Maintenance of stone walls costs next to nothing, and decorative niches and arches can be created easily

Recently after the Green Sense essay, stone once again proved to be the eternal favourite!

Many people called up and said they read the piece, and shared their dream to have a stone house or made queries about building with stone. Let us try going deep into a few of these queries.

The common concern about stone walls seems to be cost.

Estimating stone constructions has always been misunderstood.

At the quarry site, the unit cost is negligible, but at building site the cost increases due to sizing, dressing, and wall thickness.

Mostly people drop the idea of stone at this stage comparing it with bricks, not realising stone walls cost next to nothing lifelong.

In any structure, life cycle cost is as important as initial construction cost.

Also, total expenditure towards bricks, mortar quantity, plastering and painting may not differ greatly from what a stone wall demands. For that difference in cost, we get new aesthetics, cooler home and maintenance-free structure. In the hands of master architects such as Kanade Brothers, stone architecture goes beyond normal design, gaining architectonic qualities.

Rustic finish

Manual dressing gives the best rustic finish to a size stone; however, increasing costs have resulted in machine-dressed finishing nowadays.

Should the stone be fine-finished or dressed to retain a rough look is mostly dictated by time, budget and the owner's idea of beauty.

In residential designs, it's adequate to have rustic looks, which also work out cheaper.

Fine finish is mostly associated with public buildings, with the ultimate three-line dressing commonly referred by stone dressers in Bangalore as Vidhana Soudha finish!

Light effect

Though stone surfaces appear dignified anywhere, they appear their best when sunlight falls on them creating light and shadow. Being a non-reflective grey surface, if used for shaded walls, there is a danger that stone may look dull.

As such, extra care needs to be taken while using them indoors, placing opposite windows or below skylights.

Too many punctures in the wall by doors and windows make the surface look piecemeal as if stone has been pasted at places.

It is important to give stone walls unbroken continuity.

Incidentally, decorative niches and arches do not create this sense of break and can be used lavishly!

Precautions

Among the major precautions to be taken is water proofing the joints, which is a skilled job to be undertaken by experts in acid washing and pointing.

Groove jointing suits best for water proofing, shadow formation, highlighting stone face and such others compared with lined grooves, flush joints or raised joints. No glossy polish need be applied over the surfaces either to protect or water proof. Often, a thicker wall is believed to be better.

Stone wall thickness should depend on type of stone and construction, not on ideas of water proofing or blind following of past practices.

The past of course is part of stone architecture, and a stepping stone for the future!

(The author is a Bangalore-based architect, who can be contacted at varanashi@gmail.com)

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