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An incredibly popular choice for patios, limestone offers exciting possibilities. A durable, natural and beautiful material, limestone is ideal for outdoor paving applications.

Pavers are available in diverse colours and with a variety of textures, guaranteeing that there will be limestone slabs that you love.

But what is limestone, how can you use it and how do you create a stunning limestone patio?

What is limestone?

Limestone is a type of sedimentary rock. It is primarily composed of calcite and aragonite but may also contain dolomite. It forms when these minerals precipitate out of water containing calcium. 

Around 10% of sedimentary rock is limestone and most of the limestone on Earth was formed in marine environments. Deposits are found all over the world. Limestone can be exposed over large areas of land and is soluble in rainwater and so these areas are eroded to create what are known as karst landscapes featuring cave systems. Limestone can contain up to 10% quartz and clay minerals. Fossils are often found in Limestone, but deposits of organic matter are generally minimal.

Limestone is usually white to grey in colour. However, limestone that is abnormally rich in organic matter can be almost black. Traces of iron or manganese produce limestone with a yellow to red shade. The density of limestone is dependent on its porosity with the most porous form being chalk. Not that you would use chalk for your patio!

What is limestone used for?

There are numerous uses for limestone. It can be utilised as aggregate, as a decorative addition to rock gardens and for various types of paving including patios. It is also used to create cement which is an essential component of concrete and as a filler for toothpastes and paints.

As a building material, limestone is truly timeless. It has been used architecturally for thousands of years. Indeed, many of the world’s greatest structures including the pyramids of Egypt, the White House, the Houses of Parliament and the Empire State Building are built of limestone. 

How do you choose limestone pavers for patios?

There are hundreds of different limestone pavers that you could consider choosing for your patio. As limestones pavers vary in colour, texture and porosity, you can create diverse looks and you will certainly find something to suit your property. 

Colour

Colour may be an important factor when selecting pavers. Limestone varies in colour from almost white to dark grey, from green to blue and from cream to red. It is worth noting that darker colours will fade a little but noticeably over time. You could choose pavers of uniform colour or mix and match different shades. 

Texture

Limestone also varies in texture. Most pavers boast a smooth, honed surface. Limestone can also be thermally treated (flamed at high temperature) to create a uniform surface texture. The smoother the limestone, the more slippery it becomes when wet. Edges may be chiselled, tumbled, split or cut.

Porosity

While the porosity of limestone pavers doesn’t vary greatly, limestone is a porous stone and pavers that are light in colour tend to be more porous than those boasting darker hues as they are less dense. These variations in porosity won’t impact durability but the more porous forms of limestone are more prone to changing colour when wet. They are also more prone to staining.

Kota Blue Limestone

Should you seal a limestone patio?

It is highly advisable to seal your limestone patio. The chemical makeup of the stone ensures that it will fade and age more quickly than other paving materials such as sandstone if left untreated. Sealing your pavers will protect them from the elements to preserve their colour for longer. Sealing will also reduce the chances of stains or discolouration developing after spills.

What are the benefits of using limestone?

Limestone is an incredibly popular choice for a variety of applications including domestic pathways, drives and patios. When you consider the benefits of the material, it isn’t hard to see why.

  • Durable, hard-wearing stone that can withstand heavy footfall.
  • Frost-resistant
  • Insulating stone that doesn’t become too cold in winter or too hot in summer – ideal for pets and walking in bare feet.
  • The variety of colours available ensures that you can create the perfect look for your outside space.
  • A variety of textures gives you yet more choices.
  • Limestone can easily be cut to a variety of shapes and sizes.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Natural, abundant material.

What patterns can you create with limestone?

With a limestone patio, it is possible to create a variety of different patterns and looks. As limestone pavers are available in so many colours, textures and sizes, there is no limit to what you can achieve. It is possible to produce sleek, contemporary looks, more traditional patios, uniform patterns and random patterns. You can work with a single colour or use multiple shades within your design.

Running bond (rectangular slabs)

A two-course running bond creates a pattern similar to that of brickwork. Rectangular slabs are laid with the joints of alternate courses (rows) being aligned. It is also possible to create a three-course running bond using slabs of different sizes where the joints in every third course match up. This creates a patio with a slightly less formal feel. Running bonds provide neat, uniform looks that are best suited to modern properties.

Running bond (square slabs)

That little bit different, a running bond created with square slabs also delivers a formal feel suitable for modern properties. This pattern can be too busy for smaller patios unless large slabs are utilised.

