Stone Water Table

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By Before The Architect  Copyright 2009

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When my lines go wrong, I am tempted to blame it on a senior moment, which more youth, fewer years would make my lines go right. But I've learned at life's granite knee that experience, like character, counts. I reckon that, younger, I would have screwed it up worse. Before The Architect



Stone Water Table Fine Home Design and Fine Home Building

This e-article addresses masonry watertables in context of both custom home design and fine home building.  The watertable is a finish, exterior wall feature of an offset string course or the like, of stone, brick, or concrete . . . purpose=shed wall water runoff away from wall and foundation below.


A masonry water table (this custom home designer's spelling preference; a/k/a: watertable, water-table; offset, rarely) –

bulletA horizontal, projecting, (usually of) masonry - usually of stone - stringcourse (or similar, please see below for synonyms and sort-ofs) molding, or ledge, from thin as in a single soldier course to prodigious slabs and moldings, from plainly simple to elaborately decorative, placed at or near the first floor level (though some have run as high as first floor window stool level), so as to divert rainwater from a home's (among other structures') building envelope, somewhat protecting the foundation from close-in subsurface moisture accumulation and intrusion and (the author supposes) splash-back onto foundation walls and erosion at their bases 

References hereinafter are limited to masonry applications – brick and stone - though this dream home designer's seen some of concrete through and through.  

            This dream home designer reckons, in a stretch, that even a garage’s gas curb could qualify as a water table.  In a stretch. 


            A water table is one of a few horizontal home design masonry elements; therefore, on that basis alone, it's of distinguishing design importance.  

Other notables include –

bulletEave band, eaveline-resident
bullet[Belly band, at or about second floor level, if of wood or wood-like finish clad]
bulletWindow and door head trims in the style of label (with label return), a/k/a hoodmold, dripstone, weather-molding, and (sorry for this) water-table (all the rest usually with returns untitled) and, of course
bulletLintels, arches – jack and segmental

            To be more full-fledged but less than clear, there are other horizontal, exterior elements or features that may be regarded as overarching or extending or plainly confusing in juxtaposition – 

bulletAmong them, this custom home designer includes bands, band courses, belt courses, pedestals, bulkheads, etc., mostly of masonry if masonry lowers 

These elements and features may be applied to columns, piers, pilasters, one or more facades, and perimeters. 

            With the exception of bulkheads and pedestals, the others appear to be either functional and decorative or just decorative.  

            Classical, Traditional, and Modern design styles all seem to be fair game for these and water tables by whatever name. 

            Whereas, some may expound on the rise of the water table as a mid- to late-nineteenth century American building design element, including fine home building design, it and others similar from roof deck on down had been around for centuries in fine homes (et al.) of England (of which the author is more familiar) and the Continent (except for France, observed variously in passing).

            The functional purpose of each is to shed runoff.  

            The major use of a water table in custom home design these days in this shop arises from the purposeful need to transition between exterior finish clad stone or brick lowers and, especially, stucco uppers.  However, in the full light of time gone bye-bye, a masonry lower could be parted by water table to most any upper material.   

            The author knows of no masonry clad exterior home design that couldn't be afforded a water table, principally for its functionality in addition to its decoration.  Adding to water tables' design distinction, this seeming stylistic-universality of water tables with respect to partial (lowers) or full masonry exteriors does not extend to over-fenestration elements, e.g., a label (in any material) is, in this custom home designer's opinion, not consistent with several home design styles.  

            It is design-wise in the author's opinion, to use a water table as among materials of exterior finish clad to further distinguish facades through treatments of sorts varying lowers from uppers – outsetting lowers; coarser; bolder, larger, rougher materials for lowers; along with different mortar lines and spacing, less well organized lowers, as though repaired, etc.  

            In fine home presentations of stone foundations with water tables which appeal to the author, there's a look that the lowers have been around awhile, reckoning uppers burned off, fell down, or blew away in the past and, subsequently, have been rebuilt upon.  This design methodology, incorporating water tables, is inspired by Christopher Alexander's "quality without a name" and Creating a New Old House: Yesterday's Character for Today's Home by Russell Versaci, The Taunton Press, 2003. 

            Water tables come rough-dressed to smooth- and chamfered to rounded, and occasionally ornate.

            Finally, in regard to water table application, this custom home designer prefers narrowest grout lines.  

            Fine home design latitude may be taken as more permissive than commonly presented.

            There appear to be two keynotes to water table design that run across what the author regards as better work –

bulletTo outset the water table's vertical plane from that of the upper's, alluding to Classical pedestal profile in relief, a sense of timelessness and stability 
bulletWhere lowers are outset from uppers, the extent most often to offset's depth is the water table's topside reveal, i.e., lowers are flushed vertically to the water tables' exterior side of face.  If not, the exposed bottom of face should be drip-cut

            Canting – even slightly, would be helpful, too (noting that at 1/8LI:1LF slope, a 4LI water table's right-on at 1/24LI dip overall).

bulletAs an integral aspect of exterior finish cladding with faux or true masonry, 
different coefficients of expansion and contraction can, possibly, develop a hinge effect that beaches the masonry plane irreparably in the fullness of time, for which a water table may offer long-term relief
bulletPlease attend to the vertical relationship as between the placed or blocked masonry foundation exterior side of face and the frame's sheathing exterior side of face, which relationship of sides of face may be preferentially flush at the transition, requiring an inset of the mud sills to the extent of the sheathing's thickness.  This seeming minor adjustment, if not clearly communicated to the rough framers, will likely not occur sui generis and remain irremediable.

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