A Guide to Limestone Paving

Limestone paving is a popular choices for paving projects and it is easy to understand why. They are hardworking types of natural stone and equals when it comes to good looks, hence choosing between the two can be difficult.

There are reasons why you might consider one over the other, however. The cost is a consideration of course and how difficult it is to cut and lay the slabs is another but while both can do certain jobs equally well, you may want to examine, amongst other things, what you will be using your natural limestone paving for, its position in the garden and how much traffic it will be getting once it is laid.

Limestone Paving or Sandstone Paving?

  1. Limestone is more durable

Limestone paving slabs are very good at withstanding the rigours of the weather in the UK and like sandstone can hold up against the effects of regular downpours but it is limestone that wins out. Sandstone because it is quite porous and lighter in colour will probably need more cleaning than its tougher counterpart.

Tip: Limestone paving should never be de-iced using salt, for example as this can cause pitting or scaling. You should use sand to de-ice a limestone walkway instead.

  1. Limestone is more consistent in colour

Although sandstone will give you a huge variety in terms of colour, another big positive for limestone paving is it’s more consistent in colour so the perfect option if you are looking for a contemporary sleek finish.

Tip: When choosing your natural stone limestone paving why not check how it looks when it’s wet?  Rain and wear can alter the colour of stone paving.

  1. Limestone has a smoother finish

In terms of texture, limestone will give you a smoother finish with fewer ridges and it is this more even finish that makes it a great option for driveways as well as many indoor projects. On the other hand, sandstone with a sawn finish can look more contemporary and certain types with a grittier finish can be more slip resistant.

  1. Both limestone and sandstone are adaptable

They can be easily cut into various sizes and shapes and adapted to fit in with any style or garden project, which makes them pretty evenly matched. Because of their strength, durability and range of finishes and colours they are both very versatile and can adapt to almost any style of garden.

Limestone works for a whole host of areas, both internally and externally. Driveways, gardens, patios, pathways, stepping stones and interior flooring etc while it is sandstone’s fantastic array of colours and textures that makes it an excellent choice for any property type, contemporary or traditional.

  1. Limestone is more expensive

The cost of paving is dictated by things such as the cut, thickness and quality but generally limestone costs more than sandstone.

Advantages of Limestone Paving

● Limestone was formed naturally in caves, sea beds and mountains, hence it works beautifully within a natural environment.

● Indian limestone pavers are hard wearing but sufficiently malleable to be shaped to fit into patios, garages, or gardens.

● It’s ecologically friendly so it won’t add to your carbon footprint.

● The colour palette, which can include dark-gray, pale gray, blue-gray, tan, and cream colours, is more consistent and doesn’t change much in rainy and wet weather.

● It offers a distinctive look.

● A limestone pavement or patio will require only minimal maintenance. In most cases, pressure cleaning can take care of any maintenance issues that arise for limestone paving.

How to cut limestone paving

Limestone is one of the toughest natural stones and that can put you off if you want to do it yourself. But this is all about having the right tools for the job. If you have those, it should be a straightforward task. And don’t forget, before you begin, you need to wear the correct safety gear. You’ll need gloves and goggles.

  1. Measure your limestone slab

Use a pencil and ruler to ensure you get the right dimensions, or if you are getting creative with differing shapes you need to trace the pattern onto your slab. If you are a novice you may want to stick to simpler more uniform shapes however, as these will be easier to cut.

  1. Cut your limestone slab

For this you will need a specialised diamond floor saw. Ensure that you mount your limestone slab on a secure and hard surface before you begin to cut. You’ll need a steady hand to obtain the precision cut you need and it is best to take your time as trying to rush the job might result in cracking a slab.

  1. Smooth out the edges

You don’t want to leave sharp rough edges on your natural limestone, as you could cut yourself, so any roughness needs to be smoothed out. Do this by using a power sander which will do the job efficiently and expertly.

How to lay limestone paving

Before we begin…

Stone flags come in a variety of forms, but, from a laying point of view, there are two categories – those flags that are sawn or specially worked to ensure a regular thickness, which are referred to as calibrated and the more common riven limestone slabs.

Riven refers to the surface of the flags, which is a natural bedding plane within the rock from which the flagstone was quarried. Riven surfaces have a tendency to be uneven, reflecting the natural origin of the rock and that means you have to ensure that when you lay them you allow for this and continually check that they are level with each other.

Laying limestone slabs

The main method of laying natural stone paving is to individually bed each slab into a full mortar bed. This is mainly because, as we have seen, the thickness of each riven slab will vary and be uneven.

The mortar bed is usually made up of six parts soft sand and one part cement but an alternative method would be to use six parts sharp sand to one part cement. This mix will provide a stronger foundation, but is slightly harder to work for your paving but either method will do a good job.

The best method for mixing mortar is to use an electric or petrol mixer. You firstly put half the mix into the mixer then add water, let it mix thoroughly and then add the second half.

● Make sure the mixture is of the correct consistency before spreading a layer that is 50mm thick. It must be deeper than the slab itself.

● Carefully lay the slab down onto the bed, and firmly tap it with a rubber mallet until it is level.

● Repeat this process, one slab at a time, ensuring you leave a gap of 10-12mm between each.

● Once the area is complete, to finish you need to fill those gaps – this is also referred to as pointing your mortar joints.

● To make a pointing mortar, you should mix one-part cement with six-parts of sand; this can either be soft sand or building sand and once you have achieved the  appropriate consistency, you can use the pointing trowel to insert the mortar into the joints with the edge and a pointing bar to press it down.

● After every joint has been filled, you should take a stiff brush to remove any excess mortar before it dries completely and has to be chipped off your smooth limestone surface.

How to clean your natural limestone

Day-to-day cleaning

The ideal way to ensure your natural limestone paving looks as handsome as when it was first laid, is through regular maintenance. If you remove dirt and other debris before it becomes ingrained you will usually avoid causing any lasting damage to your beautiful limestone.

To do this:

1. Use a soft brush or broom to sweep your limestone to ensure any large debris is cleared from the surface of your natural limestone.

Tip: Make sure that there is nothing sharp and spiky that could be dragged across the stone while you are cleaning it as this could scratch the surface of your limestone slabs so sweep away everything including, small stones, leaves, twigs and other organic matter.

2. Dilute a small amount of non-acidic soap in a bucket of warm water, wipe down the pavers with plenty of water and leave for half an hour. The water solution will do its work and release dirt from the surface.

3. The next stage is to rinse the tiles with clean warm water until any residue has disappeared.

How to treat efflorescence

Efflorescence is caused by mineral salts which have been deposited on the surface of your limestone slabs. For very mild cases of efflorescence, you can try a 50/50 mix of white vinegar and water.

Using a scrub brush, spot treat and scrub affected areas with the vinegar mix. The acidity in the vinegar helps remove the efflorescence and calcium deposits by breaking down mineral crystals. For more serious cases of efflorescence you need a special efflorescence remover.

Here at the The Premium Paving Company, we know all about natural stone an how to keep it looking beautiful, so don’t hesitate to contact us if you need advice on limestone or any other types of pavers. View our full range of natural stone paving here.


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