A Diamond In The Rough: Irish Limestone 
Fortunately, Irish Limestone supply and demand is not like that with diamonds. And it is not controlled by DeBeers with virtual monopoly. It is not found often in residential or commercial flooring applications in the United States, at least not in the New York Metro Region from my experience. The reason is most probably due to the fact that the architects, designers, kitchen and bath people, fabricators, retail stone and tile shops (from Dal Tile and Walker Zanger to Paris Ceramics and other smaller shops), contractors, and homeowners; just do not know that much about this beautiful stone. Myself and others have had their eyes on this stone for a long time now.

Why? because this stone is naturally beautiful, will fit into modern or contemporary design today, feels great on the human skin (Ask the Barefoot Contessa), and maintains and restores very well.

Irish Limestone is a natural material of unique beauty, inherent durability and versatility. It is unlike softer limestone and has a similar density to quality granites. It can b used for flooring, countertops, fireplace mantles and surrounds, as well as in architectural applications in lintels, cladding, monuments, landscape paving stones and outdoor sculptures. Irish Limestone is extremely hard and durable, having been formed more than 325 million years ago as the floor of a coastal sea. The deep water transformed sediments into tough, fine-grained grey-blue limestone with calcite veins and crystalline fossils. The colors are identified as Irish Blue, Grey, and Fossil Limestone, since they range from black to blue to grey and often display well-defined fossils of sea shells, corals and prehistoric sea plants. The fossils and the inclusions of calcite introduce dramatic white or grey markings into the darker matrix of the stone.

HartzStone and some other stone restorations companies have tested this stone on samples and on the job sites. We found that this stone is not difficult to clean or restore. Unlike some of the more porous limestone, Irish Limestone is a dense form of dolomitic material that resists staining. Any etching caused by exposure to acidic liquids is superficial and may be cleaned easily or "buffed out." It is relatively easy to re-condition, restore, and maintain this stone. In fact, as the stone ages or cures, a patina develops to reduce the appearance of many etch spots normally encountered by using limestone.

You can choose to keep the weathered and patina look or have it cleaned and conditioned and sealed more regularly, thus giving it a different look. Testing with various sealers such as Dry Treat, AquaMix, Fila, Miracle, StoneTech, Bellenzoni, Tenax, and other major brand sealers have shown to varying degrees an effective treatment to slow the aging process without altering the stone's beautiful appearance. As Mom would say, stunning. Consumer Reports writes that limestone in general offers the best "stone look without heavy veining." Combined with its neutral color palette, warm honed finish and numerous fossil inclusions, this natural character has long been a popular choice for flooring and countertops in Europe. A fine stone care company in your area can understand and service this stone well for you. All you have to do is explain your situation/lifestyle and discuss the finish and maintenance level you desire. The stone is a joy to work with. So call your architect, your stone source, and your area stone care company. They can help you decide and take care of the stone.

For more information regarding this stone or supply and fabrication details, please contact the source at Irish Natural Stone, Inc., 21 Drydock Avenue, Boston, Massachusetts.

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Hard Rock Cafe Stone 
Porphyry is a type of volcanic rock, igneous rock, which along with granite and other rock formations make up approximately 95% of the worlds "crust." So if you are one of the "upper-crust" or want to live in this class like manner, then go on down to the nearest cafe and have a hot or cold mocha java outside. Notice beneath your feet the pavers outside. If you are fortunate enough, you will be standing on Porphyry, the Royal Stone. In 300 A.D., the ancient Romans used porphyry to install in palace rooms for members of the Royal Empire. This durable stone, the Romans also used to build their roads. The stone can still be seen today throughout Rome.

This porphyritic rock currently used by the building construction industry for floorings, traditional and ventilated-wall facings, is a type of effusive volcanic rock - rhyolitic and rhyodacitic ignimbrites - that is commonly found in the earth's mantle. Some of the thicker and more renowned formations of closely fractured ignimbrites are to be found in Italy, Argentina, and Mexico. Less thick, fractured formations are found in Australia, Japan, and Greece.
Non-fractured ignimbrites, i.e. without slab formation, also exist in Italy, Argentina, Germany, Peru, Poland, Turkey, Spain, Iran, China, and Mexico. Petrographically speaking, porphyry consists of a microcrystalline to vitreous groundmass, which makes up over 65% of its volume, containing up to 30-35% of small crystals (sizes 2-4 mm). The most abundant crystals consist of quartz, which explains why this rock is also known by the name of "quartz porphyry." Porphyry also contains a small percentage of feldspar and traces of mica minerals.

