Engineering and physical properties of stones
Engineering and physical properties of stones

Engineering & Physical Properties of Stones

The following are the engineering and physical properties of the stones that should be looked into before selecting them for engineering works:

1. Structure

The structure of the stone may be stratified (layered) or unstratified. Structured stones should be easily dressed and suitable for super structure. Unstratified stones are hard and difficult to dress. They are preferred for the foundation works.

2. Texture

Fine grained stones with homogeneous distribution look attractive and hence they are used for carving. Such stones are usually strong and durable.

3. Density

Denser stones are stronger. Light weight stones are weak. Hence stones with specific gravity less than 2.4 are considered unsuitable for buildings.

4. Appearance

A stone with uniform and attractive colour is durable, if grains are compact. Marble and granite get very good appearance, when polished. Hence they are used for face works in buildings.

5. Strength

Strength is an important property to be looked into before selecting stone as building block. Indian standard code recommends, a minimum crushing strength of 3.5 N/mm2 for any building block. Table given below shows the crushing strength of various stones. Due to non-uniformity of the material, usually a factor of safety of 10 is used to find the permissible stress in a stone. Hence even laterite can be used safely for a single storey building, because in such structures expected load can hardly give a stress of 0.15 N/mm2. However in stone masonry buildings care should be taken to check the stresses when the beams (Concentrated Loads) are placed on laterite wall.

Crushing strength of common building stones
Name of Stone Crushing Strength in N/mm2
Trap 300 to 350
Basalt 153 to 189
Granite 104 to 140
Slate 70 to 210
Marble 72
Sand stone 65
Lime stone 55
Laterite 1.8 to 3.2

6. Hardness

It is an important property to be considered when stone is used for flooring and pavement. Coefficient of hardness is to be found by conducting test on standard specimen in Dory’s testing machine. For road works coefficient of hardness should be at least 17. For building works stones with coefficient of hardness less than 14 should not be used.

7. Percentage Wear

It is measured by attrition test. It is an important property to be considered in selecting aggregate for road works and railway ballast. A good stone should not show wear of more than 2%.

8. Porosity and Absorption

All stones have pores and hence absorb water. The reaction of water with stone causes disintegration. Absorption test is specified as percentage of water absorbed by the stone when it is immersed under water for 24 hours. For a good stone it should be as small as possible and in no case more than 5.

9. Weathering

Rain and wind cause loss of good appearance of stones. Hence stones with good weather resistance should be used for face works.

10. Toughness

The resistance to impact is called toughness. It is determined by impact test. Stones with toughness index more than 19 are preferred for road works. Toughness index 13 to 19 is considered as medium tough and stones with toughness index less than 13 are poor stones.

11. Resistance to Fire

Sand stones resist fire better. Argillaceous materials, though poor in strength, are good in resisting fire.

12. Ease in Dressing

Cost of dressing contributes to cost of stone masonry to a great extent. Dressing is easy in stones with lesser strength. Hence an engineer should look into sufficient strength rather than high strength while selecting stones for building works.

13. Seasoning

The stones obtained from quarry contain moisture in the pores. The strength of the stone improves if this moisture is removed before using the stone. The process of removing moisture from pores is called seasoning. The best way of seasoning is to allow it to the action of nature for 6 to 12 months. This is very much required in the case of laterite stones.


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