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Natural Stone: The Heart of Hardscaping

Updated:2007-12-24 10:28:47

The key to success is paved with natural stone. From large-scale commercial projects to small residential applications, natural stone comes through as the product of choice when hardscaping is the name of the game. Whether you are looking at giant pavers for a public space susceptible to high foot traffic, or small-scale flagstone to enhance a backyard oasis, natural stone is essential to designing a visually glorious and truly sustainable hardscape.

 

Natural stone boasts innumerable qualities in a variety of applications. According to Fred Van Ness, owner and operator of Van Ness Stone Inc. of Newbury, Ohio, "Real stone is in a class of its own."

 

First, there is the variety of natural stone available: limestone, sandstone, bluestone and granite, to name a few. Then there is the range of available cuts and shapes: pavers, veneers, cobbles, boulders, stacking, flagging — the list goes on. And the colors? Every color of the rainbow, and then some. It's safe to say there is a stone for every purpose and a purpose to every stone.

 

Public Spaces and Large Commercial Projects

 

For hundreds of years, people have depended on stone for its sustainability, beauty and strength; large-scale commercial and public hardscaping projects prove no different. While one might think of manmade materials for such sizeable outdoor applications, stone is actually an incredibly viable and economical choice.

 

Jim Schmidlein is a project manager at Architectural Paving & Stone Inc. located in Weymouth, Mass. Throughout the years, he has seen a lot of natural stone being used in commercial building projects in the Boston area and noted how conducive the material is to the climate.

 

"Granite is best suited to our climate because it can withstand the wear and tear of snow removal, and freeze and thaw cycles," he said. "Limestone, bluestone and fieldstone also are used frequently. We have projects that mix fieldstone walls and large, stone benches in unique ways."

 

 Indeed, natural stone's durability lends great versatility for public spaces and large commercial projects. Many of these stones are able to withstand the impact of heavy pedestrian traffic and all kinds of weather conditions. Additionally, a number of them boast ease of care and maintenance — important qualities in any application, especially major thoroughfares.

 

University of Cincinnati

 

Initiated in 1989 by the University of Cincinnati, "The Master Plan" is an effort to transform the urban campus landscape — harsh concrete and sprawling parking lots — into a livable, casual space. In association with this redesign are the university's "Open Spaces" projects, including the renovation of Main Street into a pedestrian-friendly, aesthetically pleasing greenscape.

 

Landscape architect and project manager, Len Thomas, turned to Cold Spring Granite, a quarrier and fabricator of building stone located in Cold Spring, Minn., for the perfect hardscaping material that would help shape the project. Often referred to as "the flavor of the University of Cincinnati," Cold Spring's Carnelian granite met the color characteristics of many of the older buildings on campus.

 

"One thing we talk to architects about granite is about choosing a stone," said Ken Hogan, a field sales representative at Cold Spring Granite who worked with Jodi Moore, the regional sales representative, on this project. "We talk about sustainability. Granite will keep its appearance. It has a high integrity when it comes to color maintenance."

 

It's also one of the hardest — if not the hardest — stones, and so, is applicable in many capacities. "We used the Carnelian for step treads, walking areas, borders to the walkways, seat walls and fountains," Hogan said. "The seat walls and tread worked well to transition the topography."

 

From a longevity standpoint, and given the amount of wear and tear in such a heavy-traffic area, Carnelian granite made a lot of sense. It's a product that is easier to keep clean and harder to destroy.

 

"In all, 110 truckloads of Carnelian granite were used in the two phases of the Main Street project," said Brent Peterson, a project manager at Cold Spring Granite. At 24 tons per truck, that totals 2,640 tons of granite used on this project. Considering granite's sustainability, toughness and beauty, it is no wonder the project relied so heavily on this magnificent stone.

 

Port of Los Angeles

 

The restoration of the Port of Los Angeles is another example of natural stone stepping up to the hardscape plate. For this large-scale project, architects and designers also worked with Cold Spring Granite. In this case, the materials of choice were Radiant Red, Amber Gold and Academy Black, which came from quarries in Texas, Minnesota and California, respectively.

 

The Radiant Red — implemented all along the parkway and used for the benches that dot the waterfront — was selected because it is reminiscent of the Red Car Line that is a major part of the history of the area, and which, in fact, has recently been restored. The Amber Gold Granite houses the stories of San Pedro that have been sandblasted into the stone. The Academy Black pavers are local to the project; its darkness a striking contrast to the other stones.

 

Again, sustainability and longevity are major factors when choosing hardscaping materials, which makes granite a natural choice. Thus, the restoration of the port was designed around expectations of intense foot traffic, as well as lending to the beautification of the area. Granite paving, with its strength and non-slip surface, fills the bill. And stories, like those of San Pedro, have literally been etched into stone, allowing them to become permanent and historical fixtures.

