If there is one word that could generally describe the island nation of Malta, it would be “limestone”. Centuries of extensive use of limestone in their houses has incredibly transformed the nation into one of the most sought after tourist destination in Europe. Limestone, its only exploited mineral source, has become an integral part of their culture that even its own government is looking for ways to preserve their traditional limestone houses. But what makes limestone very appealing to the locals aside from being the only available building material at that time?
There are typically two types of limestone building material today; Natural limestone that is directly cut into the quarry and reconstituted limestone that is made from crushed limestone mixed with concrete aggregate. Both are very strong and good aesthetic properties for all kinds of applications. One of its difference is that the reconstituted limestone is more eco-friendly. Material chipping is also not an issue to the latter since you can easily use concrete to cover the chipped area. Natural limestone also only comes in cream color as compared to reconstituted limestone where it available in light cream to gray color due to the addition of concrete.
Durability and versatility
The durability of limestone is very evident in Malta as seen on their countless traditional houses that have some dating back to the 18th century. Limestone is a very dense material that has few spores in between that enables it to withstand different kinds of weather and temperature. As compared to other natural stones, limestones are softer and can easily be cut and shaped into different structural applications. This versatility, aside from its abundance, is also one of the main reasons why it is extensively used in Malta.
Unlike other natural stone material like granite and marble, the color of limestone is consistent all throughout the surface. This inherent property is great if you are planning to use it in large open space projects such as walls and floors since you will easily achieve consistency on par with factory-made tiles. When inspected closer, natural limestone has veins of lighter and darker cream atop its main color which only adds to its aesthetic value. Its neutral earth hue will also compliment any decor of your choice.
Maintenance and overall feel
Because it is extracted directly from the earth and not manufactured using any added chemicals, limestone is very durable and resilient in terms of normal wear and tear. One tiling installation will probably last for a lifetime if done properly. To ensure that your limestone will last for a long time, it is advisable to seal them at the time of the initial installation. This is very effective when used in limestone floor tiles where this will give it a glossy look and would easily endure the test of time. The transparent finish of limestone sealants ensures that it will not disrupt the natural color and feel of the material.
Because limestone is much softer than other materials, cleaning stains and dirt require no special effort on your part. Sealants also act as a protective layer from contaminants to maintain the overall integrity of your building material. Limestone tiles are also more comfortable to walk into because of its natural texture. During hot summer periods, limestone floors easily absorb heat and retain it ensuring that your home remains cool on the inside.
Fire protection and cost
Another main advantage of using stone materials in houses is the added fire protection it can provide. Limestone is no exemption from this. While wood can easily succumb to fire and steel can melt and twist from extreme temperature, stones would not burn. While great heat will most probably crumble a stone structure, it won’t catch fire and further add to the catastrophe. Creeping flames from any adjacent burning building will also be stopped in its tracks making limestone an effective firewall.
While limestone is not the most budget friendly of all building materials, its longevity and durability will offset the initial cost in the long run. Why would you choose a material that is cheap but needs to be replaced several times in your lifetime? This adds to the fact that limestone easily adds more property value to your house should you choose to sell it.