Limestone Uses in Landscaping
Limestone is a sedimentary rock found worldwide, commonly formed within marine waters. and is widely used in landscaping and hardscaping. It’s an incredibly versatile natural stone that has many uses around your house. You can build durable and visually appealing backyard pathways and garden walkways from limestone. Limestone blocks or slabs are great materials for building sturdy retaining walls. Garden borders and lawn edging can be made with limestone. You can include limestone rocks or boulders in your rock garden. You can construct water features like ponds and waterfalls with this stone. You can build a patio with limestone pavers or tiles. And if these uses were not enough, you can utilize crushed limestone as a mulch alternative.
Landscaping with Limestone Pros and Cons
Starting off, limestone is relatively soft, with a hardness between 3 and 4 on Moh’s scale. While that may not always seem ideal, it allows for flexibility when cutting it. This means that if you’re designing something with lots of curves, shapes, and odd angles, this tone can be easily cut and shaped to fit your needs.
Limestone pavers are also excellent at reflecting heat, making them one of the more temperate stone pavers to put your bare feet on. If you live in a location with long, hot summers, or periodic heatwaves, then choosing limestone as your material could be a wise decision.
Another advantageous quality of limestone is the fact that it remains rather consistent in color. While it may lack as many color options as sandstone or the royal appearance of travertine, its color palette means replacing pavers or billets won’t cause you to search far and wide for a perfectly matching piece.
Homeowners and landscapers prefer limestone when compared to other landscaping materials, and one of those reasons is its competitive cost point. While it’s slightly more expensive than other natural stones such as granite and sandstone, it’s still far cheaper than travertine or marble, which can put a big dent in your wallet just for the upfront cost of the material.
There are some disadvantages of limestone, such as the availability depending on the region you’re in. While quarried stone will be cheaper if found close to your location, if you have to factor in transport costs it can begin to add up.
Unlike other natural stones, limestone can be prone to staining due to its porous nature, as well as a yellow/brown coloration due to the presence of ferrous metals subjected to water.
7 Limestone Landscaping Ideas
Limestone color consistency makes it an excellent choice for many applications in your backyard. It will add serious curb appeal to your home and have you staring into your backyard to admire your work.
Image credit: PavingDirect.com
Image credit: PavingDirect.com
There is little that is more important to the composition of your backyard than the patio. While some people may be content with simply dropping a patio chair into their grass and soaking up the sun, you may be more interested in a structured setting. Limestone is an excellent choice of medium for your patio, providing you both with a heat-resistant material that when sealed properly can withstand spills far better than brick or concrete. Limestone is not only an aesthetic choice but a smart one as well.
2. Water Features
Limestone is a common material found within waterscaping. The rock is soft enough to carve with hand tools, making it easy to shape into a pond, or as a waterspout. Another benefit is the porous nature of this stone, allowing for rainwater to slowly seep into the stone and help direct the flow of water within your ponds. It’s easy to clean, which will be a common occurrence with your ponds as they tend to get dirty.
Limestone steps are one of the most popular options for outdoor use. They provide a stable, non-slip surface that is sturdy enough to withstand constant up-and-down usage. These stones will typically be cut 2″ thick and must be sealed to preserve their durability.
4. Retaining Walls
Image credit: Redi-Rock International
Image credit: Redi-Rock International
Limestone retaining walls have withstood the test of time, there are miles of dry stone walling stretching throughout England, the Roman roads, as well as numerous buildings throughout history. If properly installed and maintained, you can rest assured that your limestone retaining wall will last for a thousand years.
5. Pool Deck
Limestone has a luxurious feel beneath your feet making it one of the better choices for a pool deck. One concern when choosing a natural stone for your pool deck is to ensure it can withstand the freeze-thaw cycle, limestone is not always the best option, but there are quarried options that can endure through the winter months. Another benefit of limestone is it will keep the pool deck cool, allowing you to leap out of the water on a hot summer’s day without burning your feet.
6. Garden Edging
Garden edging is not just for aesthetics, it’s also a method to help protect your hard work from using a mower and unwanted intrusion of weeds. If you’re looking for a simple appearance to complement your outdoor space, then limestone is a perfect option.
Image credit: Jay@MorphoLA
There are many options when designing a pathway. Whether you’re choosing a more structured and even appearance or a natural-edged and rough-cut path made of varying shapes and sizes, limestone is an excellent choice of material. Make sure to lay a mortar bed if you’re designing your pathway with pavers and not crushed material.
Types and Grades of Limestone For Outdoor Use
There are a few different varieties of limestone, many of which are excellent for landscaping and other backyard uses.
Indiana limestone, also referred to as Bedford limestone, has been a commonly used building material since the first quarry in 1827. It has been a popular option within the high-end market for natural stones, mostly being used for exterior purposes, such as the foundation of homes, or as the material for carvings such as gargoyles.
Texas limestone is, as the name suggests, found in Texas. This type of limestone is highly valued for its durability as a building material. Texans have been quarrying this stone since the mid-19th century. The Texas Cream Limestone is the most sought-after type, gaining international cult popularity due to its aesthetic appeal.
This type of limestone is used to refer to a multitude of extremely pale, almost white-colored stones commonly found within Jerusalem and has been used in buildings since antiquity. The colors of this stone can range from white to pink, and some versions even have the unique property of hardening when exposed to the elements after being quarried.
