Stone exterior under construction

Straw, Sticks or Brick?

We came across an interesting video the other day. There’s something intriguing to us about the “tiny house” movement and the use of space. When we design custom homes, we frequently dedicate space for hobbies, storage, work, and more, but in our case it’s generally an entire room. In a tiny house, that use of space demands another level of efficiency.

Our fascination with this video, however, had nothing to do with space or ergonomics. It was about the building materials. Using a lightweight steel mesh, they constructed the home out of straw, and then used a cement-like lime to coat the surfaces. It breathes, so is resilient to cracking, and makes heating and cooling the home much more efficient.

You can watch the video at the bottom of the page.

While we haven’t built any homes out of straw, we do work with homeowners to sort through a host of material choices. For floors, walls, patios and more, there are design options in stone, brick, cement, granite…

Which to choose? And what are the considerations?

The first consideration is probably cost. There are some who enter a custom build and say, “money is no object,” but most of us likely have a budget in mind. We pride ourselves on providing the highest quality of craftsmanship and materials while helping our clients manage their budgets, but choices will still need to be made.

Look at something simple like decking. Even a simple wooden deck can have a large price range depending on the quality of wood you choose. Opting for a synthetic material or a custom material like Trex will reduce maintenance requirements and extend the lifespan of the deck, but it will certainly impact your bottom line.

The environment is another consideration. If you’re in the mountains, you need to consider average temperatures and precipitation. If you’re building closer to the coast, persistent humidity becomes a factor.

How long do you want this material to last? Building an exterior wall with brick or stone will give you decades of maintenance-free worry. Cedar siding may look great, but will need a bit more upkeep to maintain a decent look and protect the interior of your home.

You’ll also want to consider the energy efficiency of the material. Stone or concrete floors can absorb the heat of daytime sun and retain that warmth for hours, but turn a darker room into a colder one. Choosing a composite material for window framing will extend the lifespan and better prevent drafts.

When choosing materials, decide first what you want it to look like. You can paint an interior wall, but a stone finish will always be a stone finish. Decide how much time and money you want to spend over the life of your home to maintain it. At that point, we can help you select materials that meet those needs but stay within your overall budget.

The straw idea has us thinking, though…