A well-maintained limestone building is a joy to behold. The creams, honeys and grays in the colors of this building stone lend it to both dignified, monumental structures and rustic, traditional structures. Many Hill Country homes in Texas incorporate limestone in a more natural, rough-cut form, but it’s also been finely hewn for use in many of the grand cathedrals of Europe and the Egyptian pyramids. But its unique properties as a natural stone necessitate a different maintenance approach than many other modern building materials.
If you own a historic limestone building, you need to know what goes into its upkeep. Here are the basics.
Properties of limestone
Limestone is a traditional building material for a reason. It’s strong, easily-worked and capable of incredible longevity when used properly. Depending on where it’s quarried, different limestone has different tensile and compressive strength, but most limestone is close to good concrete.
Unlike concrete, though, limestone is weak under flexion. That limits its capabilities as a load-bearing construction material. Older structures like cathedrals mitigated this with flying buttresses, arches and other well-designed load-bearing designs. It’s also porous, soaking up any liquids that come in contact with it.
For most purposes concrete and other building materials have replaced limestone as a structural material in modern times. Where it’s very common, though, is in facades. Many historic buildings have an outer layer of limestone that adds beauty to the structure. Facades don’t have the same issues with strength as structure does.
Limestone repair can be very expensive, so a good maintenance plan is absolutely essential. Routinely inspecting the stone for cracks, chipping and erosion is crucial for anyone who owns a limestone building. Standing water around limestone can be a problem too, as the stone’s porosity means it will soak up the water and anything in it. This can stain the limestone. Keeping stains away and the stone sealed is essential for preserving the original color.
Limestone can be surprisingly delicate, and it’s recommended that a professional be the one to undertake any cleaning of limestone surfaces. Cleaners with acid in them will eat away the stone. Milder cleaners like soap and water are often enough.
If maintenance has been neglected, surface erosion can be a big problem for limestone buildings. Acid rain and weathering can leave their marks quickly. Stains, scratches, flaking, spalling and rising damp can all be effects from a poorly-maintained limestone installation. Replacing stones or an entire wall may be necessary, and damp-proofing is often recommended.
Limestone is beautiful and adds character to old buildings. Make sure you’re keeping your limestone structure maintained with expert help. Talk to JK Industries and we’ll take a walk round your building and get you on track.