Real Estate: Brick and stone veneers are rock-solid options for a new look

12/06/2010 3:47 PM |

BARBARAELLEN KOCH PHOTO | Eric Thompson of South Fork Supply on Speonk-Old Riverhead Road points a newly installed chimney

With the housing market rocked off its foundation, many East Enders are fixing up rather than upgrading to a new house. And as the wisest of the three little pigs might say, there’s nothing like brick or stone to give a home concrete appeal.

Local masons Chris Mohr of Mohr’s Landscaping and Masonry in Cutchogue and Eric Thompson of E W’s Southfork Mason Supply of Speonk, say brick and stone are durable materials that never need to be painted, never rot and provide excellent insulation.

“There’s nothing like weathered brick or stone to give a home or business a unique look,” Mr. Mohr said. “I did it at my shop. We veneered it with stones and Long Island quarry rock and it makes the foundation look like it’s an old stone foundation.”
Bricks and stone come in many sizes, textures, and colors and can be laid in a variety of patterns. Adding stone or brick to a typical two-story house takes four to five days for each wall, said Mr. Thompson.

It can cost as much as $55 a square foot for solid brick. Stone can reach $55 a square foot. Brick or stone veneers are both less expensive and lighter weight alternatives.

“It costs roughly $18 to $20 a square foot for split brick veneers,” Mr. Thompson said. “Stone veneers run between $20 and $25 a square foot and they’re only about six to 10 pounds a square foot. There are just some places, like an existing chimney, that can’t handle the weight of full stones.”

Brick and stone sidings are usually applied to a wood-framed wall over building paper, according to Mr. Thompson. They’re held in place with mortar, a mixture of cement, sand, lime, and water.

Mr. Thompson said that the mortar that holds the bricks or stones together can be finished, or tooled, in a number of ways, including concave, flush with the bricks, extruded between the bricks, raked, or V-joined.

“There are different applications,” he said. “We custom make all kinds of things.”

While bricks and mortar are solid, durable materials, they are also porous. Masons generally recommend that homeowners consider regularly applying a clear water-repellent coating to preserve the brick, especially to prepare for spells of freezing and thawing during the winter.

New manufactured faux bricks and stones do not need as much maintenance as their real counterparts, manufacturers claim. A simple hosing down every year usually takes care of keeping the faux stones clean.

Faux bricks and stones are also lighter in weight than even split stone or bricks. The faux rocks are typically a mixture of cement, natural aggregates and iron oxide pigments poured into molds made from real stones.

The result is a durable and fireproof material that looks realistic and can be fashioned into colors and patterns that don’t exist in nature, according to Mr. Mohr. Veneers come in a broad palette of colors and styles, in individual units or in panels from 1/2 inch to four inches thick. Like solid brick, they’re applied over wood framing, Mr. Mohr explained, but a gluey compound and wire mesh are used to fix them in place rather than cement.

Like solid brick and stone, faux brick and stone can last the life of a home, Mr. Mohr added.

“There are so many composite products out on the market, but some of the faux rocks can get expensive,” he said, adding that faux brick or stone sidings can range from $25 to $55 a square foot, depending on the product.

“Personally, I like working with the real rock,” Mr. Mohr added. “I think at the end of the day, real stone looks nicer, but that’s just my opinion.”

Both real and faux bricks and stone need to be fastened to walls with specialized ties and clips, said Mr. Thompson. Solid, dependable mortar and properly tooled joints are key to keeping a house weather tight and safe, he said.

“You see these walls that fall down in Manhattan,” Mr. Thompson said. “It’s because the ties that hold them up have given way. So if you’re doing a masonry building, say you have a cinder block wall and then you’re going to do a stone or a brick veneer in front of it, it’s good to put those same wall ties into the joints of the block wall first and then you can incorporate them into the joints of the facing over it.”

Mr. Thompson and Mr. Mohr both said that stone and brick offer many esthetic possibilities for home and business owners alike.

Mr. Mohr said that he specializes in making steps and walkways out of bluestone and Pennsylvania wallstone for a compelling entryway. Mr. Thompson’s projects include giving an average home a regal look with granite walls, a slate roof and stone columns.

But homeowners don’t have to go to extremes to improve the look of their properties, Mr. Mohr added. Simply adding stone or brick to the foundation of a house could sharply improve it’s look without knocking a homeowner’s bank account off its footing.
Both masons agree that when it comes to improving the look and value of a house, there’s not a more rock-solid choice than brick or stone.

“We custom make all kinds of things out of stone,” Mr. Thompson said. “We can do custom engraving, kitchen countertop work, stone columns, there are all kinds of different things. It’s crazy! It just depends on what you want.”