What Are the Characteristics of Natural Stone?

close image of natural stone surface

Natural stone gives commercial structures a stately, all-natural appearance and an aesthetic like no other. Not only is it a classic architectural trope, but it’s also functional, durable, and easy to shape with modern masonry.

Indeed, there’s a wide variety of stone building materials , and the characteristics of each type determine whether or not it’s suitable for construction. Once you understand natural stone’s inherent qualities, you’ll have an easier time deciding which one would work best for a new structure or a renovation project.

Durability and hardness

While often conflated with one another, durability and hardnesses aren’t interchangeable terms. The former refers to a stone’s ability to withstand damage over time; however, the latter refers to a material’s ability to stand up against scratching, chipping, or any other type of defect caused by direct force. For an all-natural stone to work well as a building material for commercial structures, you have to strike a balance between both qualities, which isn’t so easy without the expertise of a natural stone consultant.

Texture and finish

Another vital characteristic is the stone's texture and its finish as well. Texture generally refers to how the stone feels if you were to touch it with the palm of your hand. Specific stones will feel more rugged and jagged than others, and this quality depends on the type of rock. A sedimentary stone is softer since it's composed of sediment that hardens due to geological processes and weathering. On the other hand, other types of stone result from volcanic processes. Granite is a prime example since it's such a common building material with relatively high hardness.


Additionally, natural stone wears down at different rates. Mostly, the rate will depend on the specific climate. For example, stone structures in arid climates tend to wear and tear, but the stone in a moist environment can also be problematic. As such, a natural stone supplier will have the proper knowledge to tell you which stone would work best for a particular use case. You may genuinely enjoy the classic aesthetic of marble, but if weathering is an issue, choosing another type of stone may be in order.

Specific gravity

Lastly, a stone's specific gravity will vary based on the stone's density and porosity, the material's ability to absorb water. You may not think so, but the rock will absorb moisture over a long period. That's why the stone used in dams and other wet environments has a specific gravity with minimal porosity. Similarly, freshly quarried stones need a "seasoning" period, so the material isn't too flush with quarry sap.

But from a construction perspective, determining which characteristics of natural stone matter most typically requires a professional. There are many factors to consider, so finding a natural stone supplier with an excellent reputation is preferable. Otherwise, you risk using the wrong type of building material.

While there are other characteristics to consider, these qualities rank among the most vital aspects when deciding which type of natural stone would work best for a commercial structure.