Sandstone vs Limestone: Key Differences

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Limestone and sandstone are loved by homeowners of Columbus and Cincinnati for their warm coloring and durability. Utilized as pavers for walkways, as well as wall facing and coping, both these stones achieve a similar function. However, their properties are somewhat different concerning composition and aesthetics. Let’s explore the difference between limestone and sandstone so you know which is best for your building project.

What Is Limestone?

Limestone is a sedimentary rock formed from the accumulation of organic debris like shells, coral, and algae, or by chemical sedimentary processes, like the precipitation of calcium carbonate from lakes or ocean water. Much of the Earth’s chronology and development is derived from the study of fossils embedded in limestone.

Most limestone forms in shallow marine environments such as continental shelves or platforms. It is generally gray, but it may also be white, yellow, or brown if it's rich in natural matter or contains traces of iron or manganese. Limestone can be smooth or rough to touch, depending on its composition and mode of formation.

What Is Sandstone?

Sandstone is also a sedimentary rock composed of sand grains from mineral, rock, and organic material. It’s found throughout the world, with substantial deposits in the United States, South Africa, and Germany. Sandstone composition is chiefly quartz or feldspar because these minerals are most resistant to weathering.

It forms where sand is deposited and buried, usually offshore from river deltas; however, desert dunes and beaches can also leave sandstone beds over time. Like limestone, fossils can be found in sandstone, although this is less widespread. Sandstone color fluctuates between orange, yellow, brown, and red.

What Are They Used For?

When it comes to sandstone vs limestone, both are versatile materials and have been used for building and decorative purposes since immemorial. They combine beauty and sophistication with durability, making them suitable for outdoor applications. Most quarried sandstone is fabricated into flagstone, i.e., paving slabs for walkways, patios, flooring, fences, cladding, and roofing.

Limestone is suitable for a variety of interior and exterior construction projects, from kitchen countertops to flooring, wall cladding, countertops, and sculptures. At Stone Center, we stock both limestone copings and limestone pavers to build attractive pathways, landscaping designs, and outdoor entertainment areas.

limestone and sandstone

How Are Sandstone and Limestone Composed?

Quartz accounts for most sandstone composition, although it may contain significant amounts of feldspar. The percentage depends on the source and how the stone was reworked by water or wind during formation. The cement binding the grains is usually a combination of calcite, clays, and silica.

Limestone is composed principally of calcium carbonate, or the double carbonate of calcium and magnesium (dolomite), and contains fossilized matter. A significant difference between sandstone and limestone is sandstone is not defined by one type of substance, whereas limestone is.

How Are Limestone and Sandstone Formed?

How are sandstone and limestone alike? They are both formed in the same way. When large rock experiences weathering, small pieces break off and are transported via air, ice, gravity, or water, which flows to a basin or depression where it gets trapped.  

As more pieces accumulate, older sediments are buried underneath younger sediments and undergo diagenesis, or, simply put, chemical, physical and biological changes. During these processes, the sediment is compacted into solid rock.  

The sedimentary rock remains the most common type, making up more than 70% of all rocks on earth. The ocean tends to have sedimentary rock deposits, as well as non-marine environments, such as river mouths and deltas. Sedimentary rock is in almost every area of the world and climate.

How to Identify Sandstone vs Limestone

Because sandstone contains many layers of rock and sand, its coloring ranges from blue to red, brown, or even green. It also displays a visible stratification into layers, which limestone doesn’t have — wondering how to identify sandstone? Like sandpaper, it usually has a coarse, granular texture. Upon close examination, you can see individual sand grains.

Limestone is typically gray, but it may also be white, yellow, or brown. Its calcite texture is different from sandstone, and while it may contain carbonated grains, you can usually see fossil fragments if you look closely. Sandstone assumes a rippled appearance, whereas limestone’s inherent characteristics give it an “orange peel-like” texture. Its warm, soft and natural look makes it perfect for interior use, such as limestone fireplace surrounds.

sandstone vs limestone

How Are Limestone and Sandstone Classified?

Sandstone classification is based on texture and mineral composition. Quartz, feldspar, and rock fragments are dominant framework components. Their percentage within the stone will determine whether the sandstone is Arenite or Wacke. The classification process is complex, but essentially, Arenite contains 0%-15% matrix (debris) and Wacke 15%-75%. If a stone has more than 75% matrix, it's regarded as mudrock.

Numerous types of limestone exist, for example, travertine and tufa. It is typically classified according to the kind of carbonate it contains — along with calcite, aragonite, and dolomite. To be called limestone, the rock has to contain over 50% dolomite and calcite, of which commercial limestone has over 80%.

The Costs of Sandstone vs Limestone

Sandstone is more expensive than limestone. Also, locally quarried limestone will be more affordable as imported varieties. Limestone is generally the winner when it comes to affordability and the budget is a determining factor.

Limestone offers elegance, making it excellent for veneers, facing for outdoor fireplaces and permanent seating fixtures, whereas sandstone is better suited for withstanding the rigors of driveways, pathways, and other high traffic areas.


Both sandstone and limestone are masonry favorites, offering affordability, durability, and natural beauty. Simple to maintain and widely used in outdoor applications, they have good resistance to damp and weather inclemency. Choosing either depends on the application and aesthetic preference.

At Stone Center, we stock an enormous variety of natural stones for residential and commercial projects. Since 1952, we’ve established a strong foothold as fabrication experts committed to customer satisfaction. We can help with whatever project you have, whether it's DIY or a large-scale commercial operation. Why not chat with the best natural stone supplier in Columbus and Cincinnati to help make your project a success?


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Jon Smiley

Jon, the owner of Stone Center, is a knowledgeable expert in natural stone products, specializing in various types of stone for landscaping and architectural projects. Passionate about promoting the beauty and versatility of natural stone, Jon aims to use these blogs to inspire readers with creative ideas to upgrade their homes.

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