Hard as a rock doesn't mean it'll last forever!

Home Inspector with HouseMaster of NH and ME



Even stone can deteriorate. Stone and other similar construction material is subject to the same harmful effects of weather and other environment concerns that can compromise wood and alternative composite building materials. While we expect wood to degrade/decay over time there is most often the false sense that stone will last forever. Obviously stone is far more durable than other siding and construction materials, however, regular maintenance is still required. Stone facades are especially vulnerable to the elements. Although moderate exposure to rainwater is clearly unavoidable and is beneficial in cleaning the exterior surface of the stone it is responsible for the majority of stone damage and most often attributable to cycles of heavy saturation and drying. Reasons for these cycles vary from home to home but are usually seasonal weather factors, leaking or insufficient gutter systems, ineffective cornices, blocked drains and clinging vegetation.  


       The most common causes of stone deterioration include:

 The freeze and thaw cycle. This cycle is very well known to us here in New Hampshire and Maine. Through capillary action water is drawn deep into the stone. This process causes a mechanical stress on the porous walls upon freezing. Cracking and separation are the readily apparent signs of damage.
Salt crystallization. Soluble salts are drawn in the pore network with water where the form crystals within those pores. Since the salt crystals take up more space than when in solution their expansion causes structural damage to the internal structure of the stone. The telltale sign in this case would be the formation of efflorescence (salt deposits) on the materials surface.
Acidic action. The more common method of transferring an acid to the surface of the stone is through acid rain. Acids that are deposited on the stone will, over time, dissolve the stone. The result is a roughening of the surface or in the case of some stone, an actual separation of its component layers.
Vegetation. Excessive vegetation in close proximity to the stone as well as moss and vines trap moisture in the stone and severely restrict the process of evaporation. The heaviest damage is caused by the root structures of the vegetation that over time and through mechanical action dislodge mortar and open joints between the stonework.
Structural movement. In cases of moderate to radical settling or upheaval even sound stone can be compromised under the additional stresses. Those areas most often affected are lintels, sills, doorways and windows. When this occurrence is combined with any of the above conditions the affect of the movement can be dramatically increased.


Unlike death and taxes, stone is not forever!            




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Jon Mitchell
Classic Property Management - Santa Clarita, CA
Very interesting.  I did know that climbing ivy could be a problem in the long run, but I would not have thought much about rain!
Jun 07, 2007 12:08 PM #1
Patricia Aulson
Realtor - Portsmouth NH Homes-Hampton NH Homes

Good post, didn't think of the climbing ivy being a potential problem. It always looks so pretty.


Patricia Aulson/REALTOR/NH/ME/MA

Jun 07, 2007 12:19 PM #2
Dennis Williams
HouseMaster of NH and ME - Rochester, NH

Hi Jonathan,

 It's amazing how many issues are either created by or exacerbated by rain/water. Just ask the carpenter ants!

Jun 07, 2007 12:19 PM #3
Dennis Williams
HouseMaster of NH and ME - Rochester, NH


It does look pretty doesn't it! Luckily we don't have an over abundance vine covered homes here in the beautiful Northeast.

Jun 07, 2007 12:21 PM #4
Mesa, Arizona Real Estate Mesa Arizona Realtor
Homes Arizona Real Estate LLC - Mesa, AZ
Interesting post. Typically we don't have "stone" homes in Arizona, but there are lots of brick or block homes. I suppose water wouldn't be a huge issue, but the ivy could be something to think about.
Jun 07, 2007 12:48 PM #5
Dennis Williams
HouseMaster of NH and ME - Rochester, NH


There is a growing trend across the nation to apply stone veneers to existing homes. More commonly to block homes and foundations. Much like EIF'S (Stucco) if not apllied correctly the potential for damage comes exponentially greater. If you come across any of these applications have the inspector pay special attention to it.

Jun 07, 2007 12:53 PM #6
Jonathan Vetter
Mercury Lending - San Francisco, CA
I had no idea.  I learned something today!  Thanks Dennis
Jun 07, 2007 12:54 PM #7
Dennis Williams
HouseMaster of NH and ME - Rochester, NH

You're welcom. That's what we're all here for.

 Is the Acme Chop House still around? Spent a week there one night.

I'm told I had an awesome time (lol)

Jun 07, 2007 01:22 PM #8
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