Using Basalt in Landscape Construction

The word basalt is derived from the Latin word basanites, which means "very hard stone”, and it certainly lives up to this ancient label. Sometimes heavier than granite owing to its high iron content, basalt is as durable as granite if not quite as hard. This high iron content has also been known to cause a rust-like layer on the rock that can be used as an aesthetic device in landscape construction. While a number of different varieties exist, basalt is typically high in certain feldspars, pyroxene, the mineral olivine and other metal alloys. Basalt is a volcanic rock formed by the rapid cooling of basaltic lava. This normally occurs where the lava comes into contact with a body of water, but can occur elsewhere at or just below the earth’s surface. Although basalt is a fine grained rock, unlike granite which has a coarser grain, the two are often confused because of their similar coloring and appearance.

Here we’ll take a look at some of the uses of this natural stone in relation to Newport Beach landscape construction and hardscape design.

Polished surfaces

Although basalt can contain air bubbles that make it porous, methods are available that provide a certain level of sealing. In many cases the resin used to seal the pinprick holes contributes to it’s appearance. However the absorption rate remains relatively high compared to other stone countertops. On the other hand, it has a high resistance to etching. The gray/black coloring of basalt, the sleekness of its polished surface and the silkiness of honed basalt, makes it an attractive option for countertops for outdoor kitchens and wet bars. The durability of the stone ensures a long life and resistance to the elements with minimal staining and a low susceptibility to acid damage.

Cobblestones and paving

Basalt provides a fairly uniform surface for paving with slabs of fine detail and visual weight. Historically, basalt has been used in the making of cobblestones and can contribute an authentic old European feel when used in this way for driveways, walkways and patios. Whatever form the ground covering takes, basalt’s finely abrasive surface provides excellent traction even when wet.

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 Using Basalt in Newport Beach Landscape Construction

Wall blocks

Both for above ground vertical structures and in foundational groundwork, basalt provides a high strength building material when used in block form. Basalt fiber or ground basalt can also be added to concrete products to increase their strength and supply extreme heat and fire resistance, ideal for use in fire pits and outdoor fireplaces. The aesthetic of sheer cut basalt wall blocks are perfectly suited to a clean, modern look rich with fine texture and detail, while large raw basalt boulders can be used to create old world style walls.

Sculpture

Another common use of basalt is in the creation of both modern and ancient sculpture. The iconic Easter Island heads are carved from basalt, as are many sculpted artworks from the ancient Roman, Egyptian and South American civilizations. Much of the Buddhist iconography popular in oriental and minimalistic design themes are also created using basalt. The smooth finish and occasional use of surface rust for coloring gives basalt sculpture a refined quality that can be incorporated into a wide range of interesting landscape themes.

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