Stone Cold Beauty

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Stone is the material of choice when a homeowner or builder wants to create an unusual look one that wont be found on every house on the street.

To me, stone has an everlasting beauty, says Jim Marino, owner of Southeastern Masonry in Alpharetta. It just blends into nature and never goes out of style.

The material, available as natural stone or man-made, remains a niche product, more often found on front porches, in archways or as cornerstones than as primary house sheathing. Colors, even for natural stone, can run the gamut from black and white to brown, gray, lilac, blue or variegated like marble, says Kelly Bors, assistant store manager at Earth Products in Marietta. He notes an increased use of stone in basements, covering a wall or two to give a log-cabin feeling.

Higher cost in comparison to brick remains a limiting factor for stones expansion in the building and remodeling markets. Natural stone prices can run from $9 per square foot to more than $25, depending on the type of stone used, the installation type and where it was quarried, Marino says.

Most sandstone, in such variations as flagstone or variegated crab orchard, is mined in southwestern Tennessee and northeast Alabama, Marino says. Stone from Pennsylvania and Ohio also is used locally, but, of course, transportation costs put those types of stone toward the higher end of the price scale. Stone from other countries is the priciest, Marino says.

In comparison, brick prices run between $2.50 and $3 per square foot, including the mortar and sand required for installation, says Jack Preston, inside sales agent at Boral Bricks Direct, which has six metro Atlanta locations.

As a result, stone is used in only about five of every 100 new homes built in America, according to Gopal Ahluwalia, staff vice president for research at the National Association of Home Builders.

In 2002, natural stone was used in 2 percent of exterior siding applications, with manufactured stone capturing 3 percent of the market. The area of highest use, with just over 10 percent, was an NAHB region covering Texas, Louisiana, Oklahoma and Arkansas. The South Atlantic region, coastal states from Florida to Delaware, including Georgia, has combined stone usage of 2.5 percent, Ahluwalia says.

Still, many builders of higher-priced homes are using stone as accents, even bringing stone colors used on the exterior indoors in such areas as fireplaces. The beauty of stone remains unsurpassed as a building product, Bors says.

A lot of upscale homes are getting away from brick and going to stone or stone and stucco, Bors says. In additional to a generous palette of colors, stone can be stacked in various ways or even shaped to give the same type of stone vastly different looks. Its based on what the customer wants, Bors says. The same exact stones can be stacked to look like the hills of Tennessee or each stone can be shaped and look like a fine mosaic.

How the stone is installed will affect the price, Marino from Southeastern Masonry says. Flagstone and slate are less expensive than stack stone or rubble strips because of the size of pieces used.

Another consideration is natural stone rather than artificial stone, which is made from concrete. Artificial stone is popular in new homes but not for remodeling work, Marino says. In addition to the cost advantage, artificial stone has a more uniform look. The downside, however, is that colorants used in the stone are only on the surface. Any nicks to the stone will reveal the concrete underneath.

Mortar styles are a matter of preference and one detail that many homeowners overlook. Any recommendation will depend on the type of installation, Marino says. On stacked stone, for example, most installers mortar the stones in shadow style with the mortar in the back, Bors says.

Especially among the do-it-yourself crowd, mortar color may not be a primary consideration until its too late, Bors says. In applications where you see a [mortar] joint, 85 percent of applications wont use gray because it stands out, Earth Products assistant manager says. Buff or black is used instead.

But some homeowners who do the project themselves dont think about it and wind up with a gray that doesnt work.
Once the stone is installed, the jobs not quite over. Chemicals can be used to bring out the stones color, and sealants can reduce the required maintenance while helping retain the color, Bors says. But a gallon of sealer, which covers 300 to 500 square feet, can run $100, so price is a consideration.

But Bors says that the stone business at Earth Products is holding steady. People are getting to the point where they want to enhance the beauty of their homes, Bors says. Stone gives them a feeling of security because they know that it will be here forever.

NO STONE UNTURNED

Here are some of the many choices you will find on the search for a material for your stone exterior:

FIELDSTONE
Fieldstone can be used to veneer or stack a wall, with various sizes and thicknesses that can be sorted out for different methods of installation

Tennessee Fieldstone
Size: 2- 3 inches thick
Colors: Typically gray to light tan
Coverage: 25-100 square feet per ton, depending on stone
Price: $190-$300 per ton

Pennsylvania Fieldstone
Size: Average thickness is 1 inch; pieces range from 6-18 inches across
Colors: Varies from bluish gray to green-gray and lilac (purple-gray), often with mossy edges
Coverage: 25-100 square feet per ton
Price: $240-$250 per ton

Drystack Stone
Size: 1-8 inches thick
Coverage: 30-35 square feet per ton Price: $100-$594 per ton, depending on type

THICK VENEER FIELDSTONE

Thick Cherokee
Size: 3-6 inches thick
Coverage: 35-40 square feet per ton Price: $155 per ton

GuillotinedPanola
Size: 3-6 inches thick
Coverage: 40 square feet per ton Price: $175 per ton

Carderock Stone
Size: 3-6 inches thick
Coverage: 35 square feet per ton Price: $380 per ton

DRYSTACK FIELDSTONE

Guillotined Gray Limestone
Size: 1-8 inches thick
Coverage: 35 square feet per ton Price: $220 per ton

Panola
Size: 1-8 inches thick
Coverage: 35 square feet per ton Price: $200 per ton

FLAGSTONE
Flagstone, which is quarried, can be used to veneer or stack a wall, either using irregular pieces or pieces broken into squares and rectangles. It ranges in color from tan and gray to pinks and blue- and green-grays.

Sequatchie
Size: 1/2-3/4-inch thick
Colors: Gray or variegated
Coverage: 180 square feet per ton Price: $200 per ton
Brown-tone Flagstone (Cherokee, Panola, Dakota, Desert Sandstone and others)
Size: 3/4-1 inch thick
Coverage: 100-140 square feet per ton Price: $110-$320 per ton

Green-tone Flagstone
(Green River, Smokey Mountain and Green Slate)
Size: 3/4-1 inch thick
Coverage: 60-140 square feet per ton Price: $220-$530 per ton

Crab Orchard Stack
Crab Orchard Stack is well known for its affordable price and ease of installation. Its warm tan or gray color lends itself to both interior and exterior applications.
Size: 1-6 inches thick
Colors: Brown and gray
Coverage: 25-30 square feet per ton Price: $175 per ton

RIVERROCKAND CREEKSTONE
Riverrock and Creekstone can be mortared into a wall as part of mixture or used exclusively. The stones are smooth and round.

Thin Alabama/Tennesse Riverrock
Size: less than 3 inches
Coverage: 60 square feet per ton Price: $215 per ton

Thick Alabama/Tennesse Riverrock
Size: 4-12 inches
Coverage: 40 square feet per ton Price: $150 per ton

Smokey Mountain Riverrock
Size: 4-12 inches
Coverage: 35 square feet per ton Price: $230 per ton

Multi-colored Riverrock
Size: 4-12 inches
Coverage: 35 square feet per ton Price: $270 per ton

Thickness vs. Coverage

1/2-3/4-inch 180-200 sq. ft./ton

3/4-11/2-inch 100-120 sq. ft./ton

11/2-21/4-inch 65-80 sq. ft./ton

2-4 inches 55-75 sq. ft./ton

4-6 inches 24-45 sq. ft./ton

8-12 inches 12-15 sq. ft./ton

Source: Compiled using information from Earth Products, Fieldstone Center and Pike Stone Center (prices, size and coverage may vary)

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