Stack bond

The stack bond layout is a pattern where the joints of each row line up like squares on a chess board. A stack bond pattern creates a classic feel and is ideal for smaller gardens.

Random patterns

As limestone slabs are available in such a wonderful array of shades, sizes and textures, you can evolve diverse patterns and informal looks suitable for older properties such as country cottages. You could utilise a random pattern in each course or repeat a sequence of slabs several times along each course. Courses can be alternated but you could design a patio with an entirely random pattern. 

If you don’t have a good eye for pattern, engage the services of an experienced professional. Not only will they possess the knack for evolving a design that really works, they will also complete the project more quickly than you could as they will work intuitively.

What is the correct way to lay limestone pavers?

Beautiful, natural stone pavers should enhance your outside space. But not if they are poorly laid! It is vital that your completed patio boasts the aesthetics that the stone deserves. Here’s how to lay your pavers correctly:

  1. If you are creating a random or complex pattern, arrange the stones on your drive or lawn before attempting to lay them so as to establish and refine the pattern that you wish to use.
  2. Ensure that the site where the patio is to be laid is level, firm and well-drained.
  3. Mark the area with spray paint.
  4. Dig out the area to a depth of at least 125mm plus the depth of the paving.
  5. Remove all vegetation from the site.
  6. Check that the surface of the finished patio will be at least 150mm below the damp course of the house, in cases where the patio will be located adjacent to the building.
  7. Use strings to check that the area is level and rake anywhere that requires levelling.
  8. Compact the area with a roller.
  9. Fill the area with at least 50mm of sub-base (aggregate) and then compact the material.
  10. Add a second layer of sub-base (at least 50mm) and compact it.
  11. Ensure that the area falls slightly away from the house to allow for rainwater run-off.
  12. Wash the slabs to remove dust and debris.
  13. Prime the backs of the stone with a proprietary primer or fine mortar slurry.
  14. Create a mortar mix of four parts sand to one part cement and water.
  15. Small area by small area, lay a mortar bed of at least 50mm, preferably 100mm.
  16. Lay the stones in the mortar bed 8 to 10mm apart and tap lighting with a rubber mallet.
  17. Riven limestone slabs can boast somewhat uneven edges. Take extra care to ensure that pavers are correctly aligned.
  18. Wait 24 hours for the bed to set.
  19. Fill the joints with mortar using a trowel or brush in grout (see below).
  20. Leave the patio to set for at least 24 hours before walking on it.
Limestone Patio

What are the most common mistakes when laying sandstone?

Laying a patio is hard work and so it is always tempting to rush or to cut corners. But a lack of attention to detail will guarantee poor results. It is certainly best to use an experienced and skilled contractor to complete the work for you. Always ask to see examples of their previous projects before engaging your contractor as you don’t want to be a victim of bad practices and shoddy workmanship. The most common errors when working with sandstone are as follows:

  • Inadequate drainage - there is no doubt that the most common error when laying sandstone is the failure to ensure that the patio is well-drained. A good contractor will lay the patio correctly and will incorporate drainage channels if they are required. 
  • Wrong size of slab - your contractor should be able to advise you as to the size of slabs that would work well for your space. Small slabs can make small patios feel even smaller while slabs that are too large may not allow you to create your desired layout or pattern.
  • Choosing the wrong colour - always check the colour of slabs when they are wet as sandstone can boast a very different hue when wet and may not deliver the aesthetics you are looking for.
  • Not laying a full mortar bed – a full mortar bed rather than spotting is essential.
  • Laying slabs upside down – some slabs will have a textured side and a smooth side. Laying all slabs textured side up will result in unsecured joints. Laying just some of the slabs upside down will deliver unsecured joints and a less than uniform look.

Should you seal sandstone?

Sandstone is formed over millions of years. it is a durable and weather-resistant material that will not fade or break down quickly. However, it is a porous stone and so will absorb moisture, dirt and other substances that will stain it. 

It isn’t essential to seal sandstone, but sealant will slow down any deterioration to ensure that a patio looks new for longer. Sealant will also prevent staining from spills that can be almost impossible to remove. Both invisible and colour enhancing sealants are available.

How do you maintain a sandstone patio?

All patios require basic maintenance to remain at their best, regardless of their quality and how well they are laid. Without maintenance, a sandstone patio will deteriorate over time. Happily, it is easy to inject new life into your paving.

