Selection, selection, selection…The key to a successful natural stone project

The Stone Federation explains exactly what needs to be considered when selecting stone for a project – from selecting the correct stone to choosing the right professional for the job.

Natural stone is an amazingly versatile material providing stunning results for everything from external cladding and landscaping through to kitchen worktops and bathrooms floors.

Part of the beauty of the material is the fact that it is a completely natural product, formed in the earth over thousands of years; every fleck and nuance has been created by natural means, rather than by machine.

When it comes to using natural stone in your project, the key to success is selection. A combination of selecting the correct stone and the right stone professional is the recipe to a successful natural stone project.

Selecting the correct stone professional is without doubt the best place to start. Some clients want to rush straight into looking to source the material but may lack the experience, technical knowledge and understanding of the application suitability of each stone.

It is always advisable to involve a natural stone professional at the earliest opportunity in the project as their input at the design and material selection stages will be invaluable.

There are a few key things to ask for when selecting your stone professional that will ensure you are employing the services of a company operating at the highest standards of best practice.

The first step is to ensure that they are a member of an official trade association or professional body. The trade bodies will ensure that their members are kept up to date with the latest guides to best practice, government legislation and British and European Standards. As with any material, the guidelines to best practice and legislation surrounding natural stone are always changing, but through the technical support a trade body can provide, you can rest assured that your professional is ahead of the curve.

Furthermore, to become a member of a trade association the company will have had to go through a series of checks, both of their workmanship and their trading and financial history. By using a member company, you are significantly reducing the risk of employing the services of a ‘cowboy’ firm.

Housebuilders and developers will also have the added peace of mind that comes from knowing that there is an external body to contact should any issues arise as most trade bodies will have a complaints procedure.

This kind of backup is usually also available when it comes to technical questions. Trade bodies will have technical helplines that are open to use by housebuilders and developers using the services of one of their members.

All of these things combine to provide you with the peace of mind that is an invaluable asset on any construction project. Once the natural stone professional has been chosen, the next step is to ensure you are selecting the correct stone for the application you have in mind. The stone professional should be able to assist with this, but here are a few pointers so that you too can enter this stage with a good level of ‘know how’.

The first step is to ensure that your samples are up to the task in hand – namely giving you a true representation of what the final product will look like. One key factor in this is looking at range/control samples. These will show the range of geological characteristics typically found within the bed of stone as opposed to the small snapshot you would find in a single indicative sample piece. This helps to avoid any confusion as to what the end product will look like, however, it is worth bearing in mind that this is a natural product and therefore, each stone will have its own unique features.

Step two is tied into the first, and this is to visit the quarry or mine itself. Most natural stone experts strongly advise that a visit is made so that the stone proposed for the project can be carefully inspected. This is also a great chance to see exactly how the process works. There is something special about seeing the stone at both ends of the process and a very visible reminder that stone is a natural, sustainable material. The third and final step is the technical assessment of the stone. It is important to make an initial assessment of the stone’s technical properties before it is added to the project short list.

There are various tests that help build a picture of a stone’s potential suitability for a particular application and, while past projects are a good indicator, recent test data should be examined. While on the subject of testing, it is important to mention the CE Marking legislation. As of 1 July 2013 it has been a legal requirement for all construction products, including natural stone, placed on the market in the EEA (European Economic Area) to have a CE Certificate and Declaration of Performance (DoP).

The information on the CE Certificates and DoPs provide the architects, client, designers and developers with vital information that aids correct stone selection which, in turn helps to ensure that the correct stone is used from the outset. All of these steps work to ensure that you end up with the perfect stone for the desired application which in turn will lead to both an aesthetically pleasing and durable end result.

While not exhaustive, the advice given above should help make the process of using natural stone in your project as smooth as possible and give you the peace of mind that you have the best professionals and the perfect materials for your home, apartment, hotel or development.

Natural stone is the ideal material to use as a housebuilder or developer as it delivers a winning combination of sustainability, durability and a unique, beautiful end result, so make sure you explore the full potential it offers.

See this feature in the June issue of Housebuilder & Developer here
To see the other features in this issue, visit the Magazine Archive