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The Best Finishing Options for a Residential Foundation: Brick, Block, Stone, Concrete


Candid shots of a few of our crew members.

Non-Structural Exterior Foundation Finishes

A foundation finish is considered a non-structural finish that is added to your masonry foundation to change it's appearance. There are a few different ways to go about it and it depends on whether it is new construction or if you are trying to "beautify" something old.

brick foundation four oaks residential
Brick Veneer shown on exterior masonry foundation


Pros: a more finished look than block, cost effective
Cons: more complex project, more labor intensive to install
Brick is a no-brainer

Having a crawlspace foundation finished with brick is a very common method that homebuilders use to dress up plain block foundations. When you extend the brick finish above the foundation, it is considered a veneer.

All shapes, sizes, and textures

Bricks are notorious for being available in lots of different sizes, textures, and colors. This gives a home owner or builder plenty of options for any project. You can always paint them too! Learn more about common brick sizes here.

stone foundation four oaks residential
A beautiful example of a stacked stone veneer.


Pros: Looks of high quality, durable
Cons: Weighs a lot, is the most costly to install, can be difficult to repair
For a top-notch high quality look

Choosing a stone to finish your block foundation is an excellent choice. Stone comes in different varieties, shapes, and sizes.  If you want a high quality finish, stone is where it’s at. It’s on the expensive side mainly because of transportation and installation costs.

Recommended stone for foundation finishing

You can use any type of stone you want for your foundation finish, but we recommend using cultured stone, faux stone panels, or natural stone cladding. Cultured stone is formed concrete that is painted or stained to achieve their color. Natural stone cladding is thin in size and cut from naturally formed stone. The color is natural and does not require dye or paint. Faux stone panels are a cheap alternative to stone and is made from polyurethane foam. They work well for some projects, but are rarely used in residential construction.

masonry worker applies parge coating to cinder block wall
A mason parge coating a cinder block masonry wall.


Pros: Covers masonry joint lines, is a smooth finish, less expensive
Cons: Significant prep is required, longevity depends on proper mixing, may need repair
The budget choice

Crawlspace foundations that are built with common CMU (cinder-block) are considered naked block walls. Clients that don’t want bare walls and have a smaller budget will often go with parge coating to provide a smooth finished appearance. It is most certainly the cheapest way to “coat” your crawlspace foundation exterior. 

Different types of parging materials

There are two types of parge coating materials that can be used for crawlspace foundations, cement and acrylic. The “cement” version uses a type N mortar, which consists of sand, lime, and portland cement mix. The “acrylic” version consists of a base coat of portland cement and features a liquid acrylic. The acrylic version is more expensive, but also more durable with a higher quality appearance.

How long could it last?

Parge coating can last up to 50 years or more if the surface prep is done correctly, the parging materials are new, and the mix is perfect! Masons are great at laying block, brick, and stone but may face challenges when trying to parge coat a foundation wall.

How long will it actually last?

It is rare that parge coating is prepped, mixed, and applied perfectly. If done improperly, it will usually degrade in the first 5 years to a point that it will need repair or at least look like it does. Applying two parge coats is ideal to effectively cover the underlying masonry joints. Usually a coat is added when the foundation wall is finished and another is added when other construction is complete.


Pros: Can drastically change appearance
Cons: Can trap moisture, might crack and peel
You can do it yourself

Prep is the most important part of painting anything. This includes your foundation. Make sure the area is prepped properly before you paint. A roller brush and the proper exterior paint for masonry will give the best results. If you have some time on your hands, you can definitely do this yourself.

Masks small imperfections

If you have an older brick, block, or concrete foundation it might look kind of rough. Painting these can cover up small imperfections and give you a solid smooth color throughout. It usually takes two coats of paint to get the color you desire and to cover up blemishes and discolorations.


Pros: Doesn't cost anything, and saves time
Cons: Masonry joints show on cmu block foundation
The no-budget choice

This is a great option for smaller homes and clients that have no additional budget for a foundation coating. If you are building an accessory building or a second home that is small, no coating may be the only sensible choice. Not everything needs it. Remember, foundation coatings are mostly for aesthetics anyway.

Split face block

The rock face concrete block known as “split face block” looks great without any type of coating or paint. However, you can order this block in different colors. It’s a dye mixed in with the concrete.


Landscaping helps hide ugly foundations

If you have a knack for setting up great landscaping visuals then you should use that talent to hide an ugly foundation. Using bark, mulch, or gravel you can create a planting bed. Fill this up with the proper types of hedges, flowers, and trees for maximum coverage. The combination of a border, the bed, and the plants creates a visually stimulating block to your foundation.


Make an informed decision and go for it

No matter what aesthetic you are going for, you can achieve it. There is such a massive variety of materials and methods out there that you can be sure to find what fits your taste and budget. For new construction, I would consider brick and stone finishes. For repairs of existing foundations, I would go for a textured parge coat or painting if your budget is tight.

"It's not how you start, it's how you finish"

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Four Oaks Residential is based out of North Carolina. If you're looking a contractor that focuses on footing, foundation, and concrete construction please reach out to us. Send request emails to [email protected]

Four Oaks Residential maintains the “Builder’s Blog” in an attempt to teach visitors all about masonry construction. We have over 25 years in business as a residential construction company. Please share this article if you found what information you are looking for.

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