They’re stately reminders of a bygone era — when houses were rock-solid, weather-proof and built to last.
No wonder brick and stone houses are still around — a legacy of the 19th century when “brick and mortar” construction thrived on cheap labor.
Costly today, brick and stone are essentially timeless styles, says Vince Calvosa, of the Calvosa Organization, a home-building company based in Holbrook that has been making mostly brick homes.
“You can drive by the house and 100 years from now, it still will look like it’s a classic home, whereas vinyl siding or some of the other types of siding go in and out of style over time,” he says.
Other than an occasional power wash to remove moss or dirt, particularly for light-colored bricks, there’s very little maintenance for brick and stone, says Calvosa, adding that in the long run, you pay more for other homes because of the higher maintenance costs.
“It’s an upfront cost that you pay. It definitely costs more to have a brick house built than it does with other materials, like vinyl siding, cedar or wood, but it lasts longer, it’s not going to require it to be redone in a few years,” Calvosa says.
“Insects don’t eat at it. It doesn’t rot. It doesn’t twist. So it’s a maintenance-free product,” he says.
On the other hand, wood-sided homes require power washing, staining and redoing the wood every couple years, he says.
Brick homes have seen a resurgence in demand over the past eight to 10 years, Calvosa says.
For good reason.
A brick or stone home is also more energy-efficient, Calvosa says. “It doesn’t allow for air to penetrate very easily, so it’s an airtight enclosure outside the house.”
Patricia Winter, of Cold Spring Harbor, has lived in her large granite and brick French Normandy-style home, for 19 years.
She agrees that one of the big benefits of a stone facade is that it’s very durable and saves on energy and upkeep.
“We haven’t had any maintenance on the stone part of the house,” says Winter, 49, who runs a family investment business with her husband. “There are a few timber beams on the house that have had to be maintained.”
She says she has noticed that the home maintains its temperature across the changing seasons.
“In the fall, once it cools off, the stone maintains the warmth longer, so you start heating it up later than most houses,” says Winter, adding that in the spring, the stone maintains the cold temperature for quite a while.
Winter says that over the nearly two decades she’s lived in her house, the heating and air conditioning bills have been reasonable.
Brick homes, however, are not as maintenance-free as stone, she says, because you need to seal them from time to time.
“In our structure, you have that Tudor look with the brick and the timber, so wherever you have two materials being used, there’s a little bit more maintenance,” she says.
Generally, brick and stone homes have a greater resale value than comparably sized homes, since the “exterior material does not deteriorate over time and reminds many people of their parents’ or grandparents’ home,” says George Combs, a retired general contractor from Huntington.
A five-bedroom, three-bath brick home in Freeport that's on the market for $639,000 sold in 2001 for $235,000, says real estate agent Jovanni Ortiz of Douglas Elliman. The current owner, he says, bought the home in 2009 for $240,000, which was priced low because it was in foreclosure, and has since completely renovated it.
There are a few drawbacks, of course.
"Remodeling an existing home with brick or stone can be difficult in matching the original brick or stone," Combs says, adding that finding a perfect match to both the brick and the mortar to avoid a patched-up look could be difficult and expensive.
A second potential problem with these veneers is that they don't react well to movement through settlement or expansion and contraction, Combs says.
"This results in hairline cracks that generally zigzag or step up between the brick/stone and mortar, whose repairing can be costly to match."
Despite these factors, brick and stone homes have seen a resurgence because of their aesthetic qualities and durability, says Jessica Kessler, a real estate agent for Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty. Such structures "have a timeless and stately quality to them,” she says.
Back in the Colonial era, masonry materials — mortar, stone and brick — whether imported or locally made, were expensive, explains Sarah Kautz, director of Preservation Long Island, an organization that advocates for preserving the area’s cultural heritage.
“Lacking stone quarries, timber was the most abundant building material on Long Island, so most old buildings here are made primarily of wood,” says Kautz.
During the 19th century, masonry materials became more accessible as industries developed and immigrant laborers produced brick and mortar locally, adds Kautz. “By the 20th century, home builders had greater access to a variety of mass-produced materials for different budgets and tastes,” she says.
Brick and stone were popular siding materials for homes until labor costs skyrocketed, making them cost-prohibitive for the average home, says Combs. “Most of the brick and stone homes today appear to be substantially large homes of estate size, as seen on the Gold Coast,” Combs says.
Combs notes that brick generally comes in two categories: handmade, which offers unique folds and color schemes and provides an old-world charm and character, and modular, which is typically found in commercial construction and is much more uniform in color and texture.
“There are many types of stone, including granite and limestone that vary in color, depending upon the region it was quarried,” says Combs.
Their grace and sturdiness make these houses a solid investment
"Currently, brick and stone homes are doing very well on the market," says Kessler, noting that buyers of all ages and demographics are interested in these facades "for their curb appeal and durability."
Here are a few brick, stone and brick/stone homes currently on the market:
Asking price: $5.95 million
Community/schools: Cold Spring Harbor; Cold Spring Harbor Central School District
Type: Stone and brick
Square footage: 10,000
Property size: 2.62 acres
Annual taxes: $48,919
Features: An eight-bedroom, five-full-bathroom and two-half-bath French Normandy-style home that dates back to 1930 has wood-beamed ceilings, hardwood floors, a library/office with built-ins, living room with built-in bookcases with secret doors on either side, kitchen with separate butler’s pantry, concrete spiral staircase with iron balustrade in the foyer, brick patios, three-car garage with loft space and swimming pool.
Listing agent: Maria Babaev, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Asking price: $639,000
Community/schools: Freeport; Freeport Public School District
Square footage: 2,800
Property size:.11 acres
Annual taxes: $13,429
Features: A five-bedroom, three-bath Colonial features a master suite with a balcony with water views, eat-in kitchen with wet bar, trex deck and built-in grill.
Listing agent: Jovanni Ortiz, Douglas Elliman Real Estate
Asking price: $649,000 (under contract)
Community/schools: Valley Stream; Valley Stream Union Free School District
Square footage: 1,445
Property size: .09 acres
Annual taxes: $9,893
Features: A five-bedroom, three-bath Cape-style home that was recently renovated with quartz kitchen counters and stainless steel appliances, updated bathrooms, new roof, stoop, windows and gas heat, and refinished hardwood floors. The home has a three-season room and brick patio, and is walking distance to the Long Island Rail Road station.
Listing agent: Dennis Arango, John Savoretti Realty
Asking price: $1.75 million
Community/schools: Melville; Half Hollow Hills School District
Type: Brick and stone Colonial
Square footage: 4,080
Property size: 2.8 acres
Annual taxes: $21,914
Features: This custom built circa 2006 Colonial has four bedrooms, two full and two half baths, sun room, custom bar, gym and full house generator. The vast grounds include granite walkways, pond with waterfall, fire pit, an aboveground lap pool and hot tub.
Listing agent: Jessica Kessler, Daniel Gale Sotheby’s International Realty
Asking price: $2.795 million
Community/schools: Roslyn Heights; East Williston School District
Type: Brick and stone
Square footage: 5,200
Property size:. 0.41 acres
Annual taxes: $21,050
Features: Located close to the Roslyn Heights Country Club, this six-bedroom. 6½-bath Colonial, which was built in 2017, has a large chef’s kitchen and breakfast room, hardwood floors, elevator and full house generator.
Listing agent: Jing Sun, Douglas Elliman Real Estate