Limestone for building
|St Paul's Cathedral, London, designed by Sir Christopher Wren, 1668-1697.|
Limestone is a sedimentary rock that was laid at the bottom of shallow lakes and seas and compacted over four geological eras: Cretaceous, Jurassic, Permian and Carboniferous, spanning 70 – 345 million years.
Sedimentary means that the particles which make up limestone were transported and deposited as sediment, mainly by water but also by wind. Chemically, limestone comprises different forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO3).
Limestone often includes the skeletal remains of marine organisms such as corals and molluscs which are the primary source of calcite, although other sources do occur. The presence of these marine organisms and other fossil inclusions can form an attractive feature when the stone is polished or honed.
Forming over such an extended geological timescale has resulted in different types of limestone, each with characteristic properties, including; chalk, ragstone, clunch, oolitic and liassic limestones as well as dolomitic and carboniferous varieties.
Due to the presence of a variety of minerals, limestone presents numerous colours, ranging from grey Portland stone, to creamy Bath stone, the brown limestone of Dorset and the dark grey Purbeck stone, also from Dorset. Purbeck can be polished to give a faux marble effect and so came to be known as ‘Purbeck marble’, popular in the 19th century for high quality architectural interior decoration and thin columns.
 Uses in construction
Limestone can be categorised as ‘soft’ or ‘hard’. As a building material, it is both abundant and versatile and has been used globally, but in particular in Europe and the US. Global landmarks include the pyramids of Egypt, numerous Gothic cathedrals in Europe, particularly France, and Italian city walls and castles. St Paul’s Cathedral in London, designed by Sir Christopher Wren is built from Portland stone.
During the 19th and early 20th centuries, limestone, particularly Portland stone, became popular in the UK for building banks, civic buildings and educational establishments, many of which were in the classical style. More recently, a notable use of a creamy-coloured limestone from France was Foster + Partners' Great Court in the British Museum, London.
Limestone is relatively easy to cut and carve (some limestone varieties are easier to work than others but it is ‘softer’ than some sandstones) and its uses in construction are wide ranging, including:
- As a loadbearing stone for masonry walls and columns;
- For stone roof ‘slates’ (thinner and lighter than sandstone varieties) as seen in the Cotswolds and South Wales;
- Lime mortars;
- Traditional stucco (made from lime, sand and water);
- Limewash (a whitewash based on ground chalk or kilned lime);
- As a key component in concrete;
- As a cladding for buildings and for rainscreens;
- Paving slabs;
- Aggregate used in road bases, and
- As a decorative element in residences, such as for gardens and fireplace surrounds.
- Choosing stone.
- Defects in stonework.
- Finding stone to conserve historic buildings.
- Inspecting stone sample panels.
- Iraq, Afghanistan, Gulf War Memorial.
- Julian Opie Art Wall CitizenM Tower of London Hotel.
- Limestone calcined clay cement LC3.
- Kentish ragstone.
- Modern Stonemasonry.
- Natural stone cladding.
- Natural stone for Interiors.
- Natural stone tiles.
- Natural stone.
- Penarth Alabaster.
- Portland Stone.
- Purbeck marble.
- Roof slates.
- Sourcing stone to repair Exeter Cathedral.
- Stone dressing.
- Two New Ludgate Portland Stone Feature Wall
- Types of stone.
- Use of Stone in Monks Lantern Weybridge.
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