The timer is on, the oven mitts are off, and your pecan pie is just beginning to bake. The Keurig sputters with the last drops of pumpkin spice goodness, filling your go-to mug to the brim. You sink into the sofa next to a roaring fire, ready to sink your teeth into a real page-turner–or to binge watch, we don’t judge. You’re living the perfect picture of fall, and nothing could be better.

Except, it could.

You can tick every seasonal box there is, but it’s impossible to really surrender to your cozy cabin-in-the-woods fantasy when you’re suffocating in a drab drywall box. More conventional building materials just can’t hold a candle to the timeless warmth of natural stone and wood. Imagine an idyllic fall surrounded by understated, textured elegance. Actually, go ahead and add winter, spring, and summer to that list, because the look holds up year-round. Natural and reclaimed materials surprise in their aesthetic versatility, ease of installation and affordability. Qualified members of the Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders can make incorporating natural wood and stone into your property even easier!

Before making any decisions whether hiring a professional or going DIY, it’s imperative you understand where and how natural stone and wood can plug into the grand design scheme of your home. For instance, calling back to our autumnal scene above, a touch of thin stone veneer around the fireplace would create a rustic, multileveled feast for the eyes, as well as an opportunity for a tactile experience when leaning or sitting near the hearth. Such fireplace accents marry perfectly with reclaimed wooden rafters that create depth and lend character to otherwise cookie-cutter spaces. But of course, this is Alabama, and chances to enjoy a crackling fire are few and far between. For the warmer months, stone and wood help to create a stylistic bridge from your property’s exterior living spaces to its interior. In most instances, homeowners apply the same stone that adorns exterior porches, columns, and entryways to their interior accents, creating a logical flow of color and texture. Wood skins on a master bedroom ceiling can hammer home the impact of the aforementioned reclaimed rafters. Even those on a tighter budget can incorporate one fascinator piece, like a natural wood accent wall, that can change the look and feel of an entire space.

When working out exactly how far that budget will take your project, know that you can achieve the substance and luxury of natural stone and wood looks with options that will stretch your dollar further. Natural thins stone for use in residential applications can run around $7.15 per square foot. Manufactured alternatives made of concrete aggregate look just as good and can be significantly lighter and cheaper, running about $5 per square foot on the less expensive end. There are also manufactured options for natural wood looks with more flexible price points and added bonuses in terms of moisture and combustion resistance. Don’t assume any material is necessarily off the table in this important planning stage; it’s critical you align your vision and budget with the right supplier and products.

Turning to that overall vision for your space, there are a few vital questions you should ask yourself before you make any purchases or seek out any help. What will wood and stone materials add to your property? How will they contribute to a cohesive look across your house? How will they impact your interior design choices? Further, be mindful of the structural integrity, or lack thereof, of the areas you wish to embellish with natural materials. While natural thin stone and manufactured stone veneers are relatively light, an ounce of prevention is certainly preferable to a pound of costly repairs.

Once you seriously consider questions like these, it’s time to make the all-important call of whether to commit to a DIY solution or hire a professional. If you’re a seasoned amateur with previous tile-laying experience, it may well be worth your time and sweat to execute a plan on your own. You’ll certainly save money on labor costs. Fair warning, though, GBAHB professionals recommend homeowners only attempt to work with manufactured stone veneer products on their own, as the consistency of shape and color in these pieces makes them easier to work with than natural stone. Many DIY-ers fail to realize the value of bringing on a skilled professional mason to handle tougher jobs. The use of natural thin stone demands more expertise related to mixing mortar and cutting the stone to fit as needed. Additionally, installation in higher places, weatherproofing exterior materials and generally having an eye to lay out the sophisticated look the client is after are all boons professional stonework can bring to your project.

The Greater Birmingham Association of Home Builders can help connect you with the perfect professional partner for sourcing and installation of your natural wood and stone. Learn more at birminghambuilder.com!