Mix brick, rock to cre­ate an at­trac­tive, unique ex­te­rior

The Palm Beach Post - Residences - - Front Page -

Qus­tion: My hus­band and I are in a small skir­mish about the brick ve­neer home we are build­ing. I want it to be some­what dis­tinc­tive, in­cor­po­rat­ing ran­dom pieces of rock in the brick. Among other claims, he says this will weaken the brick and cause leaks. Is this true? He’s also wor­ried that it will cause our home to be worth less money when we go to re­sell it. Can you of­fer any ad­vice that will al­low me to have the home I want and sat­isfy my hus­band at the same time? Have you seen houses like this, and what would you do?

An­swer: I think you’ll be able to have the house you want — and we’ll calm down your hus­band at the same time. Some in­spi­ra­tional ex­am­ples should help him get over his men­tal bar­ri­ers.

Let’s ad­dress the struc­tural con­cern first. First and fore­most, the brick on your new home is not struc­tural. It’s just an outer skin that has noth­ing to do with hold­ing up the roof. The brick ve­neer wall rests on the poured con­crete foun­da­tion, and it’s sup­posed to be con­nected to the wood frame walls us­ing heavy-duty gal­va­nized cor­ru­gated pieces of metal that are se­curely fas­tened to the wood wall studs. This is done so the brick doesn’t tip and fall to the ground.

The pieces of stone or rock will not weaken the brick. In fact, de­pend­ing on the type you choose, the rocks may be stronger than the brick. A good ex­am­ple is gran­ite, which may have far greater com­pres­sive and ten­sile strength.

In­cor­po­rat­ing stone will not cause leaks. Wa­ter seeps through the mor­tar joints in be­tween each brick and runs down the back of the brick ve­neer. Your builder needs to know how to keep this wa­ter from con­tact­ing the wood fram­ing and re­di­rect it to the out­side of the wall.

Now for the aes­thetic con­cerns. I was lucky and grew up in a dis­tinc­tive older sub­urb of Cincin­nati called Clifton. The north­ern parts of this sub­urb had a few houses in which brick and stone were blended to­gether in a ran­dom pat­tern. The look was stun­ning. As a young boy, ev­ery time I rode my bi­cy­cle up and down the side­walks of this area, th­ese houses would catch my eye.

I’ll never for­get my first time walk­ing past the ma­jes­tic Tribune Tower in down­town Chicago. This stately sky­scraper has 149 pieces of rock, brick and stone em­bed­ded in the oolitic lime­stone that was used to build the struc­ture. Th­ese pieces of stone come from all over the world, some from very his­toric sites such as the Great Wall of China, the Alamo and the Ber­lin Wall.

Imag­ine what you could do! You live in Cal­i­for­nia, one of the most ge­o­log­i­cally di­verse states in the United States. You could have a boat­load of fun go­ing out and col­lect­ing dif­fer­ent rocks from around the state and us­ing th­ese to mimic what was done at the Tribune Tower, al­beit on a smaller scale.

Mix­ing dif­fer­ent col­ors and rock tex­tures could cre­ate a gor­geous look. What’s more, col­lect­ing the rocks would make for great trips and mem­o­ries. As a col­lege-trained ge­ol­o­gist my­self, I think this could be a great way to do some­thing that helps you dis­cover more about all the won­ders that sur­round you.

As for hurt­ing the value of your home, I may have to con­cede a point to your hus­band. Not all po­ten­tial buy­ers would like the look you’re go­ing for. A sea­soned realtor or ap­praiser would no doubt tell you the same.

But there’s a way around this and it’s very easy to do. All you need to do is or­der a few hun­dred ex­tra of the bricks that are be­ing used to build your home. Th­ese would be easy to store in your garage or in your yard. You’ll also want to save about twenty or more five-gal­lon buck­ets of the ex­act sand the brick­lay­ers use to build your home.

Hav­ing the brick and sand on hand will al­low you to tell a fu­ture buyer they can re­move the pieces of stone and in­stall the match­ing brick in their place if they de­sire. To en­sure the patches look per­fect, you need to use the ex­act same sand as was used when the brick was first in­stalled.

Tim Carter

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