CEMENT PLASTER HOUSES Relative Cost and Desirability. Cement siding has grown wonderfully popular in very recent years. The artistic effects which its use makes possible have had much to do with its ready reception by builders, and owners. It furnishes the added advantage of being fireproof.
When properly applied, it is economical in that it will outlast wood or shingle siding and will not require constant painting to keep it from deteriorating. The claim is made, that a good cement exterior will wear better than stone, and will become better both in color and in weather-resisting qualities with age.
The first cost of a cement siding is somewhat in excess of wood siding, painting not consid ered; but with the ever-growing scarcity of good, clear pine siding, this margin is rapidly diminishing.
Siding determines the life of a house, and the denuding of the pine forests of the United States makes it imperative that a new material be found to take the place of wood siding. No one realizes this more than the carpenter, who has seen the changes Which have taken place in the grading of lumber these last twenty or more years.
Time was when a C grade of pine siding was good enough for almost any house; but the sappy, knotty, blue stuff which passes for that grade to-day, and the advanced price of this, are sufficient to make the conscientious builder seri ous. The tendency of sapwood to push off the paint, and the readiness with which it decays, make it questionable whether its cheapness, as compared with other grades and other materi als, is not often overestimated.
The discovery, in almost every part of the country, of the raw materials from which good Portland cement is made, and the consequent rapid growth of mammoth cement mills, are bound to make cement plaster more available than ever before. The steady lowering in the price of Portland cement which has accom panied the development of improved processes in America, has already made its cost very low as compared with the price formerly paid for the imported article. It must be admitted that
there has been no small amount of prejudice aroused against the use of cement siding, be cause of past failures. It must also be admitted that the problem of its use is not entirely solved to-day. It is a fact, however, that its use is understood well enough, and its success suffi ciently demonstrated, to warrant its use on innumerable costly buildings throughout the country. The manner of mixing, the proportion of parts, the coloring, the application and care of the walls after the plaster has been applied, make of it a problem which requires expert skill in handling. An inexperienced workman— unless he gives the matter the utmost careful study, and acquaints himself thoroughly with the methods of approved practice—will be cer tain to come to grief, causing regret to the owner, and creating prejudice against cement as a siding material.
The effects which may be obtained are vari ous and interesting. Cement siding may be colored or left natural. It may be finished smooth like the ordinary sand finish of common plaster, or it may be stippled. Rough-cast finish is obtained by throwing pebbles mixed with thin cement upon the wall before it has had time to harden thoroughly. Cement siding may cover the house entirely; or it may be combined with wood, brick, or stone to form the wall. A very popular effect is obtained by using wood siding for the lower, and cement plaster for the upper part of the house.
Artistic effects in English half-timbered houses are due to the ease with which the spaces may be proportioned and arranged. There is an added advantage in the half-timber, in that the material in the smaller spaces is not so likely to check with the expansion and contrac tion caused by atmospheric influences.