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Natural Sandstone

It is a material that might surprise some. The name sounds as if the material is delicate and would crumble in your hands with just a little bit of pressure. Yet, this material is not as fragile as the name might make it sound. In fact, natural sandstone is a rock that can be extremely durable and whose porosity in some cases can be less than that of its sibling material, quartzite. In this article we will peruse some basic information about natural sandstone. As we do, we will consider why some choose this natural stone for surfaces. We will also look at sandstone's properties, what to keep in mind when working with it, and how to care for a sandstone surface.

Why People Choose Sandstone

One of the reasons people choose sandstone for a hard surface is the same reason they select other natural stone for projects... because it is a natural material. When you create something from a natural material you are guaranteed to have a one-of-a-kind surface. Everything about the stone will vary. The color, the texture, the porosity, everything will be variable. And when you select one stone out of a group, the one you choose will be different from all the others in the group. It is this uniqueness that draws people to sandstone. Notice what one geologist said in an article for usenaturalstone.org about why she chose sandstone for her kitchen:

In the throes of a kitchen remodel, I ventured to the local stone yard and worked my way down a tantalizingly long aisle of slabs and remnants... ...But of all those delectable choices, it was sandstone that stole my heart. Wild Sea. A grey to pale green color with graceful, swooping movement, showing how the water flowed just so, a few million years ago. I imagined gentle waves lapping across my kitchen, and of course, I could hardly wait to tell every houseguest about cross bedding and paleocurrents.

Granted, most consumers are not going to wax poetic using the same eloquent word pictures as Karin Kirk did in that article. But you will hear the same admiration for natural stone and the appreciation for having a truly unique surface. But what are the properties of this material?

Sandstone's Properties

The first property we will talk about is porosity. As you may have inferred from the name of this natural sedimentary rock, sand stone is composed of sand particles. But how do they become a solid slab of stone? Well, in between those sand particles are minerals that, over time, bond the particles of sand together. These minerals serve as a "cement" of sorts to hold the sand together. Depending on how well the minerals filled in the gaps between the sand particles, the proosity of the resulting stone will vary. For this reason, one stone may be very porous and anohter have almost no pores at all. The porosity of sandstone will vary, but you get pretty much count on the fact that the stone will have pores of some sort.

Color is the second property that we will mention in our discussion of natural sandstone. Although sandstone is usually a light color, it can be any of an assortment of colors including:

  • White
  • Tan
  • Red
  • Light Gray
  • Yellow

That means that there is a wide variety of colors from which to choose when it come to sandstone. And the patterns will vary as well.

Working With Sandstone

Each natural stone has a specific hardness and sandstone is no different. Hardness is measured on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness and as you can see from the table below, sandstone registers at a 6 to 7 in hardness on that scale:

Mohs Scale of Mineral Hardness
Mineral Hardness Sandstone Note
Talc 1 Talc is a mineral that is the primary part of talcum powder.
Gypsum 2 Formed when seawater evaporates from the surface of the Earth. It is also found in drywall.
Calcite 3 A carbonate mineral found in many popular stones such as marble and limestone. It is often the primary constituent of the shells of marine organisms.
Fluorite 4 The mineral form of calcium fluoride. It is often used for ornamental carvings.
Apatite 5 A group of phosphate minerals named by the German geologist Abraham Gottlob Werner.
Feldspar 6 Feldspars are a group of rock-forming tectosilicate minerals that make up about 41% of the Earth's continental crust by weight.
Quartz 7 A hard, crystalline mineral composed of silicon and oxygen atoms which belongs to the trigonal crystal system.
Topaz 8 Topaz is a silicate mineral of aluminum and fluorine. In its natural state, Topaz is golden brown to yellow in color.
Corundum 9 Corundum occurs as a mineral in mica schist, gneiss, and some marbles in metamorphic terranes.
Diamond 10 Diamond is a solid form of the element carbon with its atoms arranged in a crystal structure called diamond cubic.

With a hardness of 6 to 7 it is easy to see that cutting sandstone is not as simple as just getting your circular saw and letting it rip. There are tools specifically made for cutting, drilling, and shaping stone. And each tool comes in a variety. For example cutting sandstone requires a diamond blade designed to cut hard stone like sandstone.

In addition to the blades used, core bits, polishing pads, granding blades, and edge profiles are all examples of diamond tools designed for working sand stone. So if you are going to be working with sandstone, be sure to have the proper tools on hand for the task.

Sandstone Care & Maintenance

Even after a sandstone surface is installed and ready for use, there are some things to know regarding it. One of the important pieces of information to keep in mind is having a good care and maintenance routine. The most effective routine for care and maintenance of natural stone is the one we recommend for all natural stone. This involves a four part approach as described below:

  • Periodic sealing of the surfaces of the stone. The sealing frequency will be based on how porous the stone is. Tesing whether it is time to seal a sandstone surface is as simple as getting the stone wet and seeing how fast it absorbs the water. The faster the water is asbsorbed, the mor sealer it will take.
  • Daily cleaning using a cleaner formulated for natural stone. Not all cleaners are made to clean sealed natural stone surfaces. Using the incorrect cleaner on a stone will break down the sealer that was previously applied to it. On the other hand, using the proper cleaner will preserve the sealer.
  • Even with good sealing and cleaning practices, it might still happen that a stain occurs in the stone. Using a poultice powder to draw the stain from the pores of the sandstone is the recommended approach.
  • As an added practice, applying a fortified stone polish to a sandstone surface can add an extra level of protection from stains. Additionally, using the spray stone polish on a sandstone surface will also increase the time between sealings.

In conclusion, sandstone is a natural stone that is actually on the hard end of the range and even though some of the sandstone that exists may be easily shaped, not all of it is. Furthermore, it is available in an array of colors on the light end of the color spectrum. Due to its hardness and the porosity variance, it is good to be familiar with what is needed to care for sandstone surfaces and if you are wroking with the material, knowing which tools to use. Having this basic information will serve you well as you transform this natural stone into hard surfaces.