A solid investmentHow to incorporate stone into your home
By: Dana Kazel, Living North
Perhaps it’s because they’re so often haphazardly scattered across sandy beaches, or perhaps its because they’re often seen tossed together in piles around the edges of green fields, but there’s something about using stone in rigid, architectural ways that has captured artisans’ fascination through the centuries.
“It’s timeless,” said Eric Moshier, owner of Duluth-based Solid Rock Masonry. “The oldest buildings in the world are made of stone. Wood ends up rotting, but stone lasts forever.”
Clint Massie, owner of Great Lakes Stone Supply in Duluth echoed Moshier’s sentiment, saying stonework is solid, structurally sound and adds a unique appeal and individuality to a home. Using stone as an architectural element brings an instant focal point to any type of décor.
“Visually it’s stunning, said Moshier. “People just get mesmerized looking at stone work.”
Fireplaces have long been the most common place for stone to be used, but many other areas are becoming strong contenders in the popularity contest. “We’re seeing more and more backsplashes, archways, kitchen islands or backs of bars,” said Massie. “Sometimes in a den we’ll do a whole wall just to change the whole look of the room,” he adds, citing dining rooms and bedrooms as popular areas for stonework.
Whole walls, room dividers, kitchen islands and masonry heaters are among the ways Moshier has seen stone spring up in homes. The uniqueness of using rock is part of its strong appeal, according to Massie.
“Everybody has sheetrock walls in the basement, or paneling or wainscotting," he said. "People want something a little bit different.”
Some homeowners view stonework as a way to bring the feel of a favorite outdoor setting into the home.
“In this area, people are looking for field stone, basically the rocks you see everywhere – along Lake Superior, at your cabin at the lake, granite boulders – people want to bring that back into their house. That’s what they want it to look like,” said Moshier.
Though river rock may be the most prominently utilized, other stones are on the rise. Virginia slate is another popular option, and is featured in the new DECC Amsoil Arena.
“A lot of people like the darker rock here,” said Massie. “Up North Stone quarries this stone out of the old iron mines in the Virginia and Babbitt areas. There are definitely advantages to using that stone, but it's also a very dense stone with a lot of iron in it, so it's very hard to cut. The only way to get an economical thin veneer is to hand-select pieces that are already naturally thin, so it can cut availability down and sometimes drive up the price a little bit, too.”
Many types of rock are now available cut as thinly as an inch-and-a-half: “You’re seeing only the top surface of the stone,” said Massie. “It gets cemented to the wall just like a manufactured stone.” He explains that makes it easier to work with, and more versatile. “You can put it on a second-story fireplace without extra support.”
Building with stone isn’t cheap (materials and installation costs can range from $30 to $80 per square foot) but it certainly has its benefits.
“Homeowners of all ages and income levels cite stone inside or outside their home as their number one desire and focal point when designing their home,” says Moshier.
And because stonework can last more than a century and requires little to no maintenance, it definitely could be considered a solid investment.