Types of Stone Construction

The pyramids are some of the largest examples of early stone construction.
The pyramids are some of the largest examples of early stone construction. (Image: pyramid image by christine dedman from Fotolia.com)

Many of history’s most famous buildings, as well as countless centuries-old homes, are built from stone. Stone is a natural and highly durable material used as a building material, as well as a flooring and countertop material.

Building Stone

Building stone comes in different types. Different types of stone lend themselves to particular building techniques. Igneous rock, such as granite, is very hard and nonporous. Sedimentary rock, such as limestone, is soft and porous. Metamorphic rock, such as marble, is very hard and nonporous. Builders use granite, marble, limestone and fieldstone for building exterior walls and other construction.

Dry Stone Stacking

Dry stone stacking is the earliest form of stone construction. Egyptians constructed the pyramids of Egypt in limestone and marble using a dry stack technique. This technique stacks stone upon stone, without mortar, and requires great skill. The force of the stones on top support and stabilize the walls. Most dry stone stack construction features walls that are thicker at the base and taper toward the top. While regular stone blocks are used in dry stone stack construction, irregularly shaped stones are used as well. Traditional fieldstone walls are examples of irregularly shaped dry stack stone construction.

Stone Masonry

Stone masonry is the stone construction technique most people are familiar with. It resembles brickwork but with stone. This technique places stones in even or uneven layers surrounded by mortar, a type of thin cement. The mortar fixes the stones in place and allows walls to be a more even thickness throughout the wall and in a thinner overall thickness, but traditional stone masonry walls are still thick compared to modern standards. This technique uses irregular stones and even stone blocks. Colonial American houses are common examples of this technique. Some modern stonemasons use a shortcut method called slipform to make the process easier and less time consuming. Slipform uses building stones stacked within a form (removable walls). The builder pours a layer of concrete to the backside of the stones to join them together and support them. After the concrete hardens, the builder removes the form.

Stone Veneer

Stone veneer is the stone construction type most commonly used today, since it gives the look of stone at a much lower cost. Veneered stone construction features a thin layer of stone attached with mortar to a concrete block wall or other backer. The concrete blocks form the basis of the home, with the stone providing an attractive covering. Some refer to this as stone facing.

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