Types of Rocks Used in Building Materials

History proves that stone or rock was one of the first building materials, dating back to Egyptian pyramids and prehistoric structures. According to the Dry Stone Conservancy, limestone was a widely utilized building material in American colonial times. Stone structures are fireproof, insect-proof and often will withstand earthquakes, making rock an ideal building material. Many types of rocks are used in building materials in modern times.

Side profile of a stone cottage on a waterfront, Pacific Ocean, San Diego, California, USA
credit: Medioimages/Photodisc/Photodisc/Getty Images
Buildings made of rock are very durable.

Limestone

Limestone is a sedimentary rock that can be found above ground as well as mined. Historical information as well as buildings still standing, point to limestone as a very durable, popular and time-tested building material. Limestone can be used by itself as a "drystone," without mortar, to build fences or structures as well as used with mortar, similar to bricks. Crushed limestone is also a primary ingredient in mortar and cement as well as lime, linoleum, even fiberglass and glass.

Marble

Marble is formed from pressurized limestone and is usually mined from quarries. The Washington Monument, the Taj Mahal and the U.S. Supreme Court Building are all marble. It is a softer stone than many other rocks used for architectural purposes and has been a favorite material for sculptors throughout the ages. However soft, marble is used in many building applications such as paving, flooring and stairs, and exterior facades. Marble naturally comes in a wide variety of colors such as orange, grey, black and white. The whitest marble can be crushed and used in paint to brighten whites.

Slate

Perhaps most well-known in its application for school blackboards, slate is a word used loosely for flat shale deposits. It comes in many colors from orange to grey to blue. Slate has been used extensively in roofing as well as tile flooring, backsplashes and tabletops. Slate holds up well to freezing but is expensive compared to other building materials, so is used less in modern times.

Granite

Granite also has a long history of use in building materials. From the massive busts of presidents on Mount Rushmore to gravestones in your local cemetery, granite has a great variety of uses and comes in many colors. The material looks quite different when it is polished smooth than when it is roughly cut. It is used externally on building facades as well as pavers on bridges or sidewalks. Inside, polished granite slabs or tiles are used on floors, back-splashes, bathroom walls and modern kitchen countertops.