Limestone paving vs sandstone paving

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The most popular types of stone paving in the UK are sandstone and limestone. They both have great qualities and can be picked up at a good price. So how do we choose between them? And for that matter is there any significant difference?

This article compares them on: 

  • Strength
  • Cost
  • Appearance
  • Ability to seal 

Our customers frequently ask which type of stone paving to go for.

We have weighed and measured sandstone and limestone paving to give you a useful guide when choosing between them. We will look at the strengths and weaknesses of the two and offer our advice based on research and experience.

Read our in depth guide on laying paving next

Sandstone Vs Limestone Strength

Both sandstone and limestone are strong stones to use for paving.

This means they will easily deal with cars on the driveway and high foot traffic. Of course this depends on the thickness and how they are laid. But assuming that this has been considered they should both stand up well to use.

Weather in the UK is notoriously bad, especially in the Northwest. This can impact the paving in a number of ways. Thankfully, both sandstone and limestone have low water absorbance. This means that it’s hard for algae, ice or anything else to get inside and damage the stone.

Due to their makeup, lighter colours of both sandstone and limestone tend to be more porous.

This can mean they get dirty and damaged more easily that their darker counterparts. Be aware that they will need cleaning slightly more frequently or sealing to keep the water out.

How easy it is to cut and shape your paving will impact the cost. In this area both sandstone and limestone are great. Both can be cut and shaped with ease, making installation cheaper than harder stones.

Winner: Its a draw, both are very strong.

Sandstone Vs Limestone Cost

Limestone and sandstone are the most popular types of stone for gardens, paths and driveways in the UK. This is partly due to their cost. Both come in beautiful but affordable styles.

The cost of paving is dictated by things such as the cut, thickness and quality. To make things easy we have compared similar riven stone slabs.

The winner for cost in sandstone which comes out at £200 per 10 m squared compared to £310 for the same area in limestone

Winner: Sandstone!

Sandstone Vs Limestone Appearance

There are a few aspects of appearance to consider in order to choose based on looks. Both sandstone and limestone are available in a variety of colours and patterns.

Both can be found with streaks and patches of blues, oranges and sandy colours running through them.

In terms of colour and pattern, sandstone is by far the winner with a vast array of colours available.

Limestone has a small number of variations by comparison. Where limestone paving does stand out is its smoothness.

Limestone paving is naturally smoother when split or riven. This makes limestone more suited to uniform, contemporary gardens. By contrast, sandstone is rippled when split. This gives it a more rough, natural look.

Shiny textured limestone

Shiny Limestone paving

Rippled sandstone

Both sandstone and limestone are available cut and sandblasted. This will make the surfaces smooth and uniform. But the added work means the cost increases slightly.

The colours will always vary between each slab whichever stone you go for.

This is what gives these two materials their delightful charm. If you like the effect that this inconsistency brings then you may be drawn more towards sandstone.

The array of colours and patterns available within the same batch of sandstone is more impressive than any other paving material.

Before choosing your type and style of paving you should check what it looks like wet. Some stones, especially the lighter ones, change colour when wet. This is also a must if you are planning on using sealant on your paving. Some sealant will change the colour but unlike water, it could be permanent

Winner: Sandstone again. The huge variety and versatility make it a great choice for most gardens.

Using sealants on sandstone and limestone

Sealed sandstone paving

Our customers often ask us if they should seal their stone paving. There is no one-size-fits-all answer so here are the main things we take into account when advising people.

  1. Sealing not always essential or even desirable. Sandstone and limestone are both beautiful natural stones. They can put up with the worst of British weather for years and years. Sealants often change the colour of the paving and run the risk of becoming patchy. We say that if you don’t have a good reason to use a sealant then save yourself the money. Your paving will most likely not be improved by adding anything.
  2. Changing the colour. Sealant can change the colour of natural stone. Some sealant is specifically designed to change it and others are designed not too. It’s impossible to get off once its on so our advice is to test it on a small area first. See if you like it then go for it. The minerals in sandstone and limestone oxidise in the first year which can bring out the lovely natural hues within. It’s sometimes a good idea to let this process take place before sealing the pores in the stone.
  3. Protection. Despite being very versatile, sandstone and limestone are both porous. This means that algae, dirt, oil and other things can get inside and stain or damage the stones. This is far more likely to be noticeable on lighter coloured paving. So if your slabs are likely to be in the shade, damp or exposed to a lot of dirt then it may be a good idea to get the properly sealed to keep them looking good.
  4. Saving money. This one is a little counter intuitive but sealing your stone paving could save you money. Traditionally, paving will be set and then the spaces between will be filled with cement. This is called pointing, and it takes a long time. Our method involves using paving joint compound made from epoxy resin and fine sand which is brushed into the gaps. The materials are more expensive but it takes one tenth of the time. On average this could make a £1500 paving job cost £1200. A significant saving if you are on the fence about using sealant.

What should i use to seal the stones?

Make sure to check whether you are using a coating or a sealant. Coatings sit on top of the stone where as sealants sink into the stone. We would not recommend using a coating because they have a tendency to rub off in patches.

This can leave an unnatural patchy look which is very difficult to get rid of.

A good sealant will sink into the stone an become almost invisible. When using sealants on porous stones such as sand stone and limestone make sure to increase the amount you use. Their porous surfaces will absorb more than smooth paving stones such as granite.

Maintenance of sandstone and limestone

Very little maintenance is normally needed for these stones however a little and often method is likely to yield the best results. The maintenance advice for both is identical.

Make sure that algae is scrubbed off periodically to prevent large build-ups and deterioration of the stone.

With light stones, it may be a good idea to seal them if they are likely to get dirty. This will prevent ugly stains building up

Conclusion

Sandstone and limestone are both great choices for any garden, driveway or paved area. The competition is close in all areas. Here is a quick recap to help you make the decision.

  • Both paving stones are strong and versatile. They will both last years and withstand heavy foot traffic and cars.  
  • Sandstone is by far the cheapest
  • Sandstone has a larger variety and is rigid when cut. Limestone is smoother and can have a dull shine to it.
  • Both react in a similar way to sealant and the advice about sealing is identical to both. Do it if you have a good reason, otherwise just enjoy their natural beauty.
  • They require very little maintenance but make sure to keep them as clean as possible to prevent stains and extend their life.

Overall we favour sandstone for its large variety and its lower cost. We install all varieties of stone and have built some amazing gardens with Indian sandstone.

If you would like some paving installed in the Preston area then please have a look at our paving page.

We offer paving as part of our full landscaping service. Please have a look around our website and get in touch for a quote.

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