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Flagstone: Unveiling Its Versatility and Timeless Charm

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Natural Stone Spotlight: Flagstone Uses and Benefits

Flagstone, a versatile natural stone, is extensively used in various construction projects such as slab or paved surfaces, walkways, patio surfaces, fencing, and roofs. Additionally, it serves as a prominent material for monuments, memorials, gravestones, and other landscaping structures.

Historically, flagstone gained widespread popularity during the European era, notably as the primary material for the walls and flooring of elaborate architecture. Surviving examples of flagstone adorn the floors of ornate castles in England and Scotland, dating back over seven centuries.

Today, flagstone remains highly favored for its durability and aesthetic appeal. Its versatility makes it a preferred choice for landscaping, decks, and patios across the United States.

What exactly is flagstone?

To better understand what is meant by flagstone, it may be easier to think of it in terms of a category for stone instead of the usual geological terms we usually use to define natural stone.  It is actually a more general name for a group of natural stones that share the same kind of shape and appearance, properties in flagstone that suit landscaping and related applications. 

A large percentage of stone referred to as flagstone is actually quarried sandstone, which is a very common sedimentary rock made of grain-sized pieces of quartz and/or feldspar.  Similar to sand, sandstone can be found in a variety of colors but is most common in shades of white, tan, brown, red, pink, and brown.  

Classified flagstone

Beds of sandstone are often very observable, and unique colors have become associated with the various regions in which they are found, such as the red sandstone found in the southwestern states of Utah, Arizona, Colorado, and New Mexico.Other types of stone that can be used to make flagstone include slate and types of limestone, but they are less common than the sandstone variety.  

Flagstone made from slate is usually a bit softer than sandstone, making it less challenging to split and somewhat easier to work with.  However, finding larger pieces of this type of flagstone can be difficult, and its surface has a tendency to reveal water and ice damage more readily.

Limestone varieties of flagstone are traditionally extremely appealing in terms of their beauty, but they can be more difficult to work with.  Often, this kind of stone is machine-cut into regular shapes and can be polished for an elaborate look in more formal projects.

This variation allows for even more colors of flagstone, although region still determines the accessibility of certain types or colors of stone to some extent.  

For example, a homeowner in Colorado may find it extremely easy to obtain large quantities of red sandstone at a reasonable price due to their close proximity to the source of the rock. For homeowners in Pennsylvania it may be very easy to obtain large amounts of blue sandstone (where it is formed) without paying exorbitant prices.

Be careful when you choose flagstone

Regardless of the exact source of stone, each variety shares certain characteristics, including a rough, porous surface.  These properties typically provide traction, leading to their popularity in the construction of patios and walkways.  However, their porous nature can also lead to cracking within the rock in icy or wet environments.  As such, most types of flagstone can be sealed to reduce their potential for breaking, and those living in areas with extreme weather may be advised to choose another type of stone.

Flagstone can also be constructed artificially with concrete materials to produce less expensive, more colorful alternatives to natural flagstone, but the manufactured stone doesn’t last as long and is usually considered less beautiful than the authentic version. 

Common Shapes and Flagstone

Depending on your preference and how you plan to use your flagstone, you will decide between two basic shapes of flagstone: irregular or uniform.

Irregular shaped flagstone is exactly what it sounds like: rough pieces of stone that are unpredictable in size and shape.  It is relatively easy to find from local suppliers and is generally a cheaper option than uniform cut flagstone.  Overall, its appearance provides an informal, comfortable feeling, which is why irregular shapes are often chosen by people looking for a natural, earthy feel for their project.

This type of stone is perfect for do-it-yourself projects because they don’t require a lot of precision in terms of their pattern or location.  In fact, it is easier to use irregular flagstone if you have a lot of variation in shape and dimension and can piece the stone together in interesting ways.  Most people doing a project with this kind of flagstone use sand to set the stone in place.

Uniform flagstone is stone that has been cut into standard square or rectangular shapes with a clean, straight edge.  In contrast to irregular stone, the appearance of uniform flagstone provides a more formal, structured appearance, and tiles are often used to create a more polished look.

While this type of stone is still quite useable for do-it-yourself projects, it does require a higher level of precision than irregular stone in terms of pattern and formation.  It is also typically more expensive and is usually set with mortar.

Overall

The properties of flagstone have made it extremely popular among the do-it-yourself crowd and creating a flagstone patio has become one of the easiest ways for homeowners to transform and raise the value of their property with natural stone.  Also, it is the perfect option for those who may be intimidated by building a traditional wood patio, which can be much more complicated.

Beyond finding level ground and measuring the space properly, a flagstone patio can be relatively easy to create.  Most people also find that the process of choosing a type, color, and pattern for their new flagstone patio is a lot of fun.  Once the project is complete, you are left with a durable, attractive patio that is totally unique.

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