Selecting exterior materials is among the most important decisions that goes into designing a home, affecting how the finished home will look and how long it will last before requiring repair. Stone is a traditional material for exterior walls that builders still use today. Despite a relatively high cost compared to other forms of exterior building materials such as brick or various types of siding, stone-exterior homes offer long-term advantages to their owners.
Homes with stone exteriors tend to have venerable appearances. In some cases stone suggests formal, classical elegance. When builders use rougher, more unfinished pieces of stone the effect can be to make the home appear to be rustic and integrated into its natural surroundings. Stone suggests strength and permanence. Designers sometimes use stone walls for only a portion of a home's exterior, pairing it with siding, shingles or brick for creative appearances that stand out.
Stone is available in a wide range of styles, colors and textures. This gives designers and builders a great deal of freedom, as well as gives home buyers a chance to select from several architectural styles all within the realm of stone. Granite-block stone exteriors are appropriate for Georgian and Federal-style homes, while limestone can create homes that resemble castles or European country homes. Finally, eclectic and unfinished field stones work well in the walls of cottage-style homes and Prairie homes.
Stone is an extremely durable building material. As an exterior surface, stone resists wear from wind, rain and ice. It also resists fading from the sun. Stone walls are impervious to insect damage, which isn't true of wood siding. Stone home exteriors won't rot when exposed to moisture. They are able to withstand fire, reducing the severity of damage to a home and the cost of repairs. Homeowners with stone walls have no need to replace siding or paint the exterior, both of which are costly and time-consuming jobs.
Because stone homes last so long, they reduce the need to harvest new materials from nature or add old material to landfills. Stone homes can benefit the environment when builders choose to use stone from a local source, which reduces the need for transporting the heavy material. Granite and fieldstone are native to the Midwest and the Northeast, while sandstone is abundant in the western United States.
Dennis Hartman is a freelance writer living in California. His work covers a wide variety of topics and has been published nationally in print as well as online. Hartman holds a Bachelor of Fine Arts from Syracuse University and a Master of Arts from the State University of New York at Buffalo.