For The Love of Limestone; Properties, Pitfalls and Triumphs of Texas Limestone Façades

It surrounds us, it is in the landscape and it is one of the most common forms of matter on this planet.  Stone, in its variety of forms, colors and properties, has been a core element since the dawn of man.  From early tools and cave dwellings to precision diamond bits, we humans have embraced this material as a key part of our lives.  Ranging in composition light enough to float on water to density nearly three times that of water, in specific mass alone, there is wide variation. Most commonly, however, this substance exists in the range of 2400 to 3200 kilograms per cubic meter.[1] Density, alone, however a common thread for most stone used in construction, belies the myriad of characteristics that set it apart.

 

Considering the factors of weight, density, hardness, porosity, chemical resistance, color, and heat conduction, as well as geographic location, compressive strength and workability,  it’s most common location alone determines if and where a stone type will be used in construction.  Within any geographic location, the range of stone types available are typically limited to a single type of sedimentary and metamorphic rock with an underlying or alternately exposed bed or igneous rock.    Above all, sedimentary remains king and dominates the landscape 4 to 1.  Approximately ten percent of sedimentary rock is limestone.[1] Composed primarily of calcium carbonate, CaCO3, limestone has made its place in architectural history.  It is at this point that we look more closely at this material in contemporary American architecture.

 

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Beautiful Garage Doors


Now everyone knows that when you accessorize with jewelry, you need a matching set to create the “wow” look. The same principle applies to the exterior of a house. When I built my cedar shutters, I knew that something was missing. Doug recommended a matching garage door to compliment the shutters I built. I was a bit hesitant at first, because I never put a lot of thought into a garage door, but then I researched the facts and realized how important a garage door is to the look of a house.

The garage door I built is an overlay of real knotty cedar wood – tongue and grove panels. The task to build the garage door was a bit daunting because of the huge amount of wood and skilled cutting involved. Every panel had to be precisely cut or the fit of the panels would not be matching. Careful thought had to go into the position of the wood and how the wood would be attached to the metal garage door panel. In addition to that, adding all this wood would change the weight of the door thus forcing more pressure on the garage door springs. I had to calculate the new garage door weight, and order springs to compensate for the poundage.

Now while I changed the springs, I added an extra “bling” to the door façade by installing clavos heads. The round metal “button” look represents a clavos. A clavos is a word in Spanish for nail head. In some culture like the Spanish, if the nail heads are large and exposing, it represents strength and over time, has become a symbol for wealth. As my friend in construction would say, “they look like money!”

To me though, it was more about the cohesiveness of the front façade. The house actually was half windows and half garage. I never realized that a garage door could consume so much of the house look in the front – especially where mine was about half the house. Oddly though, what was originally considered ugly and standard, gave me the desire and chance to change that perception into a wonderful look that had complimentary matching cedar wood features. This is one thing about mother-nature you cannot beat, the beauty of her warm natural look.

 

by Jon Lee

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Incident Light – The Unplanned Element

Incident Light The Unplanned Element

Reflected light from just below the soffit line can afford ample glazing for natural lighting at west walls and offer privacy

Growing up in a tract home in the 1970s in the southern United States, I was exposed primarily to a singular type of architecture. The home I spent the majority of my childhood in was part of a builder designed tract community, the quintessential formulaic American neighborhood with a handful of floor plans scattered about in different orientations with subtle façade variations. Our family home was an attempt to represent the late Medieval Tudor Style complete with a bay window. More distressing was that this 1870’s Victorian creation was placed on the westward wall of a tract home in a hot humid southern climate. The combination of window type and more importantly, orientation, created a space that was intolerable, inefficient and even unsightly. The solution of the day was to coat the window with solar film, a truly hideous and poorly transparent material for the day, never mind that the window was still a bastion of heat transfer due to the unbroken aluminum frame even after this installation. This condition was not peculiar to my home and still is rampant in many homes and apartments encountered 30 years since.  Rarely encountered is sensitivity toward orientation or adaptation of design for solar heat gain.

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To Close or Not to Close Shutters

Cedar Shutters in Open Position

To Close or Not to Close Shutters

A year ago, I built some real knotty cedar shutters for my house that can actually close. I built it with a simple design idea from Doug, but only did it to make the house beautiful in a different traditional way. I got tired of my house “looking like” everyone else’s track home and so I built a set of wonderfully stained cedar shutters.    

I never realized the benefits of having real shutters until I built mine. Every time a storm came in, I went outside and closed my shutters. What a feeling! After I did that several times, I felt like I was living the life of “Little House on the Prarie!” It really felt good to know that I can do something about the harmful effects of weather change: to close the shutters for storm protection from hail storm or flying debris, when the house gets hot inside –close them, or when you simply want privacy – just lock them shut.

Cedar Shutters in Closed Position

It is very funny to see that such a historically simple idea has been almost forgotten and only the wealthy can afford to have it built. Trust me, it is expensive to build it if you don’t know how and hire someone to do it. However, if you do manage to build a set for your house and the house is correctly decorated for shutters… they can be the “bling bling” of your need to accessorize!

by Jon Lee

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