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Falling in Love with the Casual Elegance of Limestone

Limestone by author Meghan Carter

  • The many colors and styles of limestone.
  • Why limestone is easy to maintain.
  • How to select a limestone slab.
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    If you want a more natural, slightly rustic look than marble or granite, limestone might be your best bet. Favored for it's coarser texture, beautiful creams and uniform look, limestone looks beautiful in any room. But don't be fooled. Limestone is available in more than just cream, and during my trip to Impression, one of the best limestone fabricators in America, the owner, Ronald Williams, not only showed me the many different colors of limestone, but also taught me all about it.

Limestone's Look

   Limestone is available in many different colors: grey, green, blue, brown, deep red and of course, numerous shades of cream. Its texture varies from very uniform to highly irregular, with tons of veins and fossils throughout.
    The best way to understand limestone's appearance is to break it down to its chemistry. Limestone is made of calcium carbonate.
    "Shellfish fell down to the bottom of the ocean, got compressed and created those interesting patterns," Williams said.
    If it had been heated more, limestone would have turned into marble. But it didn't, which is why limestone has a rougher, coarser look than marble.

Limestone Uses

    Limestone can be used almost anywhere in the home. Sinks, floors, moldings, countertops, wall panels, fireplace mantels, statues, fountains and pool surrounds are just a few of the applications for which limestone is well suited.


    It may seem odd that a stone so beautiful doesn't need much maintenance, but it's true. The secret lies in limestone's honed appearance. Not being reflective, limestone does not show scratches as easily as granite or marble would, according to Williams. To see the scratches you have to get up close and look for them.
    When it comes to staining, there's no need to worry as long as you use a sealer or impregnator. The sealers and impregnators seal off the surface of the limestone so stains can't seep into the pores. To check to see if your sealer or impregnator is working, throw some water on your limestone. If it beads up, you should be good to go, according to Williams.
    And if you're worried about limestone chipping, don't be. It's unlikely your limestone will chip, and if it does, it can be fixed. To repair the chip, a piece of a similar limestone can be cut to the size of the chip and glued back in place with an epoxy that has ground up limestone in it to camouflage the seams, according to Williams.
    "You won't see the repair because the stone is so varied," Williams said. "That's the advantage [of using limestone]."
    The easiest limestones to care for are the creams and tans. The darker colors, such as black and blue, are a bit harder to maintain - but still easy, according to Williams.

What to Get

    When selecting stones, people typically think the denser the better. That way the stone is extra tough and won't chip or stain. But with limestone, that's not always the best plan.
    Typically, the dense pieces of limestone are saved for carvers because they are less likely to contain imperfections, such as fossils, that would ruin the carvers' designs.
    If you're using limestone for a sink or countertop, it might be a better idea to choose a medium density limestone, according to Williams. The reason is very dense limestones must be polished to bring out the color. Polishing a limestone sink or countertop - anywhere in which the limestone will be used often - is impractical because when the limestone is polished it scratches easily, according to Williams.
    When looking to see the different densities of limestone, don't be fooled into thinking the darker in color the denser. That's not the case. Limestone varies greatly in density from piece to piece. You can see the density differences fairly easily. The pieces with no pores are very dense; whereas, the pieces with many pores are less dense.     While the dense and porous pieces don't look that different, they have a big difference in weight. A very dense piece of limestone can weigh almost double a porous piece of limestone, according to Williams.
    When selecting limestone, always have a limestone expert suggest which pieces will work best for your project. An experienced limestone fabricator will be able to discern the correct density much better than the untrained eye.

Selecting a Slab

    When buying limestone, you should always go to select your slab. Because slabs vary so much from one to the other, the slab you get could look completely different than the sample you took home. So to get what you want, you've got to pick it out yourself.
    While looking at the different slabs, take a spray bottle filled with water. When you see a slab you might like, spray the water on it. The water will bring out the color of the slab and help you to see the veins and fossils better.
    Don't select slabs that have long cracks or fractures running through them. Those slabs will more than likely break during fabrication. Also check to make sure the slab is straight and not scratched. The slab you choose should look smooth, crack free and most importantly beautiful.
    "No ugly fossils," Williams said. "I mean some fossils could be ugly or not pleasing to the eye. You could see almost right away if there's something wrong with [a slab]. If you don't like it, forget it. Go to another slab. It's a lot easier."

Photo Credit: Impression

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