All over the country British quarries are busy supplying walling stone to housing developers and self-builders. There is no doubt people like stone houses and they sell quickly, often at a premium. With stone sawn, cropped and tumbled these days, so bricklayers can use it, the extra cost of a finished building with stone walls is minimal. Even developments for social housing are using it in order to benefit from its long-term low maintenance.
If you want to see British stones available for building, there are more than ever at the Natural Show taking place in London at ExCeL from 30 April to 2 May, including Albion Stone, Lovell Stone Group, Johnston Quarry Group, Stamford Stone Company, Johnsons Wellfield Quarries, Welsh Slate, Bath Stone Group and others.
As well as high profile stones such as Portland, Purbeck and Bath, there are many others familiar enough to the stone industry but less well known outside it – stones such as Ham Hill, Chilmark, Chicksgrove, blue and white lias from Somerset, Hurdcott Green and Crosland Hill. Come and see them in the Stone Federation Great Britain Village, where experts will also be at hand to answer all your stone-related queries.
As well as walling, stone is used for flooring and architectural details such as door and window frames, quoins, string courses, plinths. It is used to make fireplaces, from the grandest to the cottage rustic. And, of course, it makes ideal hard landscaping. You will be able to see examples of all these uses at the Stone Show.
But with housebuilding a leading growth area of construction, it is not just indigenous stone that benefits. Inside, there might be limestone floors, or perhaps slate, travertine or marble, perhaps with cosy and economical underfloor heating. Granite or quartz kitchen worktops are expected. Maybe there will be a stone fire surround and mantlepiece. In the bathroom, marble worktops and matching shower linings or bath surrounds (perhaps book-matched for real impact) are the latest must-haves.
These days the stone industry has also expanded its repertoire with engineered stone, in recognition of which the Natural Stone Show is this time, for the first time, co-locating with Hard Surfaces, an exhibition of the quartz, ultra-compact sintered surfaces, and porcelains from companies such as CRL Stone, Caesarstone, Quartzforms, Sapienstone, Ceramiche Keope, Ceramica Fondovalle, Pyro + Echo, Infinity, Stone Italiana, Porcelain Slabs, Nerostein and many others.
As well as the exhibitors themselves, in Hard Surfaces there is also a feature highlighting 136 of the latest innovations, curated by MaterialDistrict, a leading match-making platform for innovative materials. There are also galleries of the award-winning projects in both the Natural Stone Awards and the Tile Awards to demonstrate just what can be achieved in natural and engineered stone. And a CPD-accredited programme associated with the exhibition with around 50 seminars to select from.