Stone is a beautiful natural material that can be cut to any size, and will enhance the exterior or interior of any building. A stone-clad building has a natural elegance to it, that gives it a timeless quality.
Brick can be made to any shape and most sizes, and because it is a man-made material, can be very flexible in its quality and potential uses. The use of red brick particularly can make a property very distinctive.
The use of stone in an eco-friendly construction, or a green building, has both advantages and some disadvantages. The same can be said of brick.
They can also be used together, which has some construction value in terms of insulation, but also expensive, and un-ecological in terms of transport costs.
Weighing Up the Benefits of Both Materials
Whether or not one material outweighs the other is not a straight-forward case; Stone needs to be quarried, which clearly has an environmental impact, dressed, and transported. Using locally quarried stone can offset some of this impact, or you might be lucky to have stone already on-site. Using stone from the site you are building on emulates the environment, and could be said to offset the impact of having to transport materials from further distances. It is also said that a stone-built building gives the effect of anchoring the building to the land, and into the local environment. Regional stone has its own distinctive colour, texture and quality.
Keep your eye out when travelling so you can learn to tell the differences between regional types of stone.
There are signs that the stone Industry worldwide is responding to the prevailing wish to build green. Adaptations to greener or more environmental practise include adhering to quarrying laws and local environmental regulations, which might involve turning part of the quarry site into a restored nature reserve. Also, a greater involvement in educating the building public toward the benefit of using stone is happening, as is more research and analysis of materials at quarry sites.
Evidence that stone has been used for centuries is all around us – the landscape of Ireland for instance shows stone walls and boundary markings, some of which have been dated to 5,000 years ago. In these cases, history literally is ‘written in stone’.
However, both stone walling and cladding a wall with stone is a slow, laborious job, requires a lot of skill and patience that many enthusiastic self-builders may not have, and above all, it is highly physically demanding.
Stone buildings are also notoriously colder. They are great in hot climates where the thick stones keep the inside cool, but heat doesn’t get effectively trapped by stone. Creating an insulation layer of either thin wood or a rendering of lime can help this.
Brick, on the other hand, takes as much resources from the land as stone, in the different components used.
Also the heating process to cook the brick has an environmental impact. There is much more opportunity to get exactly the type, texture, size and colour of brick you need to construct with, which is a big advantage. Unfortunately, the material is likely to come from further away, so bear in mind this important environmental impact of travel. If cost is the most important factor in design and construction of your project, brick is going to be the cheaper material to use. It is easier to use, and the skills involved in building with brick are less and easier to learn.
Using the Right Material for the Job
These differences shown between the two materials show the unique possibilities of building with brick or with stone. It is possible, and quite common, to use a combination of brick and stone when designing and constructing a building. For example, using stone as a feature on an exterior wall, as a stone accent, or as a fascia, sets off a standard brick wall. Bearing in mind the sustainable element of the materials, comparing the impact of producing both, from a quarry or from a furnace, has to be specific to your project.