Sandstone was readily available to early colonial builders and was often quarried on-site in Balmain, where rocky outcrops are still visible to this day. It could be carved decoratively (as in Ewenton and the façade of Bell’s Store), worked into plain dressed blocks (as in the Shipwright’s Arms) or used to build a rubble wall (as in the side walls of Bell’s Store). Burnt oyster shells from the harbour shores provided mortar.
Sydney sandstone varies considerably according to its location, with some types liable to weather badly. St Mary’s Church Balmain is an example of a stone building which has suffered in this way. For more information about types of Sydney sandstone, see The Rocks of Glebe Point.
Good-quality sandstone soon became expensive. To satisfy the demand for the prestige of stone at a lower cost, builders used brick walls coated in stucco grooved to create the illusion of stone blocks. Later brick buildings often rise from an exposed stone base course. The stone functioned as a damp-proof course for about 80 years, after which the damp would rise into the walls.