Monday, March 9, 2009


A wide variety of materials are available for use in the construction of an architect designed custom home. Many factors influence the choices; costs, budget, maintenance, the site, the style of home and the Owner's preferences. Those materials used in a custom home should be decided prior to design. The materials chosen will have an impact on the design of the custom home. An earlier blog discusses roofs. This blog will discuss wall materials, doors and windows. The choice of materials used in custom homes is wide and materials may be combined.

Wood Siding: Many types of wood siding are on the market, both new materials and old or recycled wood. All wood siding should be placed over an anti-infiltration barrier. Vertical wood siding, used in dramatic contemporary designs and the "mine shaft" look, requires horizontal nailing framing at 24" o.c. Wood siding can be stained or painted. Wood weathers badly in Colorado's high altitude and extreme climate. It requires frequent maintenance and refinishing.

Stucco: Stucco is a very commonly used siding material, both for its look and its lower maintenance requirements. With stucco, the color is in the final coat, so no painting is required. Trim and special shapes can be built right into the stucco. Some small cracking is expected and tolerated. Synthetic stucco over glued down insulation board was popular a few years back. This product had some problems, and code and insurance issues pushed the industry back to old fashioned "hard coat stucco" using Portland cement. This material resists birds and has a more solid feel to it.

Brick: Brick is an attractive and long lasting exterior material. It seldom requires any maintenance. There are endless choices of different bricks available. Brick seems best to fit in suburban and urban sites design wise, and it does not seem as acceptable in rural locations.

Stone: Stone is again available in an endless variety of choices. Today, it is most commonly applied as a veneer. The stone is laid against a wood framed wall covered in a waterproof material. This allows for the benefit of a well insulated wood frame wall while reducing the amount of stone and the labor to lay it. This true stone, even laid as a veneer, is expensive. Material and labor costs are high. To give the look of stone at a lower cost, synthetic stone can be used. Synthetic or cast stone is colored concrete, formed in molds that give it the appearance of stone. It is laid as a veneer against what is basically a stucco base coat. At a higher cost, though still lower than full stone veneer, is a thin stone veneer. It is available from Telluride Stone and Robinson Brick. Thin stone veneer is made from real stone, cut to about 1" thick. Corner pieces are also supplied. It is also laid up on a stucco base coat. Because this material is real stone, it can be chipped and shaped and has a truer stone appearance than concrete stone.

Other Materials: Other material choices for custom homes exist. Various metal sidings are available. Corrugated steel is currently popular. Hardboard siding gives the look of painted wood at a lower cost and with less maintenance. Any material can be used, but some thought must be given to the materials lifespan, its maintenance and its weathering.

Doors: Doors, and in particular, entry doors, come in thousands of styles and finishes. Owner's will often pick their favorite out of a catalogue available from the manufacturer or on the Internet. Doors are often chosen as an allowance item. They are usually wood, but can be insulated steel.

Garage Doors: Garage doors are also available in a multitude of style and finishes, but can also be easily custom made. For a one of a kind custom garage door that fits perfectly into your custom home design, wood siding and trim can be applied to a Masonite door. This door will require heavy duty tracks and hardware. If windows are desired in the garage door, or budget dictates, a manufactured door can be bought. Again, there are catalogs available and Internet sites to view products. These doors can be steel, insulated steel or wood. Steel doors are painted and require less maintenance than wood doors. There are even steel doors coated with a wood like product that accepts stain.

Windows: All custom homes should use a good, high quality window. Best are aluminum clad wood windows. The exterior is colored aluminum, available in almost any color and very low in maintenance. Inside is stained or painted wood. All windows should be insulated glass and have a low e coating for energy conservation. Windows can make up 20% of the heat loss of a house. A good window reduces energy consumption and resists air infiltration.