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July 31, 2002

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Q 2317: Our architect wants to include a number of sandstone or limestone walls in our new residence, using diamond cut, 200mm thick limestone building blocks. He has recently become concerned about one of the proposed walls which separates the ensuite and main bathrooms. In the ensuite, the wall is to form part of the shower cubicle. He is concerned that the limestone cannot be sealed well enough to be suitable for use in such wet areas. For this particular wall he is now planning to use matching limestone tiles instead. After reading the findstone web site for a hour or so, I am more confused than ever about the issue of sealants and the suitability of limestone as a building material. I obtained a  quotation for the supply of the limestone blocks from Bruhn Building Stone of Mt Gambier, and they advised us not to use their limestone in wet areas, but didn't say why. I presume that water penetration is the issue, but what are the consequences? These limestone walls are actually blades that "cut" through the house; and thus they are exposed to outside elements too. Why is water penetration not a problem for the exterior limestone, only the interior? Can you provide some expert advise to us? We love the idea of the "feature" limestone walls that our architect has in mind, but don't want to end up with exterior or interior structural problems or even bathroom surfaces that are overly difficult to maintain (e.g. will soap or shampoo affect the limestone; is the use of unfilled limestone in the bathroom--for that raw look the architect is aiming at--a practical nightmare for maintenance?) Would these issues disappear if we used sandstone instead of limestone? Paul, Australia, July 27.
R1: Dear Paul: There you have the very reason why I never recommend anybody to use limestone in their homes. Limestone is too wide a definition, and while most of the limestone available are going to be all right, some will not, and nobody will ever be able to solve the emerging problems! Here, we're in a situation where even the dealer advise you not to use their product in a wet environment! That speaks volume about the suitability of that particular limestone for your project, all right!
I don't know if the specifiers (architects and decorators) from Down Under are as stubborn (just to use a nice word!) as their American counterparts (but I would be surprised if they weren't!) 
If you have authority over your architect (I don't know why, but it looks to me that the homeowners are all to often overwhelmed by them!...) I would tell him or her to think honed marble instead, or else! Maurizio, USA

A 2026: Wouldn't a good sealer take care of that? The problem I have is that I'm looking at a granite sample from home depot that is permanently mounted to the wall. I'm hoping that a good sealer (which I'll apply according to your guidelines) will reduce the effect on any possible staining. Thanks and Ciao, Brandon, June 5, Reply
R1: Dear Brandon: I don't quite understand your question. What is it, are you going to install 
granite on a wall? If so, what's your problem? How can you possibly stain a wall? Is there any likelihood that you're going to rub (just splattering wouldn't make any stain) some Ocean Spray or some cooking oil on your wall? 
Maurizio, USA