How To Begin Caring For A Stone Home
Don’t fall into the money pit
Since 2007 I’ve had the pleasure of inspecting hundreds of Stone Homes all over Ontario. Some were stone homes that were built by the first settlers. A brave group of people trying to find shelter from the cold Ontario winters while at the same time clearing a forest, planting crops for food and establishing a family. It could not have been easy. These early settler homes were built fast and often by men with minimal stone masonry skills. Some of the stone homes were built for prosperous families, people of means and the craftsmanship is reflected in the stone work and other places in the home.
Stone Homes Always Create Emotion
But no matter who built the home and under what circumstances that it may have happened, Stone Homes are one if the marvels of North American construction. Imagine pioneers walking around their fields picking up the stones that were lying there and creating a structure that would stand for 170 years or more. It really is remarkable. As long as these homes have stood, they do need some minimal maintenance to keep them in a condition that will see them stand for the next century.
In future posts I’ll get into greater detail, but generally the most important aspect of being sure your home will continue to stand the test of time is to be sure the outside stays out and inside stays in. The integrity of the building envelope is the most critical step to extending the life of your home.
The Stone – every stone home I’ve ever seen was stone from the bottom of the foundation to the top of the exterior walls. In different parts of the province the stone can vary, as can the mortar that holds the stone together. What a wonderful concoction original mortar was – all natural and able bind such hard surfaces together for centuries. But because we live in a part of the world where the winters can be harsh, the mortar will breakdown over time. As it fails moisture is able to penetrate deeper into the wall. There it will cause a breaking down and softening of the substrate and further failure. If opening is allowed to exist through a winter cycle, the moisture inside the wall can freeze. In freezing it’ll expand and that can cause even more damage.
Making sure the motar stays in good condition is very important. Repointing or tuck pointing is the process. There are several different methods depending on how the house built and getting it right is very important. Right in terms of both the materials used and the technique employed. There are specialized trades people that can help with this. This is normally not”urgent”work – unless there are cracks visible. Most stone home owners undertake a planned schedule to repoint if necessary. Typically doing one wall a year until the complete structure is done.
Windows & Doors Windows and doors are the openings that can very easily become an issue quickly. A broken window, or a door that lets some air blow in can have devastating impacts quickly. Checking caulking and weather stripping is time well spent in the summer when things are dry and repairs are easy. A closer look at the frames and sash for issues is always warranted.
The Roof is an obvious area that needs to be checked. The and any flashings should be inspected every summer. There are all kinds of roofs, we’ll explore them a bit deeper in future posts, but whatever the roof you have it’s important to have it looked at periodically, some more often than others. Flashing around chimneys or where a roof may meet a wall are places where leaks can begin.
Lastly – It’s really important to keep out the critters. Stone Homes are full of nooks and crannys, a good inspection around the foundation to look for places that mice might make their way in is wise. Then a careful look at the soffit and facia areas to look for bat or racoon access is the next step. Keeping animal out is critical.
Depending on the condition of the home when you bought it or how long you’ve had it. For the most part these are just an ordinary part of owning Stone Home. If managed properly they should not be a big deal or the least bit overwhelming – it just goes with the territory.
At A Stone Home .com we are a resource for this information and are here to help.