Masonry Favorites: Limestone vs Sandstone

Limestone and sandstone are both well-loved natural stone materials used in landscape construction, primarily as decorative pavers for patios and walkways, as well as wall facing and coping. With their warm, sunny coloring and fine texture, both can be used to achieve a very similar look. However their properties differ somewhat, with slight differences in their composition, load bearing strength, durability over time and heat resistance. Below we’ll explore these nuances in greater depth in order to help you decide which one suits your Orange County, CA landscape project, environmental conditions and taste.

 Orange County CA Masonry Favorites: Limestone vs Sandstone

Limestone

Limestone is a fine grained stone that comes in a variety of golden, earthy colors as well as white and dark brown. While the size of the grain may vary due to the presence of fossil fragments and mineral deposits, limestone is primarily composed of calcite, giving it a fine, chalky texture. Limestone is formed by a number of natural processes including the settling of calcium deposits in subterranean caves, as well as from the slow compression of fossilized coral, shells and microorganisms. Many variations of limestone do contain some amount of silica, but not to the same extent as sandstone. This high calcite content makes limestone particularly vulnerable to even weak acids, making it an unfortunately poor option for pool surrounds, although various treatments are available. Limestone is available in a number of different finishes, including polished, honed and unpolished for varying degrees of reflectivity.

RELATED: LEBANESE LIMESTONE 101

Sandstone

Sandstone’s name is derived from the sand-sized particles that form its grain. Available in a wider range of colors than limestone, variations of sandstone can be found in gold, pink, earthy brown and grey. Like limestone, sandstone is a sedimentary rock, formed by the settling and compression of materials over time. However, sandstone is primarily composed of sand granules with a high quartz and feldspar content. Sandstone may also contain fragments of other rock. The high quartz content gives sandstone a subtle sparkle in sunlight and lends it a degree of structural strength. While limestone’s density makes it strong under heavy pressure, sandstone is harder and provides better resistance against heat and impact. Silica based sandstone is also more resistant to the effects of dilute acid. Although some varieties do contain high levels of calcite, sandstone is generally better suited to pool surrounds. .   

Which one for my project?

The texture of limestone is smooth and silky under bare feet, making it ideal for summer patios. Given its susceptibility to chemical erosion, however, sandstone is a better option for poolside surrounds, providing a non-slip surface that maintains a moderate temperature. While rougher, sandstone is also comfortable on the feet with a pleasing, coarse texture. Sandstone is also a better option for withstanding the rigors of driveway use. For fine detail and silky texture, limestone provides delicacy and elegance, making it an excellent option for wall veneers, facing for outdoor fireplaces and permanent seating surfaces. Although limestone is more susceptible to wear and pitting, this can be used to create a characterful, timeworn appearance if used in the right context.

In order to decide which one is right for you, it may be helpful to ask whether the appearance and silky texture of limestone will benefit the project or whether or not the durability and coarseness of sandstone would be a better option.

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