Seven Reasons to Prefer Building With Stone

Building with stone offers a number of advantages. Here are seven, according to the authors.

| November/December 1981

072 building with stone 1 frame windows and doors

When building with stone, use wood to frame the windows and doors.


After spending eight years in our $2,000, self-built stone house in southern Idaho, Sharon and I sometimes wonder whether—were we somehow forced to start construction all over again—we would still build our home with natural stone. After all, the owner-builder can now select from many intriguing low cost shelter possibilities including log, cordwood, wood frame, pole, adobe, and earth-sheltered homes ... plus yurts, domes, tipis, houseboats, and an endless variety of innovative salvage-material structures.

Of course, it would be absurd to suggest that any building material or type of structure is "best" for all people under every circumstance, and certainly each one has its own outstanding advantages. Still, we can't help concluding that building with stone— aka "plain old rocks"—has more to recommend it for more people in more building situations than does an owner-built home made with any other material. Here's why:

Reason Number One

Good building stone can be found most anywhere, usually free for the gathering. We built our 1,100-square-foot home with 18 pickup loads of free boulders, most of which were gathered from a single field about a mile from our construction site. The rancher who owned the land was delighted to have his field cleared of "all them blankety-blank, machinery-bustin' rocks." Similar rancher/farmer/ landowner situations exist all over the country.

Collecting stones—for free—from public lands is also a possibility. However, since "rock foraging" isn't currently a common practice, regulations governing such activity are usually vague or nonexistent, so be sure to inquire locally before gathering. Some commercial rock quarries, too, will allow you to hand pick inexpensive stones from their huge rubble piles ... or will even haul the material to your site for a reasonable price!

Of course, the best source of building stone could be your own property if you're lucky (or smart) enough to own a piece of "worthless," rocky ground.

Besides the stone itself, you'll need only cement, sand, and gravel, plus maybe some steel reinforcement for corners and lintels. Our own home's 8' X 28' X 45' walls went up for only $250 in 1973, and—though cement and rebar prices have increased substantially since then—it's still possible to put up some really super stone walls for very little money.

5/3/2016 10:52:13 PM

Juliana, have you considered contacting the Metro United Way, or posting your situation on a crowdfunding or fundraising,, and are just a few. Be careful to check them out if you choose to do that; reviews, legitimacy, contact information, fees/deductions, whether you still get monies donated if your goal is not reached by a certain time, etc. Also, would/could you do a work-from-home job that would supplement but not interfere with your Social Security benefits (There will likely be a limit on your yearly earnings before your benefits will be affected - check with them.)? If so, check out,,, and other such sites. I hope you find the help you need!

5/2/2016 4:33:42 PM

Hi, I am up to my ears in debt. That was going to be solved when I sold my house I have been working on for 8 years. I just found out I have to have shoulder surgery, so I can't put my house on the market. I am a city girl living in a rural area. Completely out of my element. When I sell my house, pay off my debts, I will be left with next to nothing. I am on social security. I have PTSD from a horrible crime I was a victim of. So, I am a hermit. Afraid of the world. I need help. I don't know where to start, but I need to start planning for the next 20+ years of my life. I am 53. I have always dreamed of building a stone house. I even have the floor plan in my head. I just need help, as my shoulder will not be able to handle the work building a house. I can afford the land, and some of the materials, and I have a friend who can supply me with materials I can't afford. (He started a charity through his church that has volunteers repair homes for those who can't afford it.). I just don't know who to trust, and where to begin. I have no friends here. No boyfriend or husband. If I could, I would build it back in Michigan, but that is hard to do from Tennessee. Beside reading the books you suggest, which I will happily, do you have any suggestions on where I can locate free labor to help me build this house? And cheap land? I have already started collecting stone. Not much, but it's a start. I am so stressed out over my situation. I have 4 little dogs that are depending on me. (2 were abandoned by neighbors). I cry every night because I am afraid I am going to end up homeless if I don't come up with a plan. Between the pain of my shoulder, the never ending bills, the upkeep of this house, and having no one to help me make decisions, I end up crying at the end of the day because I am so afraid. Any help would be greatly appreciated. :)

Stephen M. Lato
4/1/2011 4:59:58 PM

I Am building a blacksmith shop and I am planing on useing stone. I will be in my shop between 8 and 12 hours a day in naborhood. I think that thick stone walls will help with sound and will shurly support any weight that I will ever need to lift. As mentioned stone is good with fires and I will be useing charcoal while forgeing and forming metal. I also love the fact the I am of Italian decent and they have been useing stone for thousands of years.

1/20/2011 8:15:17 PM

I've dreamed for years of living in a stone house. Nothing I've ever seen can match them for durability or beauty. But there is a condition that makes them a very bad idea in some locations. If you live as I do in an earthquake-prone area, you don't want to live in a stone house. In fact, you would not be permitted to build one, though you might be allowed to put stone housing on a wood-frame or timberframe house.

Christine Sears
7/16/2008 4:02:53 PM

Wow - what an amazing building choice. It's so rare to see stone used as a construction material these days. It takes a real artisanal appreciation. I wonder how "green" stone is with the excavation and transportation costs though? Not sure... I found a good guide to building your own green home: I didn't see stone mentioned there as a material. It certainly can't be considered renewable, right? C

1/16/2008 6:41:27 PM

I like what I read about stone homes. I am trying to get ideas so I can put it on paper. Also solar and wind power interest me,too. That what I want to use in the stone home...

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