Colorful, beautiful and easy to maintain. There are a lot of good reasons to include Pennsylvania bluestone in your hardscaping projects.
In this blog post, we’ll take a closer look at the history, use and benefits of this outstanding stone.
Flagstone and bluestone
In order to discuss bluestone, we first need to talk about flagstone. Flagstone is a flat sedimentary stone with fissile bedding planes. It is naturally split into layers according to these planes and used for a variety of purposes, such as patios and pool decks, roofing, facades, and walkways.
Flagstone is bound together by minerals such as calcite, silica, and iron oxide. These internal materials are the cause of flagstone’s beautiful colors, one of which is a stunning blue leading to the name “bluestone”.
The word flagstone stems from the Middle English word “flagge,” which means turf. In the thirteenth century, Europeans began using flagstone for floors, walls, and ceilings. It was especially popular for the interior rooms of castles.
Flagstone floors still exist in Scotland’s Muchalls Castle and Lindisfarne Castle in England. Chicago’s Portage Park is famous for its expansive flagstone decorations.
Pennsylvania bluestone is unique to its part of the United States. Bluestone stems only from the state’s northeastern section as well as New York’s southern tier and northern New Jersey.
Bluestone is layered sandstone that comes in a range of colors, from a gorgeous blue to green, lilac, rust and more. It developed about 360 million years ago, when the seas pushed sand into the Catskills. In terms of composition, bluestone is made of mica, sand, feldspar, and various minerals. The distribution and composition of these minerals will determine how blue the stone is.
“True Blue” bluestone refers to stone that does not exhibit any other colors except blue when removed from a quarry.
Veins of true blue are rarer than full color – also called variegated – where imbedded minerals create the waves of green, brown, and lilac colors mixed in with the blue. True blue flagstone consequently costs more than full color. However, true blue stone may still, over time, display other colors as minerals in the stone are exposed to the environment.
Preparing Bluestone for Use
In order to transform bluestone from the natural state found in the wilderness to stone that is ready to use in homes or businesses, it is cut out of the quarry into cubes.
Depending on the density of the stone, the cubes are then treated in one of two ways. The densest stone goes through a spalling process: Once removed from its natural environment, bluestone is cut along horizontal sections, thoroughly soaked with water and then heated with a propane torch. The spalling process produces thermal flagstone which features a perfectly even finish for the flagstone.
Less dense cubes (where layering is visible when removed from the quarry) will become natural clef flagstone after several weeks of air-drying.
During this time, the bluestone will naturally separate along fissures. This separation results in an uneven but beautiful surface. Both thermal and natural clef flagstone materials are excellent for any application.
Natural clef flagstone has always been less expensive that thermal because there is less processing involved. However, with that reduced price comes a surface variation that is not always acceptable.
Why Bluestone Is So Appealing
People love bluestone for its distinct color, incredible strength, superior density, and fine grain. It is most often used on decks and patios since it holds its color and is very difficult to break.
Bluestone is also used for walls, sidewalks, steps, indoor floors, and even fireplaces, as it can be cut into custom-sized slabs. The major drawback of bluestone is that is also holds heat making it potential quite hot after extended exposure to direct sunlight.
Another part of bluestone’s appeal is that is easy to take care of. It doesn’t require sealing and is cleaned with only water and a brush.
If your bluestone is stained, just add some vinegar and water to the surface and scrub it out, although you can purchase specialty cleaners for unusual or severe stains.
The only other maintenance recommendation is a power washing once every few years. Bluestone owners should take care not to power wash on the highest level as the stone can be grooved by intense water pressure. Bluestone is one of the easiest surfaces for homeowners to maintain.
Would you like to learn more about Pennsylvania Bluestone? Contact Woodward Landscape Supply. Better still, visit us in person to see this marvelous, durable stone for yourself.