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Sandstone vs. Limestone: How To Choose The Right Paving For Your Garden

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Sandstone and limestone have become extremely popular choices for garden paving in recent years, with some landscaping contractors now only offering patios in these materials. Trying to pick between the two can be daunting for anyone who hasn't tried to design a garden before, though. You might feel like you don't know what the difference between them is, or which factors you should consider while trying to make your choice. So what are the questions you need to ask yourself before making this decision?

AESTHETICS AND DESIGN: Sandstone paving slabs come in a wide variety of colours, and are often sold in variety packs containing several different shades--autumnal tones are popular, as are various kinds of green. You can also get 'rainbow' sandstone with different bands of colour within each slab, and a 'fossil' variety containing quarrying anomalies that look a little like fossilised ferns. Limestone, on the other hand, has a more limited colour range; almost all limestone slabs are either black or various shades of grey. When laid, the two look very similar--and both are available either planed smooth or left with a rough, natural top surface.

COST AND LABOUR: Limestone is almost always cheaper than sandstone, making it an excellent choice if the colour is right for you. Both types are generally an inexpensive alternative to most other stone paving materials, however, and the process for laying them is very similar. Garden landscapers generally like working with these materials, as they're straightforward to lay and tend not to require much special equipment. If you're hoping to achieve a variegated look at the end, you'll need to check that the person designing and laying your patio has some experience putting together random-looking paving plans--there's a good guide to how to do that available here.

CARE AND MAINTENANCE REQUIREMENTS: Black limestone paving slabs look wonderful when they're freshly laid, but unless the correct sealant is used, they'll fade to a much lighter grey after only a few months of rain. This can be prevented by using one of several readily available sealing and impregnation products, so it's important to ask your landscaper what kind of products they're using. You also need to be careful not to use acid-based products to clean your patio, as these will quickly destroy the colour. Ask your local landscape supply store what cleaners are safe to use on your patio. Sandstone is less prone to fading, though it will inevitably happen over time--and the colours found in sandstone are less straightforward to seal and replace than the black or grey tones commonly found in limestone slabs.