Coral limestone is easily one of my favorite types. This natural stone is predominately composed of fossilized coral, giving it a stunningly unique appearance full of rifts, divots, and organic shapes derived from the embedded coral voids.
Limestone comes in a variety of colors, all of which can be utilized to fit your landscaping needs.
Image credit: PavingDirect.com
Thanks to the limestone’s consistent colors, the black limestone paver stands out amongst others. It provides a stunning backdrop for your outdoor living spaces while creating a bold look that stands out amongst the rest of your yard. The black coloration can deviate from chalkboard to charcoal, and will always look sleek and contemporary.
The grey limestone is a perfect neutral tone to benefit nearly any and all landscaping concepts. This look provides a clean coloration to fill in the gaps between the pastel palette of your garden, and the green grass of your lawn. If you’re having difficulty deciding which color to choose, I would advise this neutral option that will suit your landscape and hardscape projects.
The shades of brown limestone typically come in a range between earthy brown and dark clay. This coloration has a tendency to fade in the sun, so as your pavers age then you’ll find the darker stone shift to a lighter version.
Image credit: PavingDirect.com
This is a favored color amongst many landscapers. It’s a unique mixture of cream and beige which brings a modern and neutral tone to the backyard. This complementary color acts much like grey with its ability to fit almost every landscaping need and brings a hint of Roman aesthetic to your household.
This color is uncommon, but if you’re looking for a striking and unique appearance then I would strongly consider it. I would choose this color if you’re trying to stand out but would prefer to stray away from a darker color like black.
It’s important to acknowledge that your natural stone pavers are an investment, and you’re going to want to protect that investment. Maintaining limestone is similar to maintaining other natural stones. Limestone is porous, much like sandstone, granite, or marble, and will absorb water, spores, and grease that may find themselves splashed upon your nice new pavers. If you find a colony of fungus or grease stain from a dropped burger then don’t fret, there are simple solutions to keep your pavers looking brand new.
Your first step towards defending your pavers from unwanted damage is to properly seal them. The porous nature of limestone gives a rampant opportunity for unwanted egress, and to prevent that we’re going to seal our pavers. This step should never be skipped and is likely the most important factor when determining the longevity of your stone.
You’re going to want to choose a natural stone sealant, typically silicone-based, which will fill in the nooks, crannies, and crevices of your stone preventing staining and mold buildup. Sealing your pavers should be done annually as the sealant will wear down over time as it’s exposed to the elements.
Another common issue with limestone is efflorescence, which is caused when mineral salts are deposited from dirt, rain, and other natural occurrences and become a salty buildup found upon your pavers. Efflorescence is usually not an immediate concern, but if left untreated it can cause moisture problems. The solution to efflorescence is a simple 50/50 mixture of vinegar and water, whereas if you need to clean up an oil stain, then a solution of warm water and soap should suffice.
The other step in protecting your investment is the practice of proper upkeep; sweeping your limestone pavers to remove the dirt and debris buildup can do wonders for preventing stains and maintaining their lifespan.
Cost of Limestone
Limestone prices can vary depending on quality, finish, size, and transport costs. Factoring in these costs, the average price of a limestone paver will typically range between $7 and $15 per sq. ft for materials only, and if you’re looking at installation costs it could run between $16 and $32. This is relatively inexpensive compared to other natural stones such as travertine or marble.
Running the math on a 10 x 20 sq ft limestone patio, a slightly smaller than average patio size, could cost you between $3000 and $6000, including the installation. If you intend on installing them yourself to save money, you’ll need to read up on the installation process found in my travertine article which covers both the dry-set and the mud-set method of installing pavers.
A pond installation can be a more difficult project. The average sq. ft of a pond will roughly be 150 square feet, typically 2′ to 3′ feet deep. Ponds are more unique than a simple patio though, so these estimates can be skewed by things like available land area, adding in streams, or different basin shapes. A pond of this size can cost you upwards of $7500 for the installation and materials.
Another common installation using limestone would be the retaining wall. This is a herculean task that I would not recommend installing by yourself. Depending on the size of the stone, a limestone billet can weigh up to 1200 pounds, so you won’t be moving them on your own without heavy machinery. You won’t need to find higher quality limestone for a retaining wall as it won’t need to be as refined or finished to the same standards as something used for your patio. A retaining wall 50 feet long and 5 feet high can use as many as 860 limestone blocks, and cost you upwards of $15,000. This is a heavy-duty job, so I would suggest hiring professionals.
A simpler project and one that could be installed yourself, is the pathway. A 50 sq. ft pathway, stretching through the peaks of your backyard, will cost you roughly $600 and $1200. There will be additional costs accrued if you have it installed, but if you spend a weekend with a power tamper, the walkway can easily be a one-person project and save you up to $400 in installation fees.
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Retaining Wall Block Calculator. (n.d.). Lowe’s. Retrieved June 21, 2023, from https://www.lowes.com/n/calculators/retaining-wall-block-calculator
What Is The Average Pond Size? (2020 Update). (n.d.). Premier Ponds. Retrieved June 21, 2023, from https://premierpond.com/what-is-the-average-pond-size/guide, s. (2022, September 15).
Limestone Paving for Patios and Driveways – Pros and Cons. Paving Finder. Retrieved June 21, 2023, from https://pavingfinder.com/expert-advice/limestone-paving/