Porphyry's technical characteristics make it one of the most important materials for paving and facing in europe, America and around the world. Porphyry is stronger than granite with more than 31,000 psi. The increase in the concern for safety and durability has led to the adoption of protective surfaces, which are slip resistant, prevent slipping, impermeable, easy to repair, have minimal installation and maintenance cost, offer an economic solution because of its durability; and yes, porphyry resists staining on floors and walls from your coffee or drink at the Hard Rock Cafe or Starbucks coffee shop. You can live with and enjoy the stone for a long-long time. The services to maintain are minimum. Use a good stone neutral cleaner from Fila, Aquamix, StoneTech, Miracle Sealants or other major professional stone care company. And for stronger cleaning or maintenance jobs use a product from Proseco.

I love this stone and so will you. Call Porphyry USA or Milestone Imports for supply or other information related to this stone. Both are in the USA with supplies in New Jersey, Florida, California, and New Mexico.

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Residential Limestone: Part of the Earth Machine 

Originaly published in Stone Industry News

We love stone. We love Limestone. From Indiana to Germany; limestone comes to the built environment. There are many opportunities in residential and commercial restoration of stone if you are willing and able to take a grind to the stone, and get into the heart of stone. This article is dedicated to our memories of our colleagues Michael Wiston of Valley Marble and Maurizio Bertoli of MB Stone Restoration both of whom I had the honor to know. So have many of you. There are mechanisms of stone decay upon limestone and calcareous stones by oxides of nitrogen and sulfur. These are chemical mechanisms. There is also moisture, and the most common sources of moisture that cause damage to stone. In this case we picture a limestone facade and small sample area of an architectural element affected by moisture. This particular house is in East Hampton, New York where salt air and moisture problems can be mitigated with maintenance, repair, and restoration. Cleaning, restoration, and maintenance can help avoid such conditions on limestone buildings as cracks, spalling or staining, or scaling. Limestone close to H=3 when well lithified (uniformly cemented) can be deceivingly soft. And then you have the Empire State Building and the others "Hard as a Rock" as they say. Structural cracks, gaps at joints between components and large openings are the evident problems in many cases as this one is pictured here. An investigation of load bearing elements such as columns, and beams, will establish whether those components are performing as they were originally designed, or the stress patterns have been redistributed. A common method of restoration and maintenance on stone in such conditions is filling cavities, cracks, and smoothing or refinishing stone surfaces; otherwise known as grinding, honing, and polishing. We all have listened to the expression "Marble Polishing" and so there is "Limestone Polishing" Smoothing the surface and opening and then closing the pores is a key to proper maintenance.

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M.I.A. Quarry Tour  
Quarry Tour

Ed Hartz joined other members of the Marble Institute of America (MIA) on a tour of several marble quarries in New England. Geologic forces push calcium carbonate deposits such as limestone deep below the surface of the Earth, where heat and pressure form Marble crystals. A similar geological process forms granite from silica deposits. Later geologic forces lifted the marble and granite to the surface where it is economical to quarry the stone for architectural and artistic uses. The conditions that form each marble deposit are slightly different: the ratio of calcium carbonate to magnesium carbonate varies, the presence and amounts of other minerals varies, the pressure and temperature to form marble crystals varies, and the sequence of events that cause inclusions and veining varies. The conditions that form each granite deposit also vary; the duration of temperature and pressure as the silica deposits rise and cool determine how large the quartz crystals will become. The percentage of other minerals such as feldspar and aluminum and the fractures that allow inclusions create the patterns that make granite such an interesting material. The MIA members visited the quarries to see first hand the subtle differences throughout each quarry and the differences between the quarries.

