Thomas Ruane of Robinson Flagstone took the time to discuss with Stone World magazine about trends in flagstone and about the increase demand for the product.
SW: Talk a little bit about who Robinson Flag is, history of the company, who you service.
TR: Robinson Flagstone opened in 1919 in Philadelphia and then moved to it's current location in Fort Washington, Pa in 1958. There have only been three owners in the company's history and the current owner, Doug Fredericks, has been running it since the mid 80's. Our main clientele is masonry contractors, architects, and other professionals in the industry but we are also more than happy to help homeowners who come in to grab stone for DIY projects too. A lot of our sales are in the Philly area and surrounding suburbs, but we also ship our stone all over the country.
SW: Over the past year, we have heard the construction industry has picked up in general, has that been the case for bluestone/flag stone?
TR: I would be inclined to agree with that. The demand for bluestone definitely seems to has risen possibly as a result of more people being home in 2020 and wanting to renovate their outdoor spaces.
SW: Are there certain popular applications you are seeing for the product recently? (or what are the most popular applications for your stone?)
TR: The most popular applications of the bluestone would be for patios and walkways. The random rectangular pattern (or what some people call ashlar) is probably still the most common- The running bond pattern also seems to be gaining popularity.
One of our unique paving products is our Cut to Size paving. Our cut to size paving or “Tailor Made” flagstone is our specialty. Each stone is cut to size and numbered in accordance with custom shop drawings submitted by us to the customer for approval. Every stone is taken to the bench where it is sized and squared to a tolerance of (+/- 1/8”) to insure faster and more accurate setting. The tolerance of standard quarry run bluestone can vary at least +/- ¼” in size and square. The cut to size product/service greatly reduces on-site resawing and odd cutting. In many cases, the time saved can be reduced by 30% to 50%. In addition, the accuracy and efficiency of this service shows up in the finished product. Each stone would be cut to fit allowing for the joints specified, this reduces the amount of stone needed to be shipped and also reduces the amount of labor required to install the material.
As well as the paving stone for patios and walkways, we also sell and fabricate a good amount of bluestone treads that get used in many different applications such as hearths, mantles, steps, pool coping, etc. We offer custom on-site templating of curved walls, steps, and free form pools to finish any project off with graceful curve-cut bluestone and usually a custom setting sketch is drafted to accompany it to assist the installers in the field.
SW: If you are increasing in business, have customers been saying why they are going with bluestone?
TR: There are probably a hundred different reasons for this, but I think the best answer is that natural stone is timeless.
SW: Anything else about the business that has been going on that would be interesting to stone fabricators to note.
TR: Just that we are all in the same boat as far as material prices rising, certain items being out of stock, customers having tight deadlines for projects to be finished in time for a party, and all the other normal ins and outs we navigate every day in this industry. The weirdness of the last year and a half will pass and things hopefully will get back to normal. The new "normal" may be slightly different than before, but we shall adapt and carry on like we've done over the last 102 years.