Friday, October 26, 2012

Learn Why Brownstone Was So Popular and Why It's Making A Comeback

Brownstone was popular as a building material back in the late 19th Century. Back then the quarries producing these stones were as busy as they could be. Rows upon rows of brownstone homes were constructed in urban places like Brooklyn.

Early Use- As early as the 17th Century, brownstone was already being utilized by locals along the East Coast. When they started out they just used the rocks that have been chipped off from cliffs and used them in constructing chimneys and walls. By the next century, the supply of the chipped stones was depleted so they resorted to quarrying it.

Quarrying for Brownstone- Quarrying for brownstone is relatively easy since the deposits where it is derived is near the surface. It is also a soft stone so working on it even in those days when there were no modern tools to aid in the quarrying was relatively easy, at least when compared with working on other stones at that time.

The deposits of brownstone were created hundreds of million years ago when the continents were still joined together. The stone owes its reddish color to the high ferric oxide content.

Brownstone Deposits- There are many places in the East Coast where there are brownstone deposits that could be quarried. The Apostle Islands in Lake Superior, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts are just some of the places where brownstone was derived at the height of its popularity. Portland, Connecticut, and Eastern New Jersey was the source of the brownstone materials used for the construction of the houses in Manhattan and Brooklyn, which are highly valued today.

Limitation- There are problems with the use of brownstone in construction and that is part of the reason why builders stopped using it as the 20th Century progressed. It has the effect known as spalling which is what happens when the stone starts to flake off. This happens when moisture seeps in between the layers of the stone and freezes, forcing the stone to expand.

This effect happens about 10 to 20 years after that stone is in place and it can cause serious damage and also make the stone look bad. Some experts believe though that this effect could be minimized by practicing some good construction techniques.

Another contributing factor in the disintegration of brownstone is the way that it is quarried. The best way is to season stones first before using them in construction, a costly practice that many builders opted to skip.

Comeback- Though people lost their taste for brownstone building early in the 20th century it is making a huge comeback now. It has become a sentimental favorite among house buyers and a well maintained brownstone house can sell for millions of dollars. Brownstone houses are some of the most valuable homes in many American cities today.

The problem of spalling remains however, and the best solution for it is to replace the stones. Good thing that there are some quarries that are being activated again in order to supply the need for brownstone.

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