Whenever you have the time available, it is advisable to treat your patio to a wash. You only need soap, water and a brush to spruce up your slabs. The colour and texture of patio paving will be impacted by dirt, foot traffic and the adjacent planting. That grime can be removed by brushing the stones with soapy water or diluted white bleach.

If mosses, algae (green) or lichens (black or white spots) have impacted your patio, a little elbow grease will be required to remove them. But it is best to avoid using chemical treatments such as fungicides speed up the process as these chemicals may discolour the sandstone.

Do not jet wash your patio on a high power setting unless the paving boasts resin grouting as power washing may destroy the grout and erode the stone.

In addition to regular cleaning, a sealed sandstone patio should be resealed every 1-2 years. Any cracked mortar should be repaired as soon as possible.

What patterns can you create with sandstone?

With a sandstone patio, it is possible to create a variety of different patterns with the slabs. If you are thinking about a new patio, it is worth considering the various options which include both random and uniform looks. The nature of your property could be the deciding factor in your choice of patterns. 

Running bond (rectangular slabs)

A two-course running bond features rectangular slabs of the same size laid in a pattern like brickwork where the joints in every other course (row) match up. It is also possible to create a three-course running bond using slabs of different sizes where the joints in every third course match up. This creates a slightly less formal feel. Running bonds give you neat, uniform looks that are best suited to modern properties.

Running bond (square slabs)

That little bit different, a running bond created with square slabs also provides a formal feel suitable for modern properties. This pattern can be too busy for smaller patios unless large slabs are utilised.

Stack bond

The stack bond layout is the pattern where the joints of each row line up like squares on a chess board. This pattern delivers a classic feel and can suit smaller gardens.

Random patterns

Natural sandstone slabs are available in a variety of sizes and shades, enabling you to evolve more random patterns. These boast an informal look that can perfectly suit older properties such as country cottages. You could utilise a random pattern in each course or repeat a sequence of slabs several times along each course. Courses can be alternated but you could create a patio with an entirely random pattern. Project packs featuring a mixture of slab sizes are available.

How should you edge a sandstone patio?

Carefully chosen edging will perfectly complete your patio. You have many options and the right one will depend on the nature of your property, the position of your patio and the level of formality you are looking to achieve.

Cobble sett edging

Giving you a relatively informal look but a defined boundary, cobble setts complement sandstone and are visually appealing. They can be laid to the same height as the patio which can make mowing your lawn easier if it is adjacent to your paved area.

Bricks

Available in diverse colours, bricks are relatively inexpensive options and can create a pleasing, long-lasting patio border.

Kerbstones

Providing a raised border, kerbstones are practical and pleasing choices that create a clean edge to your patio and that structure your outside space. Usually positioned to edge driveways, these stones don’t cost the earth and are best suited to modern properties. A raised edge to your patio will prevent the soil in adjacent beds from migrating to your patio.

Wood

Weather-resistant wood such as cedar will provide you with attractive and informal edging as would railway sleepers. However, wood is only a practical solution for patios with straights edges.

Bullnose edging 

The beautifully finished and curved edges of bullnose stones create a refined, and formal look with a luxurious feel. Choose from a variety of stones for a matching or contrasting aesthetic. Bullnose stones are more costly that cobble setts, kerbstones or brick.

Retaining wall

A raised patio will require a retaining wall for stability. That wall will give you a pleasing edging for your patio and could be built from a variety of bricks or stones. Dwarf walls are great alternatives to  edging stones or wood as they define the paved area and can incorporate seating or raised beds.

Should you choose a sandstone patio?

There are many good reasons to choose sandstone for your patio. This stunning, versatile and durable material enables you to choose from diverse colours, textures and sizes of slab. Sandstone can be used to design a formal or informal patio that is large, small, uniform, freeform or raised. The possibilities are endless with beautiful sandstone.

Limestone Path

What are the traditional and modern methods of jointing?

The traditional way to point a patio involves using a wet mixture of sharp sand and cement. It is a tried and trusted method of jointing that can really work well. However, there are advantages and disadvantages to using traditional mortar.

Advantages of traditional mortar

  • Durable.
  • Can withstand heavy footfall.
  • Can withstand weathering.
  • Can be coloured to match or contrast with pavers.
  • Aesthetics suit natural stone.

