Homebuilding – Real Material Samples Are a Must


In homebuilding, picking out the right materials can be a little tricky.

I talked yesterday about the value of painting out larger samples of your wall and trim paint selections to verify that the colors were right. The same principles applies to the other materials you plan to use. Don’t pick bricks from a photo or even from a brick sample card with several thin bricks on it. Without mortar, the bricks will look different than they will on your house. Stone is even tougher. I can’t imagine being confident in a stone selection from a handful of loose stones. Stones come in a very wide range of colors, textures, and sizes. And there is no good way to describe stone in words. Photos of other walls help, but you need to be sure your builder can reproduce the wall you want.

Insist that your builder construct a sample wall where you can see the “real” finished product.

In this photo, the stone mason has laid up three sample panels with several mortar joint options. You cans see two of them in this closer view.

The top joint is called a “raked” joint. The mortar has been scraped back to let the edges of the stones show more. The lower joint is a brushed joint where the mortar is flush with the face of the stone and brushed somewhat smooth with a bristle brush. You can see that the effects are remarkably different.

Simply picking the brick or stone for your house is not enough information for you to give your builder. It leaves too much to the imagination. You need to decide upon the color of the mortar, the way the mortar is “struck” or “tooled,” and you need to be sure you, your architect, the builder, and the mason all have the same image in mind for the final wall. The only sure-fire way to do this is to lay up a sample wall and create a physical sample. If the first samples don’t capture the look you want, pull it down and try again. The small cost of doing this will save you thousands in unnecessary cost, not to mention the aggravation and angst of getting the wall wrong.

I hope this information is helpful to you. You might want to get yourself a copy of my best-seller, Designing Your Perfect House. It is chockfull of valuable tips and advice that will save you many times the cost of the book on your house building or remodeling project. You might also like The Well-Centered Home: Simple Steps to Increase Mindfulness, Self-Awareness, and Happiness Where You Live. It will show you how to make your home a happy place.

Bill Hirsch | Architect

Bill Hirsch

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