In the world of architecture, in a sector where aesthetics lead the way and individuality is a unique selling point, natural stone can be the ideal material.
Quarried and mined from the earth, bearing a unique characteristic that is the result of complex geological processes, natural stone offers the specifier more than just a material, it offers a story. No two pieces of natural stone will be exactly the same, and when embraced, this unique material can provide a wealth of options in both texture and colour.
 Stone selection
Choosing the right material for a project is crucial, and there are three key steps to follow to ensure the correct selection:
- The first step is to ensure that samples give a true representation of what the final product will look like. One key factor in this is looking at range/control samples. These will show you the range of geological characteristics typically found within the bed of stone as opposed to the small snapshot you would find in a single indicative sample piece. This helps avoid any confusion as to what the finished floor, wall or countertop will look like. However, it is worth bearing in mind that this is a natural product, and so each stone will have its own unique features.
- The second step is the quarry or mine visit. It is strongly advised that a visit is made so that the stone proposed for the project can be carefully inspected. This is also the ideal stage at which to involve an independent stone consultant to provide an expert opinion.
- The last of these three steps is the technical assessment of the stone. Various tests can help build a picture of a stone’s potential suitability for a particular application, and whilst past projects are a good indicator, recent test data on the CE certificate and Declaration of Performance should be examined. Natural stone is the ideal material for a wide range of applications, but choosing the right materials for the desired application is important, and this is where testing can really help.
From the fossils found in limestone to the natural, subtle layers of slate, texture is a strong selling point for natural stone. The three-dimensional dynamic that a feature wall of unpolished, naturally-textured stone can provide can be stunning and is a trend that is on the increase.
Unlike many other materials the same piece of stone can be finished in a number of ways to provide the texture best suited to the application. Flamed, honed, blasted, sanded, polished and line textured are all finishes that can give the same piece of stone a very different appearance.
The geological striations and natural colour streaks found in marble creates a striking aesthetic suitable for a wide range of applications, from hotel lobbies and city cladding projects through to floors and church steeples. In a market where individuality is key, the unique visuals that natural stone can create are striking, bringing a strong identity to interior spaces of all description.
As a result of the geological processes, the thousands of years of compression, natural stone can be an incredibly hard wearing material. You need only look at the centuries old, limestone clad streets of London, the granite paved streets of Aberdeen or the Clipsham rich buildings of Oxford to see evidence of the longevity of this natural material.
 How to find the right natural stone firm?
Stone Federation are the official trade association for the natural stone industry, with more than 100 years’ experience in connecting architects with the best materials and professionals. It has a membership of more than 240 natural stone firms, covering everything from international stone suppliers and British quarry operators through to design consultants and sealant manufacturers. Each member is vetted and approved and have access to a vast resource of technical backup, training, and guidance documents on all the latest Government legislation and guides to best practice.
The Natural Stone Source Book is the Stone Federation flagship publication and acts as a source of information and inspiration, containing a full directory of members alongside project profiles. There is also a ‘Search for a Member’ tool on the Stone Federation website, and a free technical helpline offering advice on everything from stone selection and tolerances to British Standards and slip resistance.
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