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Limestone: Understanding Its Formation & Varieties

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Limestone

Limestone is a type of sedimentary rock which is produced from organic material that settles on the foundation of lakes and sea beds.  This organic matter is typically comprised of things like shells or coral that exist in warm and shallow environments. In fact, fossils are often found in limestone, revealing the type of biology that was present at the time the rock formed.

Additionally, limestone can be formed by an evaporation process in which water that contains calcium carbonate, a main ingredient of limestone, evaporates, leaving deposits of the material in its place.  This is the process by which incredible stalactites and stalagmites are often created on the floors and ceilings of caves.

The rock which forms is softer than other types of stone often used in the home, like granite, and its porous nature makes it highly susceptible to erosion from acidic agents and water as well.  Over time, this erosion has actually led to the creation of cave formations and incredible limestone landscapes that are evident now in almost every corner of the world.

 Overall, limestone represents only a small percentage of all existing sedimentary rocks, but its uses are quite plentiful.  Applications for limestone can easily be seen in everything from its use as filler in commercial products like paint to its frequent use in homes as construction material, flooring, countertops, and landscaping. 

Variation in Limestone

Limestone can form under a variety of different scenarios, and the rock often presents a wide variation in the materials that combine with calcium carbonate to create it.  We are left with materials that, although incredibly different in their appearance and use, are all limestone on a basic level.  The variation in limestone is so great that you may already be quite familiar with the stone without even realizing it.

Some of the most common types of limestone include:

  • Chalk – A limestone formed mostly from the microscopic shell remains of marine life or the organic material left by marine algae.  Chalk is an incredibly soft variation of limestone, and it is often found in a white or grayish color.
  • Coquina – A type of limestone which forms mostly in oceanic environments where waves separate and compress layers of tiny shell pieces into a rock that breaks rather easily.
  • Fossiliferous Limestone – A variation of limestone that shows an abundance of the shells and skeletal material that created it in the form of fossils.
  • Oolitic Limestone – A type of limestone named for the concentric patterns created by the calcium carbonate in its formation, also known as oolites.
  • Travertine – Limestone that is commonly used in homes that forms mostly through the evaporative process in caves underground.
  • Tufa – A type of limestone that often forms within hot springs or lake waters

Uses of Limestone in the Home

Overall, limestone is known as a very durable stone, and many favor it over other materials for the construction of buildings and homes.  Further, because limestone is so diverse in its formation and appearance, it has become a favorite among homeowners for its design value as well. In fact, homeowners local to the Denver, Colorado area may see even more limestone that those in other areas of the country, due mostly to the abundance of the stone within the state.

Limestone is frequently found in the home, but the most traditional applications for limestone include countertops, flooring, walkways, and landscaping.

Countertops

Using limestone as a material for countertops is incredibly popular with homeowners for a couple of different reasons.  For one, it is available in an impressive range of colors, and homeowners often find that limestone can offer them colors that other natural stones cannot.  It is also a very resilient stone and is often less susceptible to damage from scratches than other countertop materials, making it ideal for a kitchen surface.

When used as a countertop material, it is necessary to treat and seal limestone properly to protect it, as its porous nature and sensitivity to acid may increase its potential for staining. Additionally, the tremendous weight of limestone often adds to its cost, making it quite expensive at times and frequently priced over other stone countertop materials.

Flooring

Homeowners find limestone appealing as flooring because it offers a distinct, rugged look that can add a lot to the design appeal of any space.  However, because it is a relatively soft stone, it is often suggested for use in areas with less traffic to keep it from damaging quickly.  Additionally, its sensitivity to acid should again be managed if it is intended for use as kitchen flooring.

Walkways

More and more people are choosing limestone as a walkway material because it is fairly simple to use, and it tends to last for a number of years.  Further, it has the ability to absorb water quickly and easily, which makes it safe as a walking surface near pools.

When used as flooring or in walkways, limestone is also a convenient stone; the way in which it is quarried helps to create uniformity in its color which ultimately adds to its feasibility and appeal as a tile.  

Liquid limestone is an alternate version of limestone which is also used in walkways.  Essentially, this product is a combination of limestone and various materials that create a concrete like substance that can be colored to match the style of any home

Landscaping

The uses for limestone outside of homes do not stop with walkways, and it is frequently found as a landscaping material in other ways.  It can be used in everything from the construction of patio surfaces and driveways to decorative cladding on the exterior of a home. 

Oversized limestone blocks are also popular in the construction of fences and retaining walls and are even commonly used as a foundation in garden beds.  

There is a tremendous amount of diversity in the many uses of limestone, and it can be found in both commercial products as well as serving many functions in the home.  For homeowners, its popularity is certainly due to the huge variety of limestone available which makes it easy for one to find a limestone with the appropriate texture, color, and overall design appeal to suit their particular needs.

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