Stone as a Building Material

Natural stone makes a beautiful material for building. The original and the best; natural building stone has been used for hundreds of years as a building material, and continues to be the preferred choice for many prestigious building projects today. Many of the UK’s building stone suppliers buy their building stone from Goldholme, who manage 2 of the UK’s most productive building stone quarries.

There are many pros and cons to using natural stone as a building material. You can find these outlined below.

For details of your nearest building stone supplier, or for wholesale building stone prices, please contact our team.

Ways in which building stone can be packaged and delivered

Long gone are the days when stone was drawn by teams of Oxen or relied on river barges to reach its destination. Modern building stone is delivered carefully sized and stacked on shrink wrapped timber pallets. These can be off loaded by Hiab crane or Moffit Mounty type forklifts which arrive with the lorry. Dry stone walling or naturally bedded stone may arrive in single use 1 tonne builder bags as favoured by builder’s merchants. Smaller quantities of stone can be collected from your local building stone supplier.

Using quoins in your building

Quoins or no quoins? This is one of the builder’s biggest dilemmas! Quoins are the large blocks of building stone that are frequently used to provide formal corners to a new dwelling. Quoins can be cut to any size. The standard versions are calculated to work with walling stone at a range of standard course heights. Quoins undoubtedly give a touch of class to any new build. They are traditional looking and give great assistance to the builder in terms of plumbing up the walls and speed of construction. Projects built without the use of quoins always appear unfinished and of budget construction.

Choosing the course heights of natural building stone

Most manufacturers offer a selection of course heights which can be varied throughout the build. The standard building stone course heights are designed to work to the quoin sizes. Traditionally builders would use the larger heavier stone blocks at the bottom of the build, and diminish in size as rising up the walls. In parts of Yorkshire the standard construction method is to adopt a single course height often quite large and to use only that size of building stone throughout the build. This method of construction would look completely out of character if used in many other parts of the UK. The usual course heights of walling stones are 65mm, 90mm, 115mm, 140mm.

Building stone pitch face

Many properties in Yorkshire have a pitch face, this is where the edges are sloped back from the front face; each stone is then built protruding by 30 to 40mm. Other than in Yorkshire, the writer is not aware of a significant amount of pitch faced stone, the vast majority of UK building stone being flat faced.

Building stone deliveries

When the building stone arrives it is important for the buyer to be satisfied that the correct amount has been received. Any shortfalls or comments should be immediately written on the merchant’s copy of the delivery ticket. Whilst not usual, unauthorised removal by workers does occur creating unnecessary disputes between the customer and the supplier.

Storing your stone

Building stone is an expensive commodity and should be protected from un-authorised removal. It should be protected from rain and frost until such time as required for use. Stone should be stored in a dry condition.

Mortar mixes

The mortar with which you lay your stone is extremely important and should be considered carefully. The medieval mortar men were as well paid and as well regarded as the master Masons and this is with good reason. A stone built building will not stand for long if the incorrect mortar is used. Limestone needs to look aesthetically pleasing; it needs to protect a building from rain wind and frost. Limestone needs to expand in the heat and contract in the freezing temperatures; importantly it needs to breathe through the micro pores within its fabric. Mortar must therefore be strong enough to physically support all that is built above it but must be soft enough to expand and facilitate movement.

A good mortar mix should be weaker than the weakest stone being laid! Mortar mixes can be made of builders lime along with sand or may consist of lime sand and a very small inclusion of white cement.

The down side of lime only mixes is that it can be slow to set and may not meet the time expectations of the builder; cement mortars set rapidly but can spoil the characteristics of the lime. For more information please look at the video by Pete ford on mixing the perfect Mortar and ‘Building with lime’, both free to download on the Goldholme Stone website.

Sample building stone panels

Sometimes it is of great benefit to build a test panel prior to your main building project. These are usually in the order of 1m square. A good supplier should supply such stone without charge. Many local authorities insist on such panels prior to discharge of conditions.

Laying natural building stone safely

Do not rise the stone work faster than the mortar can withstand. An experienced builder can advise. It is not unheard of for a newly build wall to come tumbling down as the newly laid building stone buckles under its own weight. A good tip is to ask yourself ‘how high you could stack the stone dry without it collapsing’! Sometimes it’s safer to call it a day rather than risk a collapse. The following day the mortar should be set enough to continue.

Pointing natural stonework

The method in which building stone should be pointed is extremely important. The vast majority of limestone pointing is called ‘flush pointing’ or ‘wrag pointing’. This is considered the most appropriate for new limestone. Too much smearing of mortar over the limestone faces should be avoided; sometimes builders choose to highlight pointing giving it a convex ‘V’ shape profile , otherwise described as a beak or double truck joint. This method should be avoided unless matching up with existing. Another style is ribbon cement mortar where the joint protrudes – this should also be avoided. Recessed pointing can create good effect but is not appropriate to Stamford vernacular.

Dry stone walls are not laid in mortar nor pointed. The exception may be the coping stones in order to prevent unauthorised removal; these are usually recess jointed. Setting mortar joints should be brushed off in a timely fashion using a churn (stiff) brush. If the mortar becomes too hard it may be necessary to resort to a wire brush which will leave marks spoiling the effect. Colour pigments should be avoided when pointing stonework. New mortar is extremely vulnerable to rain and frost and should be protected immediately. Hessian sacking is the favoured frost protection by builders which is available from builder’s merchants.

Types of Building Stone Quarried by Goldholme

Goldholme’s 2 local UK quarries provide a wide variety of building stone, and variations within these 2 quarries mean that we can match almost any UK regional variation you require. Examples of building stone we can provide are: