What are String Courses used for?

Dating back to ancient times, the string course can be seen used on symbolic structures such as the Pantheon in Rome, constructed in the 2nd century AD. Since then, the string course has left its mark on most Western architecture styles, from Classical Roman and Anglo-Saxon to Renaissance to modern designs. Its continued presence throughout history showcases the versatility and aesthetic significance of this feature.

But what about today? This blog section aims to shed light on the appeal and practical uses of string courses in contemporary architectural settings. We will explore what string courses are used for and how they enhance the visual appeal, add functionality, and bring character to buildings in today’s world.

What is a String Course?

In architecture, a string course is a horizontal band that brings contrast and breaks up expansive areas of brickwork or render. This versatile feature not only enhances the visual appeal of a building but also serves practical purposes in design. String courses can either be flush with the building or can feature intricate details that project outward, adding depth and character to the facade.

What are String Courses used for?

String courses are commonly used in architectural design to serve both aesthetic and functional purposes. They can be used on various types of buildings including residential homes, commercial structures, and institutional buildings. Additionally, string courses can be used on boundary walls to complement the design of the main building and enhance the overall appearance of the property.

The benefits of a String Course

String courses play a significant role in architectural design, offering several benefits that go beyond just aesthetics. These are some of the benefits of string courses:

1) Enhances Curb Appeal: String courses improve the look of a building, adding curb appeal and breaking up large brick or render surfaces.

 2) Adds Contrast: They introduce variety to the facade, offer contrast opportunities, create depth and architectural character.

3) Defines Structure: String courses help establish the various different levels of a building, providing a divide between the ground floor and first floor for example, giving it a sense of balance.

4) Historical Touch: Since they have been used throughout much of history string courses offer a traditional architectural element that can give a building a classic feel.

5) Cohesion with the Rest of the Building: Incorporating a string course can help tie the various colours and materials together, giving your house added cohesion and a unified look.

6) Versatile Design: String courses can be customised with intricate details or kept simple to suit different architectural styles and preferences.

Colour Match

When it comes to adding curb appeal and consistency, colour matching your string course to other architectural features is key. The right colour choice has the ability to make your house stand out or can seamlessly make your property blend into its natural surroundings, if you so choose. Whether you want to make a bold statement or achieve a more harmonious look, colour matching with your other cast stone can help you achieve your desired aesthetic vision.

The best way to explore the different colour options and compare how they can complement your project is by requesting our free samples. By seeing the samples in person, you can get a better sense of how the colours will look on your building and how the colour can work with your brick work or render. You can request your free cast stone samples here.

Acanthus Cast Stone new stone colours

Material Match

When deciding on the material for your string course, you have the option of brick or cast stone. Our recommendation is to go with cast stone because it can add contrast to the brickwork on your home, enhancing its curb appeal. It also allows for matching with other cast stone products on the façade of your home, creating a cohesive look for your property. Consider these practical aspects when selecting the material for your string course to achieve a polished and coordinated exterior design.

Product Match

The careful selection of product matching plays an important role in shaping the overall aesthetic of your home.

When it comes to architectural design, the combination of Cornices and String Courses can significantly enhance the visual appeal of a building. It is common to find a Cornice detail running at a higher level when there’s a String Course between the ground and first floors. This combination compliments one another, creates visual harmony in the design.

String Courses, characterised by their horizontal lines, can effectively complement Cornices. Opting for these cast stone products in the same colour can further enhance the overall look of your luxury home.

Architects often extend this coordination to window dressings such as surrounds, cills, and heads when incorporating String Courses. These carefully chosen elements work together seamlessly to elevate the architectural beauty of the building.

The Differences

Architectural elements such as string courses, cornices, band courses, and returns play vital roles in defining the aesthetics and functionality of a building. Despite their similarities, each element possesses unique characteristics and serves distinct purposes. Understanding these differences is crucial for building your dream luxury home or property.

What is the difference between a String Course and a Cornice?

String courses and cornices, although similar and complementary architectural elements, are different.

A string course is typically installed to define different levels of a building and visually break up the brickwork. It can be mounted flush with the building or project outward, sometimes incorporating cornice details. On the other hand, cornices historically have a larger profile and were primarily designed to divert rainwater away from the building. Additionally, cornices serve as intricate and bespoke features that add a touch of elegance to the structure.

While both string courses and cornices enhance the architectural aesthetics of a building, understanding their individual differences and functionalities can greatly influence the overall design and visual impact of the structure.

What is the difference between a Band Course and a String Course?

Band courses and string courses are often used interchangeably. However, they do have differences which can impact the overall look of your property.

When referred to as a band course, this element is typically plain in design, is flat and sits flush with the brickwork or render of the building. For instance, in the drawing labelled as ‘STC 13’, you can see an example of a band course. Whereas a string course projects out and has a more detailed design. The drawing labelled as ‘STC 7’ is an example of a string course.

While band courses and string courses may appear similar and share common purposes, the distinction in terminology often lies in the specific style and positioning of the course.

What is the difference between an Internal and External Return?

Internal and external returns serve different purposes based on their position. Internal returns are typically used for corners on the building’s exterior that face inward, while external returns are used for corners that face outward. To show this, we have included an image below. Understanding this distinction is key to effective building design.

diagram to illustrate the difference between an internal and external return on string course

Why choose Acanthus?

At Acanthus, we have extensive experience in creating bespoke cast stone architectural elements, particularly string courses. One noteworthy project that showcases our knowledge is the ‘Kingfishers, TW Construction’ project, featured on our Portfolio page. This new-build house boasted a range of intricate features, including curved on plan, vertical radius, and ramp & twist copings, all of which were curved in both the x and y axis.

The challenges of producing detailed elements like curved Georgian window surrounds, string courses, cornices, copings, and a portico were successfully overcome by our skilled team. The meticulous attention to detail, especially in the pier cap and finials that adorned the entrance, truly elevated the design to a stunning level.

The finished design speaks volumes (see below); our products truly enhance this magnificent house, and all of the cast stone elements harmonise seamlessly together.

Our range of String Course Products

Please see our wide range of cast stone string courses along with the dimensions or simply click this link to download all designs as a PDF:

What lengths are the units manufactured in?

All of our standard string course is manufactured in 890mm lengths for ease of handling on site.


In conclusion, the string course continues to stand the test of time as a fundamental element in Western architecture, seamlessly blending form and function across centuries and styles.

From its ancient roots seen on the Pantheon in Italy to its modern applications in contemporary buildings, the string course remains a versatile and essential feature in architectural design.

“At Acanthus, we offer a range of elegant string courses and cast stone products that can truly elevate the curb appeal of your property. We have a team of experienced staff on hand to support you through the ordering and installation process.”
Gavin, Project Manager at Acanthus.

If you require any further information or wish to discuss our bespoke cast stone products, contact one of our friendly Acanthus team or call us on 01773 447042.





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