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What a difference a stone makes…

Setting the stage

The unexpected flood of stone wall renovations

OK, the title is misleading, sorry. Well, at least a bit. Because it’s not so much the stone that made the difference in our case but more how he’s being presented… Originally we asked a local stone expert to help us with adding a bit more height to an existing old stone wall – this turned into maaaaaany additional projects because he really opened our eyes to the world of stone walls! I’m still a bit puzzled how different a wall (or floor or stairs for that matter) looks like if the grout is applied correctly and how much the colour of the grout changes the whole appearance. All of the stone wall renovations turned out to be great!

But first things first: this was not a purely luxurious/decorative decision… We knew very well that a few walls needed some love to avoid any damages and that our main stairs were becoming a bit risky (and slippery) too. However, this maintenance work turned a necessity into a real uplift for our place.

Project number one –  new finish for a stone house wall

So let me show you the before and after pics of the first (smaller) project first (just because the b/a is always my favourite part 🙂 ):

The old wall 🙁

New wall of the bathroom @Natural_Outliers

New wall of the bathroom (and kidsroom)

It was a very messy project. Not only the terrace was full of dust but also all surrounding backyard and of course our house inside. This is because literally all of the grout that could be removed needed to be removed. Only covering the old one with a nicer colour doesn’t do the trick. To make it stick and to be sustainable the grout must have a certain depth. Also in our case, there was actually too much grout, to begin with.

New wall in progress (and terrace covered with grout!)

The character of the stones shows much better when the wall isn’t filled completely with grout.

New wall of the kidsroom @Natural_Outliers

New wall of the kidsroom

For all of the projects, the walls needed to be cleaned with a high-pressure water blaster. This way, the surface of the stones is dustfree and absorbent enough for the new grout. (Side bonus: our terraces got cleaned very well at the same time 😉 ).

The whole house looks so much friendlier and better cared for! Some of you know our place: it’s completely made out of stone. And we really like the new look a lot better. Now, you might think “why not do this with all our walls? Simply paint the previous grey grout in a sandy tone?”. Well, it is a loooot more work than just that and after trying ourselves we had to admit that this work should be left to a professional.  Not that we are extremely untalented, but it really is trickier than it looks and we wanted the new finish to last for more than just one rainy season.

Project number two – new finish and new top for “sitting wall”

So again, there’s something I would like to clarify: this is not just simply the border of our terrace and we thought it could need some polishing… The concrete top of the wall was starting to fall apart. Not only would this look ugly but also be very dangerous. Also, this wall is actually our main piece of sitting furniture for the whole terrace. Unless we had +15 people invited to a BBQ or so we would all be seated on this wall.

The old border with a concrete top (which was starting to crumble)

Our ‘masteros’ Vassilis recommended using the same light colour for the grout again that we chose for the wall (previous project), hence replacing all of the grout. His point: I can add a new top for you but the wall itself is not going to do justice to a beautiful top. Plus, there will be loads of dust and noise anyway… If you do it, do it right! Even if this was just a sales pitch: we are very happy that we followed his advice.

First, the workers removed all the concrete. On top. And between the stones. And it felt like it would never stop. So. Much. Dust.!

Old border concrete top removed

Only after a week of work, the pleasant bit began: the new stone top. And we started to be able to imagine what the end result will look like. (Hint: we were very positive about it).

Our ‘new’ old wall looks a lot more welcoming now and is much safer. Great work! Definitely, something we want to do with all of our retaining walls. But only after a long dust-brake. And giving this to each other for Christmas, it will make for a lot of presents/years.

This looks so much more inviting!

The edge of the border, connecting to the entrance

Project number three – massive staircase overhaul

Safety was the main reason and objective for this project. We didn’t mind the old terracotta/Saltillo tiles. (all of our terraces and floors inside are covered with those). But the edges started to break off. We can only assume that this was due to some water that managed to get underneath the tile. Freezing in the winter then caused the tiles to crack. The tiles were also very slippery with the least bit of snow or frost or wet leaves or or or. This was reason enough to remove all of the tiles. We figured that only replacing the broken ones would not be sufficient. Others would break in subsequent winters. And the original tiles were no longer available anyway.

The old staircase with tiles (upper part only)

The old staircase with broken tiles (excuse the bad quality of the pic!)

Stones instead of tiles

We started to discuss stones as an alternative. Adding yet another stone/material to the mix worried us a bit though. Because the type and colour of the stone that our house is made of aren’t suitable for flooring. After a bit of back and forth, we decided to go for a local stone that is a bit thicker than the original tiles and more reddish than the stones used for the walls.

You know the drill: removing all old material. dust. dirt. broken tiles. dust. high-pressure cleaning….

But we were super happy with the outcome, once again! And the staircase actually looks like it was meant to be that way. No harsh contrast to the existing stones or the terracotta. And the finished version is not slippery at all and supposed to last for many many years. On the flip side, it became more difficult to clean. The uneven and porous surface makes it hard to remove any dirt. But then again, thanks to the different colours and the more rustic structure, dirt is not that obvious 😉

New staircase finished! The entrance to @Natural_Outliers

New staircase finished! The entrance to @Natural_Outliers

On top of the staircase, entering the terrace

Would we do it again or even recommend?


Ultimately, it would be great to have beautiful stonewalls for all our sheds, chicken coop run and veggie gardens (see also this post about our gardening efforts From dirt to table). But that’s a lifelong and lottery-win dependent dream for now 🙂

If you are thinking about any stone wall renovation, make sure to get a GOOD professional involved. It is so tempting to start this a DIY project, but this is only for the very talented DIYer with loads of time and expert equipment! Also, ask for references (and check them!). Previous work tells you so much more about someone’s style and how carefully the work is executed. Best are some older reference works so you can tick the box for sustainability. Needless to say that research is also key in terms of what you want! I love Pinterest for this. Our projects had me creating a board for stonework (“Heart of stone”) to visualize different options, styles and to get some ideas.

Hope you like the results of our projects (and of yours if you are going to do any) as much as we do. Look out for more renovation posts coming in the future!


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