Self-reliance and sustainability in the 21st century.
Where we live having a rock fascia on our house exterior just makes good sense. It is attractive, helps insulate the house and serves as wildfire protection. We live in a covenant community that requires exteriors to be natural or have natural colors that blend in with the environment. When you live on the side of a mountain at 9,750’ elevation there is nothing more natural than a native stone exterior. We have abundant rock or native stone available on our property and putting it to use just made sense to us, not to mention the price was right and the supply virtually endless. Weather at this elevation can also be harsh so having this type exterior saves having to stain or seal the exterior every two years. While we use the best stain/sealer available the weather still punishes the exterior and having a stone fascia will save extra time and money over the long haul.
Not being a stone mason I realized that I needed to install the rock fascia to the existing exterior in a manner in which it would be secure and attractive. That was solved by using some extra sheets of metal roofing that were used to protect the top and bottom of our present metal roofing when it was delivered. Metal roofing is designed to last 20 plus years and that life expectancy is formulated based upon when it is used on the roof where it is constantly exposed to the elements every day. Cutting it into tie on strips I feel certain will extend the life of the metal. I cut the metal roofing into 7-8” long strips 1” wide (see photo). Then with a pair of pliers I bent over the bottom into a fold and with a nail punched a small hole in the top where I screwed it to the existing exterior wood using a one inch deck screw. These hold the stone/mortar to the wall and the more used the more secure the masonry addition. The underlying wood is T1-11 that was treated with wood sealer/stain to protect it against the elements over the years. The thicker the gauge of metal roofing the better and more secure the tabs will hold the wall in place.
Having cut sufficient metal tabs the next step was to gather sufficient native stone the appropriate size which needed to be flat on two sides. That posed no problem with abundant stone lying all over our 11 acres; large piles of stones were soon established. We used the larger stones on the bottom and gradually tapered to smaller stones toward the top. We also used pre-formed cement slabs or dug cement footers as a base to act as a foundation for stone and to support the weight of the wall. We purchased numerous 80 pound bags of mason mix and carefully mixed it according to the directions on the bag. We would mix about a third of a bag at one time as the process of cementing one rock at a time is slow. When we mixed greater volumes it tended to set up too fast and we found a third of a bag was just about the right amount.
The process is slow because we could only go a few rows high and then had to wait for the mortar mix to dry sufficiently before we could continue to go any higher. The mortar can be groomed like in laying bricks but we chose to leave it more natural for the strength it provided and besides we liked that particular look. We installed the rock to the roof line and then finished the top with metal flashing appropriately caulked and painted to match the house and keep moisture from getting behind the stone work. Across the front deck we only went 6 feet high as it was more attractive and still provided protection from any wildfire. We also have installed a mist system on the deck which will keep the deck wet should we have to evacuate in case of a wildfire. Note in the photo the rock wall with a metal lid which houses our propane tank. Propane tanks are required to be hidden from view and many have used wooden or stick fences to hide them. I believe when you have a tank as explosive as propane to put additional fuel around it compounds your exposure so we enclosed ours with a stone wall. It has posed no problem for our propane delivery since the top is hinged and stone and mortar do not burn.
I would suggest that no one undertake this project unless you have the patience to see it through because it is very time consuming. The end result however is attractive, insulates the house, and gives maximum protection against wildfire exposure. We still have sufficient stone laying around our property to do another house or two. Utilizing natural materials that are abundant and easily obtainable just makes sense to us. I can’t emphasize enough that you need to be prepared to work on the project for months to see it through to completion. The end result is very attractive and other than the cost of the mason’s mix, deck screws and flashing very reasonably priced alternative for exterior’s and blends perfectly with the environment. This is a practical and relatively inexpensive solution for wildfire prevention and is attractive using natural stone which we already had in abundance.
For more on Bruce and Carol McElmurray and mountain living go to: www.brucecarolcabin.blogspot.com.