Disadvantages of traditional mortar

  • Time-consuming.
  • Can be difficult to perfect the mix.
  • Can crack over time due leading to weed growth.
  • Requires specific weather conditions to complete (dry and no risk of frost).
  • Residue will stain the paving.

If you don’t wish to mix your mortar, you could invest in a ready-mixed jointing compound instead. This could be in the form of a single part polymeric jointing compound or a two-part epoxy resin.

Single part polymeric compounds are premixed products that are popular choices due to their ease of use as they are simply brushed into the joints between pavers. 

Advantages of polymeric compounds

  • Quick and easy to apply.
  • Creates strong and durable joints.
  • Can be applied in most weather conditions.
  • Doesn’t require mixing.
  • Neutral colours work with most slabs.

Disadvantages of polymeric compounds

  • More costly than traditional mortar.
  • Not suitable for large gaps or those that require a deep fill.
  • Less than precise finish.
  • Slightly grainy appearance.
  • Will stain slabs if allowed to dry on their surface.

Two-part epoxy resin compounds are mixed on site when you are ready to grout. The mixture is a slurry that can be brushed and squeegeed into the joints when the paving is wet.

Advantages of two-part epoxy resin

  • Relatively quick and easy to apply.
  • Durable.
  • Suitable for jet washing.
  • Colour choices.
  • Lifespan of 10 years.

Disadvantages of two-part epoxy resin

  • Must be applied quickly and so may require additional people to complete the work.
  • Patio must be kept wet during application and so a constant supply of water is required in dry conditions.
  • Relatively costly.
  • The finished joint may not be as neat as that achieved by traditional pointing methods.
  • May be difficult to keep the area wet during hot weather.
  • Slightly grainy appearance.
  • Will stain paving if allowed to dry on surface.

What are the most common mistakes when laying sandstone?

Laying any patio is seriously hard work. It is always going to be tempting to rush what you are doing and to cut any corners that present themselves. 

However, corner-cutting will not deliver the results you are looking for. Any errors will be difficult or impossible to rectify without taking up the slabs. The laying of a patio requires constant attention to detail. It is certainly best to use an experienced and skilled contractor to complete the work for you. 

If you wish to engage a professional, seek recommendations and ask to see examples of their previous work.

The most common errors that occur when laying limestone patios are as follows:

  • Inadequate drainage – the failure to ensure that a patio is well-drained is certainly the most common error of all.
  • Choosing the wrong size of paver - your contractor should be able to advise you as to the best size of slabs for your space. Small slabs can make small patios feel even smaller while slabs that are too large may not allow you to create a suitable layout or pattern.
  • Poor choice of colour – think carefully about colour choices and invest in samples of stone to test the look. Always check the appearance of pavers when they are dry and when they are wet as their colour may change.
  • Not laying a full mortar bed – It is essential to use a full mortar bed rather than spotting when laying slabs.
  • Laying slabs upside down – some slabs boast sides that differ in texture. Laying even a few slabs upside down could result in unsecured joints and an uneven look.

How do you maintain a limestone patio?

Unfortunately, there is no such thing as a maintenance-free patio. Regular use and exposure to the weather will mean that your limestone will require a little TLC from time to time. But limestone is a low-maintenance choice and so you won’t need to dedicate too much effort to keeping it looking at its best.

Rinse your patio

Simply rinsing your pavers occasionally could make all the difference. Use your hose to spray the patio or deploy your pressure washer on its lowest setting. You will wash away surface debris and prevent the build-up of grime.

Use a neutral cleaning solution

If spraying your patio with water is not enough to remove any grime or mould, you will need to use a cleaning solution. Never apply household cleaning products to your patio. They contain abrasive and acidic chemicals that are too harsh for limestone. Proprietary cleaners are available. Dilute the solution in water and clean your patio using a sponge. Rinse as you go and don’t allow any cleaning solution to dry on the surface of the pavers before you rinse.

Deal with stains

Stubborn stains will require extra attention. If your pavers are textured, use a soft brush or toothbrush together with the appropriate cleaning solution to scrub away the stains. But never try to scrub polished limestone.

Reapply sealant

After cleaning your patio, check the condition of the sealant. If the sealant is wearing off, it is time to reapply it.

Should you choose limestone for your patio?

It would be hard to find an outside space for which limestone isn’t a great option. With diverse colours and textures to explore, you will find limestone slabs that perfectly suit your property. Durable and beautiful, limestone can give you a stunning patio that will serve you well for many years to come.

 

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