Building stone tends to be a very local affair. It was hewn from quarries and, in the days before cheap transportation, could only be carried the shortest of distances. Many of these old stone quarries survive and supply the demands of the local construction trade. In some areas there are thriving second-hand markets in stone walling materials, yet nowhere is natural stone a cheap material.
The cost of laying stone varies a little depending on its characteristics and whether it’s coursed or not, but a good stonemason would hope to lay around 3m² a day, so the laying costs alone are likely to be more than the cost of most other cladding systems. Most new stone walling is now laid against a blockwork backing wall, which must be taken into cost consideration.
If you know the right quarries, this kind of walling material can be extremely cheap to buy, but it is very time-consuming to lay. Each area of the country has its own local ‘rubble’ stones, and seaside locations often tend to find theirs on the nearby beaches.
A cheaper alternative is to use a reconstituted stone. Bradstone is the best known and the largest producer. Although, to the practised eye, reconstituted stone will never look as good as the real thing, it will cost about half as much and, if done well, looks reasonably authentic. And because the product is manufactured, it’s easy to course and therefore much quicker to lay, which also saves overall costs.
One interesting alternative is to use reconstituted stone cladding. Fernhill produces a very convincing product (BELOW), which is set in moulds and is so realistic that it’s virtually impossible to tell from the real thing. But realism comes at a price: it costs around £35-£45/m² to buy the tiles, and laying is as expensive as brickwork. It can be placed on a polystyrene backing (useful for people building with ICF) but it’s usually stuck onto an outer blockwork wall.
ABOVE, clockwise from left; Coursed Ashlar from Farmington; Rubble cladding from Fernhill; Rubble cladding.
BELOW, clockwise from top left: Coursed Ashlar; Ragwork from Black Mountain Quarries; Uncoursed Ashlar from Black Mountain Quarries.
The look of stone walling relies heavily on how the stone is dressed and laid
1. Polygonal Uncoursed: Stones dressed to have many sides, laid in an irregular pattern.
2. Ragwork, Slate Walling: Rough thin stones laid horizontally, perfect for naturally thin slate.
3. Uncoursed Ashlar: Squarely dressed stones laid in different sizes in random order.
4. Coursed Ashlar; Squarely dressed stones laid coursed, in a methodical system.
5. Rubble Walls; Random sized and shaped stones produce a random pattern.