The Basics of Stone

Sandstone Fireplace

Stone is a green building product. It’s all natural and environmentally friendly. We can use it as a building product for either structural or veneer applications. Someone can reuse stone very easily as well which adds to its green characteristics.

As stone masons, we get to work with all different classes of stone as well as concrete and mixtures to enhance natural stone. Here is some basic information about stone that we hope you learn from.

Classifications of Stone

There are 3 classes of stone, and the classes are based on their formation.

  • Igneous (volcanic)
  • Sedimentary
  • Metamorphic

Some stone can be a mixture of these types, but when they mix you will usually see a clear line between the types. All stone is made up of minerals of various mixtures and individual samples can vary greatly. These variations affect the material in a variety of ways including.

  • color
  • texture
  • strength
  • durability

That is especially true of marble, limestone, and sandstone.

Igneous Stone

All igneous stone comes from magmas, so these are molten mixtures of minerals. When they comprise mostly quartz and potash feldspar, they are considered an acidic igneous stone, which usually are light in color. When they comprise mostly ferromagnesian minerals, they are considered basic, which usually are darker in color and heavier in weight.

Igneous stone can range from pieces with large crystals to a glossy stone without the presence of crystals at all. The 2 most popular types of igneous stone are granite and traprock.


Granite is the most popular igneous stone. It’s usually light colored and hard. It takes a polish easily. It can be found in a broad spectrum of colors which is why it’s a popular countertop material. White, Grey, Pink, Green, and many combinations of colors are all common.


Traprock is also a popular igneous stone. It’s ridiculously hard and durable, but it usually contains iron minerals. The iron causes the stone to have rusty stains as the stone ages and weathers. This makes traprock an excellent resource as crushed rock.

Sedimentary Stone

Sedimentary stone is formed in layers. Deposits of shell, disintegrated stone, or sand become cemented together to form this stone. It is the pressure and the variations in pressures that cause the unique qualities of this stone. The 2 most popular sedimentary stone are limestone and sandstone.


Sandstone is composed of mainly grains of quartz, which are cemented together by silica, lime, and iron oxide. The silica can make a hard, durable stone, but the other cements aren’t very stable, so sandstone isn’t very weather resistant. They require special treatment in the wintry weather like here in Minnesota.

Sandstone is a great fireplace stone; the stone is usually clean and gives a very natural look. Here is an example. We can work with your interior to set up any sort of sandstone arrangements you are trying to achieve.

Sandstone Fireplace

The largest US quarry of sandstone is in Lorain County, Ohio. It’s a drab color, but mostly silica, so fire resistant and a great building quality stone.


Limestone is mostly calcium carbonate material and usually marine in it’s origin. It is typically 70% skeletal material and 20% cementing materials. The remaining 10% comprised of many different elements including noncalcareous material and porosity. Limestone weathers very rapidly in humid climates like Minnesota, but very slowly where it is continually dry.

There are several types of limestone frequestly used in construction

  • dolomitic
  • oolitic
  • crystalline
  • travertine

The largest US quarry for limestone is in south central Indiana. They often refer to this stone to as Indiana Limestone or Bedford Limestone. It is a white, even textured stone that sometimes contains small fossils. It is resistant to extreme temperatures and easily machinable. We can cut it in any direction, but it has a grain running horizontally.

When the stone is laid with the grain running horizontally, it’s called set on its natural bed, and when it’s set with the grain running vertically, it’s called on edge. Limestone is strong enough to support either way.

We use limestone for wall or fireplace material frequently. Here is an example of a limestone wall.

Limestone Wall

Metamorphic Stone

Metamorphic stone was formed through reconstitution because of intense pressure and heat. It can start as any type of stone and change to become metamorphic. Marble is recrystallized limestone. Other examples of metamorphic stone are:

  • marble
  • slate
  • schist
  • gneiss
  • quartzite


Marble is a fine stone; some consider it the finest of all stone. It is softer and less resistant to weathering than others like granite. It does not develop the parallel bonding which is found in slate and schist. There is a wide variety of color options available in marble. White, yellow, brown, green, and black are all common.

Here is they used marble as an entrance; we don’t frequently do this because of both the weather and the cost. We can show you options though for your entrance and find the style and construction best suited for Minnesota that will match your aesthetic expectations.

Marble Entrance


Slate is frequently found in a blue-grey color. It is a common flooring material. It is resistant to stains and can be extremely durable. It is also split into sheets and used for roofing. Most slate in the US is from Vermont, Maine, and Pennsylvania.


Schist is a course stone that contains a lot of mica. There are several types of schist based on the minerals found in it.

  • mica schist
  • hornblende schist
  • chlorite schist
  • quartz schist


This is pronounced “nice” and as the pronunciation of the stone itself is beyond explanation. This stone is a course texture with many minerals in it. There are bands and streaks with random bands as well. It is typically heavy in feldspar and contains mica.


Quartzite is a recrystallized sandstone. The grain structure isn’t clear compared to sandstone. This is an extremely hard and durable stone. It is used to make roofing tiles, stairs, and flooring. When cut and polished, the stone is simply stunning, as well as durable. It is used to make kitchen countertops and decorative walls. 

Quartzite is commonly found in Minnesota. You can visit Sioux Quartzite Outcrop Trail to see some beautiful displays of this stone formed naturally.

There are the basic stones available for use. There are many uses for any of these stones. You can talk to our salesperson. They will know all about them and the best for your situation.

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