About Stone

Stone is a highly durable, low maintenance building material with high thermal mass. It is versatile, available in many shapes, sizes, colours and textures, and can be used for floors, walls, arches and roofs. Stone blends well with the natural landscape, and can easily be recycled for other building purposes.

Stone has been used as a building material for thousands of years. It has long been recognised as a material of great durability and superior artistic quality, the foremost choice for iconic buildings. The pyramids in Giza, Newgrange in County Meath and temples in Malta were all built from stone over 4000 years ago and are still standing. The use of stone in construction has declined over the last hundred years, but it is regaining popularity for its aesthetic qualities and durability.

Dry Stone

The earliest form of stone construction is known as dry stone. These are freestanding structures such as field walls, bridges and buildings that use irregularly shaped stones carefully selected and placed so that they fit closely together without slipping. Structures are typically wider at the base and taper in as height increases.

The weight of the stone pushes inwards to support the structure, and any settling or disturbance makes the structure lock together and become even stronger. Dry stone structures are highly durable and easily repaired. They allow water to drain through them, without causing damage to the stones. They do not require any special tools, only the skill of the mason in choosing and placing the stones.

Stone Masonry

Traditional stone masonry evolved from dry stone stacking. Stone blocks are laid in rows of even (courses) or uneven (uncoursed) height, and fixed in place with mortar, a cement or lime mixture between the stones. The building stones are normally extracted by surface quarrying, drilled and split using diamond saws or iron wedges, and then shaped by the mason according to their requirements.

The basic hand tools used to shape stones are chisels, mallet and a metal straight edge, but modern power tools such as angle grinders and compressed air-chisels are often used to save time and money. Stones are either shaped (dressed) into a block, known as ashlar masonry, or left rough and cut irregularly, known as rubble masonry.