What Type of Exterior to Use

There are a lot of rewarding transformations during a rehab and exterior upgrades are some of the most dramatic.

The exterior design of your house is more than just aesthetics. There are tons of exterior designs to pick from – victorian, contemporary, Cape Cod – the list goes on and on. One important aspect to think about when building a home is what exterior materials to use – specifically stone, brick, and siding. While many other building materials exist, we’ll stick to these types of exteriors since they’re a staple around Chicago. In this blog we’ll talk about a few differences between them and what you should take into account during a rehab.


I love brick – it looks great new and – if maintained – the older it gets, the more refined it looks. Chicago and many cities on the East Coast have old brick homes and buildings because of its durability. Centuries ago, it was also easy to transport around cities and the materials were actually cheaper compared to others. Now, brick is a bit more expensive than many other exterior materials; however, you’re paying for the traditional look and durability. You don’t notice brick much out West for one main reason – earthquakes! Brick is a bit less stable when it comes to side-to-side motions – don’t let that deter you, Chicago isn’t prone to earthquakes. One of the great aspects of brick is that it’s low maintenance. Cleaning once or twice a year is recommended just to avoid moss buildup and once every decade tuckpointing from a quality contractor is recommended (no low bidding, folks!). Additionally, brick is durable to the outside elements like rain, snow, and wind. Durability also translates to it being highly flame resistant of up to 2,000 degrees. The main downside to brick is that you’re stuck with it – painting is sacrilegious and you have to make sure you’ll be happy with it once it fades from the weather.


If you were asked to describe a traditional Chicago home, there’s a good chance you would talk about a greystone 3-flat. You see these all around the city – North, South, and West – they fit into any neighborhood. Stone has a lot of the same pros as brick – it’s incredibly durable, fire-resistant, and can withstand the elements. Like brick, once you pick it, you have to stick with it – staining or painting is just wrong. Maintenance is necessary just like brick; however it’s not a terrible hassle to clean it every so often with tuckpointing every decade just to keep it looking new. One aspect that makes stone more attractive than brick is the insulation. Stone has the ability to keep your home cool naturally,and thus, may keep your utility costs down in the summer. Unfortunately, the opposite is true in the winter so make sure you have good insulation and wall framing on the interior! The major downside to stone is the cost of material and labor. Unlike bricks, where the cost is based on quantity, stone cost is measured by weight – yep, you read that right. Also, it’s not uniform. Bricks can be manufactured to be whatever size you need which makes installation repetitive and, therefore, efficient. Stone requires a qualified mason who will work with the shape of each stone to achieve a final result. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again – anytime trades have to be careful, it costs you money. A great stone installation is absolutely gorgeous and there’s a price for that.


Siding is often used for Victorian style homes – often a multi-story house, with large gables. Siding can be very cheap, lightweight, and versatile. You get siding in many colors and have very little maintenance. Siding’s major downside is its durability. This is the Windy City! That nickname may have been meant for politics – in my world, it’s a literal term. Take it from a sailor, we can get gusts up to 70MPH here and it wouldn’t take that much to rip off a piece of siding from your house. Just hope it doesn’t hurt someone on its way down. Then, if you want to replace it, it will be very difficult to match because the remaining siding will have faded from the weather. If you’re going with siding, I know it’s tempting to go with Vinyl – I strongly recommend that you save a little more (okay, a lot more..) and get cement board siding to reduce your risk. The final product looks more luxurious (because it was), it will insulate better, and is less likely to kill someone.

Between brick, stone, and siding – more than anything it should be your personal preference. If you’re planning to invest hundreds of thousands of dollars in a home, then make sure it’s something you LOVE. A home is one of the biggest investments you will make in your lifetime – don’t settle for anything less than perfect…and Integro Rehab! (sorry I couldn’t resist)

Want to see more of our projects or learn about our private equity group? Check us out at Integro Rehab!

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