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A Million Dollar Makeover for $170

There is no way to hide that we have a plain 50's ranch, but we're doing the best we can to dress it up.  Replacing the windows and front door were a start, and painting the house made a big difference, but we're not there yet.

I wanted it to look a little more custom so Luke and I agreed on a stone veneer under the window. The buffalo board is not structural and the house has a massive beam and bracing to support the front wall.  Since I did not need plywood for shear strength I could attach cement board directly to the house instead of having to deal with lumber, tar paper and lath.
The chimney at our last house was such a hit that we decided to use slate again.  I cut full tiles into 3rd's that will be arranged in a brick pattern.  It's been four years since I bought my big tile saw and it's still one of my favorite tools.
For anyone considering using this veneer, be prepared to put in a lot of hours.  Our chimney took about 200 hours to cover 200 sq.ft.  I had to do less prep work this time and I'm not climbing up and down scaffolding all day so it should go a little faster, but this is a long project.  Each piece has to be "buttered" with mortar on the back, then gently tapped with a rubber mallet into the mortar bed on the house wall.
Even when all the tile is on the wall it still needs work.  Any mortar left on the tiles has to be cleaned off.  I learned my lesson from the last house and did a much better job cleaning up while the mortar was still wet.  Once it has dried you have to scrape it off with a screwdriver or wire wheel.  When the surface is finally clean it's time to seal.  I'm a big fan of Tile Lab Gloss Sealer.  It really brings out the color in the slate and holds up better than other brands I've tried.

You might be wondering how the finished product turned out.  Here's where we started a few weeks ago:
And how it looks now:

During all this work I also put the veneer on the front of the garage.  We've been looking that the tar paper since March:

But now it's finally done
Here's a quick budget breakdown for anyone considering their own slate veneer.

$79 - Slate
$53 - Concrete board (overpaid because I had to buy it in town, would have been $39 at Lowes)
$18 - Mortar (we already had hydrated lime on hand)
$20 - Tile sealer

Total area covered - 65 sq ft

I still have one project left before I can consider myself ready for winter: the porch.





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