Building Modern on a Budget Ep. 12 | Exterior Corten Steel, Stone & Concrete

Thursday, June 24, 2021


modern diy house home corten steel faux stone veneer concrete desert

*This blog post is sponsored by The Home Depot Rental and DAP Products. All opinions are my own.

It's been forever, but WE'RE BACK with the latest episode of #BuildingModernOnABudget. I'm sharing all about the unique finishes we used on the exterior of our custom modern house. 

I've got a confession: Although I love living in Arizona, I don't love typical "Arizona style" houses. In our Phoenix suburb, we pretty much live in a sea of beige stucco. I mentioned in Episode 1, although our house incorporates a good amount of white stucco cladding, I also really wanted to make sure to include some unique textures and finishes, like Corten (rust patina) steel siding and custom blended faux stone veneer. 

Check out the full episode below for all of the house exterior details and scroll down if you want a little lesson on dealing with construction stress. 

As you can imagine, building a custom house for the first time, with an insufficiently small budget, while raising a family, IN FREAKING 2020 has been a stressful endeavor. Admittedly, I had more than one breakdown during the process, but since we've moved into the house, and as we get closer to finishing up the video series, I've thought of a few sanity savers we implemented along the way. 

Sanity Saver #1 - Knowing When to Call for Back-up

Despite what a few grumpy trolls on my YouTube channel may comment, we built our house ourselves. I think some people who haven't gone through the process themselves have the idea that the term "self build" means the homeowners are the only ones who's hands can touch the structure. 

For two reasons, my husband Bryce and I have done the majority of the construction of our property. 
  1. The budget didn't allow for much labor. We had to cut costs wherever we could. 
  2. We're stubborn and think we can do anything : )
Although we're a pair of stubborn jerks, we're not superheroes. The fact of the matter is, there are just some steps along the way which would have been impossible for the two of us to complete ourselves. There's no way we could have stood up 22' tall walls alone, and if we had tried to hang thin, 27' long steel siding panels ourselves, we likely would of created a wonky, crooked mess. When it came time to hang the Corten corrugated steel siding on our house, we called up our framing crew to help. It meant we had to dip into our cash savings to pay for the labor, but it was totally worth it. The extra, experienced hands made the process go really fast, and made sure we had a high-quality result in the end. 

Sanity Saver #2 - Bringing in the Right Equipment

It's taken us years of saving and trading up, but being able to finally purchases the much needed equipment for common jobs like welding and mixing concrete.

Both Bryce and I work with metal from time to time and with a new acre property to build out, we're going to have lots of opportunities to mix and pour concrete in the near future.

On the other hand, when we fabricated the angled, floating concrete steps in our entryway, we had the need for some larger equipment, but not necessarily tools we'd be using everyday. Whenever our project requires tools or equipment we don't already own, our go-to stop is The Home Depot Rental

We rented a mini skid steer and it was delivered right to our house, gassed up and ready to go. We were able to use the bucket of the mini skid steer to scoop and move dirt, preparing the site for the floating concrete steps. 

As I mentioned in the episode, Bryce and I created a simpler version of the same floating entryway in our last house, but on that project we dug and moved all the soil and gravel by hand - not something I'd recommend. 

We were able to save several backbreaking hours of shoveling small amounts of dirt from wheelbarrows by utilizing the skid steer's functional front bucket. It was actually really fun and easy to drive and control, even in relatively close quarters. 

When I first started putting together a supply list for our front steps project, I didn't think about compaction. Once I did some research, I discovered adequately compacting the soil perimeter around floating steps is essential to prevent shifting and settling. 

Luckily, The Home Depot Rental was able to provide us with a vibratory plate compactor as well. Our modern entryway steps turned out fabulously and we can largely attribute the project's success to renting the proper equipment.

Sanity Saver #3 - Investing in High Quality Products

We utilized some pretty cool products throughout our building process, like the Corten steel accents. 

Since the budget was boss, we had to get creative with some of our sourcing. For example, instead of paying $34-40/ a ton for landscaping gravel, we discovered a rebar plant close to our house that sells 1" steel slag for $3/ ton. It was a unique option that saved us thousands of dollars. 

We've worked our tails off building this house and we want it to last. Our super arid, desert climate puts every home in the area through the ringer. A lot of products like adhesives and sealants simply can't hold up to Arizona summers and the intense UV exposure. 

We utilized DAP DynaFlex Ultra Advanced Exterior Sealant in multiple places around our house. 

Although DynaFlex Ultra is 100% waterproof once cured, it's easy to clean up spills or mistakes using only soap and water. Most importantly, it holds up to the desert heat without shrinking or cracking. 

Stucco is one skill I have yet to master. From my experience watching professionals, it seems more like an art than a science. I've had to make a couple small repairs in the past without much success. When it came time to touch up the small nicks and holes in our stucco exterior, this time I tried DAP All-Purpose Stucco Patch

When I used the All-Purpose Stucco Patch, I had no trouble getting the holes filled evenly and matching the existing wall texture. It's durable and permanent, so that means unfortunately I won't get practice honing my stucco skills anytime soon. 

Sanity Saver #4 - Accept Compromise and Make the Best of it

We knew we wanted some faux stone veneer accents on the exterior, but stone veneer is inherently pricey. 

In order to work some budgetary magic, I searched for months and finally found a local supplier offering handmade stone veneer for half the price of national manufactures. Unfortunately, although we were able to mix and match, the local supplier didn't offer a wide variety of textures or colors. The original color scheme I had in mind wasn't an option, so I found something that worked and moved forward. 

I had apprehension that I would like the stone since our final selection was so far off from the original design. Luckily, I pushed passed my fears and had faith in my abilities. Once it was all said and done, I actually love the slightly darker color scheme and am thrilled that our house has a one-of-a-kind look that you can't find anywhere else. 

What do you think? 

If you look closely, you'll notice we still have a lot of work to do around the property. We still need to fabricate and hang gates in the fence openings. Landscaping will have to wait till we can build our savings up again - and until we're not in the middle of an Arizona summer : ) 

We're getting close to the end of the #BuildingModernOnABudget YouTube series. You definitely don't want to miss the last two episodes: Kitchen & Bath and the Final Reveal! Make sure to head over to our channel and subscribe so you don't miss the updates. 

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