 

"One big reason we see granite being used in such applications, is that it lasts hundreds of years," said Kathy Spanier, the director of marketing at Cold Spring Granite. "It makes a lasting impression."

 

Residential Projects

 

Harry S. Triebe Sr. is the owner of Sonny & Sons Stone Company in Downsville, N.Y., and he is a firm believer in natural stone. "As a hardscaping material, natural stone cannot be beat for its overall versatility, strength and durability, and its cost-effectiveness due to the previous factors," he said. For residential projects, both large and small, the world of natural stone is a vast smorgasbord of building materials.

 

For Triebe, whose company specializes in bluestone, "the possibilities [of natural stone] are limited only by one's mind." Residential applications for natural stone include walkways, patios, steps and entranceways, coping and poolscapes, stone walls, accenting and much more.

 

"What drew me to the stone business, was the variety of color and texture, and the knowledge that granite can help create a beautiful outdoor living space," said Andre Hagadorn, president and owner of Adirondack Natural Stone LLC of White Hall, N.Y. Adirondack Natural Stone specializes in four, different granites, all quarried locally: Blue Mountain, Adirondack Natural, Dolph Pond and Lake George. "Because this is a natural material, granite has very unique properties," Hagadorn said. "As it's harvested from the quarries, different veins are unearthed, offering different hues with the stone. This creates a beautiful range of colors, and as the stone on finished projects weathers, the colors deepen, giving way to an Old World elegance."

 

In addition to being a substantial and reliable material in underfoot applications, natural stone is great as an accent. Glen Chesshir, who is the owner and operator of Chesshir Stone & Rock Inc. in Dallas, said that boulders can be put to good use. "Boulders are always a good item, because they can be used to highlight flower beds, waterscapes, creek beds and koi ponds," he said.

Architectural Paving & Stone's Schmidlein has noticed that rounded, smooth riverbed stone has become a popular accent material.

 

In his corner of Northeastern Ohio, Van Ness said, "People are using reclaimed cobblestones in driveways and casual sitting areas." He went on to point out, "The major advantage of natural stone is that it is not commercial looking. It fits easily into a natural setting because it is natural."

A recent hardscaping trend is the integration of outdoor rooms in residential projects.

 

"We see a lot of people investing in outdoor rooms, an additional room to the house where the families can spend more time outside enjoying the environment while also having some of the indoor amenities available, such as an outdoor bar or cooking facilities," said George Cannell, director for Delaware Quarries Inc. of New Hope, Pa. Whether creating a comfort zone or curb appeal, he said, natural stone plays a significant role in creating successful hardscaping projects for residential sites.

 

"When people look to sell their homes, or just to make the home personable to them, natural stone makes their home more appealing than homes using other types of patio or cladding materials."

 

Of course, natural stone used in residential settings is more than just a pretty material; it is highly sustainable. "When used in landscaping, natural stone can be permanent. It's good for so many years to come when it is installed properly," Chesshir said.

 

Proper installation includes paying attention to the climate in which the stone will exist. "The right product has to be used in the right application in the right climate," Van Ness said. "We try to only carry products that will sustain in our Ohio weather. Sandstone works well here because it breathes; it takes water in and it lets water out."

 

Schmidlein agreed. "Natural stone in the proper application will last forever. When lifecycle costs are taken into account the initial cost of stonework is made competitive by lower maintenance," he said.

 

Thus, natural stone is an economically viable option, not just for spectacular, million-dollar homes, but also for smaller homes. Natural stone can fit any budget. Costs often are based on square foot or per ton pricing. And because a large portion of the overall cost of natural stone can come from freight charges, selecting stone from local quarries can significantly lower the price. But the main thing to remember is that natural stone can last forever.

 

Perhaps Van Ness put it best: "Fine homes — whatever their size — use real stone. Period."

 

Green Building

 

Natural stone is not only a solid investment in commercial, public and residential properties; it's an investment in the future. "The recent emphasis on 'Green Building' and LEED [Leadership in Energy Environmental Design] has provided a new motivation to utilize locally quarried stone," Schmidlein said. "Materials that are extracted and manufactured within 500 miles [of a project] add to the score the building receives. Depending upon the competing materials, natural stone can add to this score and thus show a commitment to our environment."

 

In whatever application, natural stone gets to the heart of the matter: sustainability, versatility, strength, durability and cost-effectiveness. "With natural stone you have the longevity," Van Ness said. "Something built today will be enjoyed by your grandchildren's grandchildren. And natural stone doesn't have any dyes or chemicals that may be harmful to the environment. Natural stone is a reclaimable source, being re-used again and again; it's not destined for a landfill."

 

In the wise words of Hagadorn, "With natural stone there are no rules. People can use any cut and color and make their dream a reality."

 

Source: Stonedimension

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