Getting started on the masonry
The original vent
Completion of the masonry

Masonry

Just like framing, the masonry is an exciting part of the construction process. It is the first real peak you have at how your house will look as a finished product.

We are trying to accomplish a bit of a rustic, old world feel to our house, and we wanted to do a combination of brick, rock, stucco and wood on the exterior of the house to give it some contrast and interest.

We began looking for brick and rock even before we dug a hole - obviously these choices are *very* permanent, so we wanted to make sure we got them right. We drove around for countless hours taking pictures of houses that we saw, noting colors and combinations that we liked together. We also visited (many times) various brick yards to see their inventory and take home samples.

It was somewhat of a frustrating process, because we found quite a few items that we mostly liked, but we weren't completely satisfied. Eventually, we found a brick that we really liked - the problem was that the brick was smaller than normal (which means we needed more of them), cost more than the larger bricks (ouch), and since there were more bricks to set, the labor would cost more.

So, we decided to eliminate that choice even though we really liked it. We continued our search for weeks, but never came up with anything. Eventually we decided to bite the bullet and order the smaller, more expensive brick. We decided the cost difference was not significant enough to sacrifice what we thought would provide the curb appeal we were looking for.

Our builder found a house with rock work that he thought would go well with the style of house we were trying to build, so he sent us over to look at it. We, too, really liked it, and decided to go with it. Of course, as luck would have it, it was the rock distributor's "signature" series, which basically means nothing other than a higher price. Uggh.

The rock is actually cultured stone - not real rock, but made out of various synthetic materials, primarily cement. The technology to make these rocks has been around for quite some time, but it has only become popular in the last 5 or 6 years. The advantage of this rock is that you can choose from styles that come from all over the world (since it is manufactured and not imported) which saves a ton of money, and because of its light weight, it does not require any support from a footing, which saves quite a bit on the installation. The labor to install cultured stone is also quite a bit less, too.

Trying to install as much square feet that we did of real rock would have been cost prohibitive. However, if someone did not tell you that it was not real rock, you would never know it. The rock we purchased is manufactured by Harristone, a local company that sells throughout the United States. We also looked at rock from Eldorado Stone who also had several that we liked.

During the brick-laying process, there was another communication breakdown that caused a small problem. Our mason was very good to walk around the house with us before he started working to identify how we wanted everything to look and come together. However, there was one area that we did not talk about - and that was the vents in the gables. Our plans showed spaces for wooden vents, however, since we did not specifically talk about this, and since Mark (my builder) and I had not remembered to get the vents ordered and on the site, the mason assumed that we weren't going to have them.

As a result, when he got to the top of the gable, he bricked in a small design with the brick that served as the vent. The design gave off a bit of a contemporary flare (to me, anyway) and I was concerned that it would not fit in well with the rustic, old world design we were going for. But, it was quite literally "set in stone" at this point, done and dried. I didn't know what to do...

To me, this seemed like a very permanent problem. To the mason, someone who works with brick every day of his life, apparently it was not too big of a deal. He climbed up his scaffolding, beat out the brick vent with a hammer, and re-bricked around a temporary box that I built for him with 2x4s that will hold the place for the vents until we get the final ones delivered and installed. It look him about an hour total.

Although I felt a bit guilty asking him to to it, I am glad that we changed it.

The mason started with the brick, and when they had completed the brick, they moved onto the rock work. Although there was more brick that rock (the brick carries all the way around the house as a wainscot), the rock took almost as much time to install as the brick. I suppose this is because the rock goes together like a giant jigsaw puzzle with no answer key. Watching them install the rock was amazing - it definitely takes an artist's touch to make it look nice.

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