounds. Like brick, stone can be used as a durable, esthetically pleasing facing/veneer for other materials.

There are many pioneer era squared fieldstone homes and buildings in the area I grew up in. I have seen some absolutely hideous modernizations, upgrades, additions and replicas, but once in awhile someone gets it right.

Not all stone is appropriate as building material. Check your local area to see what has been used successfully.
Dale Hodgins

Joined: Jul 28, 2011
Posts: 4037
Location: Victoria British Columbia-Canada
What Andrew said. And --- There are a few books on slip form stonework which lowers the cost and required skill level. My cottage is going to be covered with a single sided pepple gabion system of my own design. I have a photo to add which will bring that thread to the top.

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Warren David

Joined: Nov 18, 2010
Posts: 186
Stone can look fantastic. There are loads of sandstone houses here on Ibiza. I'm pretty sure that most of them would have been rendered and painted in the past though. There are also thousands of dry stone walls for boundries and hillside terracing. I have built some but it is very slow going even though I am an experienced bricklayer.
Adrien Quenneville

Joined: Jan 04, 2011
Posts: 55
Ok. It seems to me like it is a totally underused material. One rarely sees newer homes built out of stone, and those that are lined on the inside with gyp rock.

In many areas of central and eastern Canada, around the Canadian shield especially, one can find many a field full of rocks. The farm I grew up on, the neighbor who would cultivate most of our land would do rounds every spring to remove all rocks in the soil, and it seemed like he was pulling half a ton of rocks each spring.

Sounds like an abundant, natural material. I'm assuming the biggest hurdle to building stone houses is the fact that it is a very poor insulator?
Andrew Parker

Joined: Feb 13, 2012
Posts: 350
Location: Salt Lake Valley, Utah, hardiness zone 6b/7a
IMHO, the biggest hurdles to a quality stone house are the cost of experienced masons, followed closely by insulation and seismic safety. If you have time to develop your skills and have a strong back you can jump the first hurdle and can deal with the last two with some design workarounds.

Many historic homes and buildings are plastered inside, so maintaining an "authentic" look can be confined to the exterior finish. Insulation is really only a significant issue if you are insistent on keeping the interior face of the stone uncovered. Double wall construction allows the insertion of insulation in the gap while showing a stone finish on both exterior and interior walls.

Most modern stone buildings I have seen use stone only for an exterior veneer over conventional stud (wood or steel), reinforced block or concrete walls. This solves or reduces both the insulation and the seismic safety issues. For seismic safety, interior stone veneer tends to be limited to very thinly cut natural stone or lightweight cultured stone products. I live in an area considered to be at high risk for seismic damage, so codes reflect that. Other areas will probably be less stringent, but remember that there really is no such thing as a "safe" area when it comes to earthquakes.

I think that in cases where local stone is readily available, preferably on site, it should definitely be considered as a building material, especially for fences, retaining walls, paving and outbuildings. When it needs to be transported and/or you need to hire skilled workers, you begin to quickly lose any economic advantage.
subject: Stone housing
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