The tour set out in a gray rain in Barre, VT, for the Rock of Ages Visitors Center in Graniteville, where company Vice President Bob Campo showed Ed the monument and mausoleum manufacturing process up close. Rough granite slabs of the desired color and pattern are cut to the required shape, polished, engraved and sand blasted to produce the individual monuments. Following the tour of the manufacturing facility, Ed visited the E. L. Smith Quarry, also owned by Rock of Ages. Granite has been quarried here since 1880. One familiar monument constructed with this granite is the World War II Memorial that opened in 2003. Ed saw diverse granite monuments at the Hope Cemetery in Barre.

A visit to the Vermont Granite Museum of Barre supplied more history and details about the quarrying and manufacturing of architectural granite. At the next stop, Granite Importers owner, Jake Colgan, accompanied Ed an the rest of the MIA group as they walked through the fabrication facility, which was in the process of working on giving a polished finish to curved pieces of Cambrian Black granite for the Mandarin hotel in Boston. Black shows every flaw and curved surfaces are difficult to polish so Ed was very interested to see the techniques that produce the highest quality finish.

The marble part of the tour included the Danby marble quarry, operated by Vermont Quarries Corp. of Rutland, VT. Luca Mannolini, General Manager, led a tour of their facility and the Imperial quarry, in Dorset Mountain, which is the largest underground marble quarry in the U.S. Danby marble was used to construct the U. S. Supreme Court Building, Jefferson Monument and several other prominent buildings, but 90% of the marble has been used for kitchen countertops. Ed examined the facility that produces 30,000 square feet of marble per month, and took photographs of the giant blocks before they are cut into slabs.

Ed and the MIA tour visited the Marble Museum in Proctor, VT, a unique resource of the extent and variety of marble from throughout the world. Philip Gawet of Gawet Marble and Granite recounted the history of the marble industry in Vermont, which is illustrated in the photographs in the museum. The museum is housed in a former factory and warehouse and includes the adjacent abandoned quarry. The worked face of the upper portion of the quarry is dramatically reflected in the rainwater that has collected in the pit. Another highlight of Proctor is a recently restored marble bridge that you will cross on the way to the museum.

The final stop on the tour was the Bethel White quarry, owned by Rock of Ages. Bob Campo explained that the stone quarried there is some of the whitest granite in the world, and a premium quality material. One characteristic of this stone is that it can be cut in either direction and still look the same.

The tour provided the depth and detail of information about New England marble and granite that is only possible with direct face-to-face discussions. Ed and the rest of the MIA group are extremely grateful to their hosts for sharing their knowledge and expertise.

The entrance to the marble mine
At the top of an open pit marble quarry
Descending the marble quarryŚnotice the tiny people
The working level of the marble quarry
Ed Hartz at the working level of the marble quarry
Approaching the Marble Museum

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By Ed Hartz and Ed Townsend

One of the strong selling points of natural stone is longevity. Natural stones endure through years of use, even centuries of harsh weather. Natural stone has been the obvious choice for monuments and prominent public buildings. Natural stone is a complement to landmark buildings; great design deserves to be preserved in durable stone.

What do we do with our monuments and significant architecture after a hundred years or even just a few years of use, when the original bright finish is dull and various stains have accumulated? We could sacrifice the history and artistry of the original by replacing it with something new, or we could celebrate its endurance by restoring the original appearance of the natural stone.

Restored natural stone encourages the use of more stone in new places. The restored marble floor in the foyer of a pre-war home, reassures the new homeowner that remodeling the master bathroom with marble will be an investment, not just a beautiful way to spend money. Restoring a significant public building or monument reminds consumers that natural stone repays the additional cost.

Natural stone has been promoting green building practices since the first caveman built the second stone wall with materials from the first stone wall. Natural stone is, well, natural. It is recyclable, reusable and renewable. In many places, restoring and reusing natural stone building materials will generate credits that will get the building permit approved or even allow a larger addition.

Restoration supports preservation. Preservation sells the unmatched durability of natural stone. Preservation maintains our connections with history. Preservation conserves our finite earth resources. Everyone benefits.
Ed Hartz
HartzStone, LLC

Tel: 203.426.0885

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