Infrastructure and Construction Materials Guide — Dimension Stone

Commodity Description

Dimension stone is a generalized term for rock materials used primarily for memorials, signs and external building facing as well as blocks for building of structures. Examples of these uses include cemetery headstones, statues, exteriors, commercial and residential signs, and large structures.

granite quarry

There are structures using dimension stone in North America, Europe, India, large cities in South America and central Asia, Arabia, Africa and China. Examples of these structures include the Capitol in Washington D.C., the Taj Mahal in Agra, India, Buckingham Palace in London, churches in the Vatican and Jerusalem and mosques in Saudi Arabia and Morocco.

Geology and Mineralogy

The major sources of dimension stone are quarried (mined) from deposits of:
Limestone
Marble
Granite
Sandstone
Gneiss
Slate
Soapstone

The United States has five major mineral provinces that contain the three types of rocks:

Atlantic and Gulf Coastal Plain Province
A small province with sedimentary rock sources in New York, Alabama and Texas, and granite and sandstone in Texas.

Appalachian Crystalline Province
This province has the largest sources in the United States for dimension stone including granite, marble, sandstone, slate and soapstone. The largest sources in the province are Vermont granite, slate, and marble, various dark igneous stones such as diabase (marketed and “black granite”) from Virginia and Pennsylvania, and Georgia granites and marbles.

Interior Sedimentary Province
Indiana limestones have the largest production in the United States with light-blue to bluish gray colors. Sandstones for dimension stone are dominant available in this province, particularly in New York, Pennsylvania and Tennessee. Marbles are dominant in Tennessee. Granites and other kinds of rock are quarried for dimension stone in this region, in particular granites in Missouri, Texas, Oklahoma and South Dakota.

Lake Superior Province
The Lake Superior Province contains granites and metamorphic rocks such as gneiss in Minnesota and Wisconsin in the United States and in Manitoba, Canada.

Western Province
The Western Province contains a number of sub provinces containing most types of potential sources of dimension stone found in other provinces. This province also has sources of travertine, a type of limestone deposited around mineral springs.

granite steps

marble steps

Production and Prices

For U.S. production statistics and sale price, “Stone (Dimension),” go to p. 168-169 of the USGS Commodity Summaries 2024.

Mining Methods

Standard large stone cutting or mechanical separation is accomplished using diamond embossed wire saws, drill and blast, high temperature (oxyfuel) cutting tools followed by splitting with high strength alloy steel wedges. Final cutting to final use size is accomplished using diamond saws and surface polishing on one or more sides, with letters cut in to the stone usually by mask and sandblast processes.

Uses

Dimension stone is used for residential and commercial building blocks and facing, signs, counter tops, grave markers monuments (more below), curbing, and surface plates as in pavements and sidewalks.

Major U.S. Producers

Producers consist of small producers of less than 50,000 metric tons per year specializing in dimension stone. Large aggregates companies such as Vulcan and Martin Marietta do not participate in this market as they rely on large production rates and low prices and minimum per metric ton profit. Dimension stone producers rely on higher profit margin and low tonnage shipped. For example, in Elbert County, Georgia, there are approximately forty-five small granite quarries owned by local businesses producing dimension stone that is mostly used to manufacture monuments. Other quarries produce a small amount of granite aggregates for highway construction. These producers rely on 90% or more sales to cemeteries and funeral homes.

Grave Monuments

Virtually every community in the United States has cemeteries. Two large military cemeteries, Arlington Cemetery in Virginia with 400,000 sites and Ft. Logan Cemetery in Colorado with 150,000 sites, are only two out of the 155 national military cemeteries. Military cemeteries have very strict monument requirements and uniform sizes.

Granite gravesite stones – Ft. Logan Cemetery, CO. photo: Bill Wilson

The monument shows 24 inches above the surface with the buried portion another 48 inches below the surface to prevent movement or tipping of the monument, therefore using twice as much material as seen above ground. Most monuments are dimension stone from white and colored granites, diabase or gneiss. A second choice is marble. Marble tends to be more costly and very few source exist in the United States.

Environmental Factors

Producers of dimension stone must be compliant with Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) regulations and meet local regulations for minimum dust creation and waste rock removal to suitable sites.

Dimension Stone and Decorative Stone Compared

SME Industrial Minerals and Rocks, Kogel 7th Edition 2006 defines Dimension Stone and Decorative Stone chapters in several ways based on uses, value and complexity of removal or quarrying from a quarry and the final dimensions, and surface features and color. Dimension stone tends to have a larger demand and supply relationship than Decorative Stone, so a separate chapter on decorative stone is not included in this Handbook. Decorative stone also includes manufactured products such as tiles.

The broad categories of decorative stone in include:

  • Rough stone (fieldstone and flagstone)
  • Aggregate (river rock, scoria, cinder, fused clay-containing rock)
  • Crushed stone (rubble, exposed aggregate as cemented base with a variety of exposed stone for decorative purposes such as terrazzo)
  • Cut or dressed stone (statuary and art decorations, fireplace rock and hearthstone, monuments and memorials, tile and paving blocks, veneer and wall cladding)
  • Synthetic stone from various rock sources such as slate

References

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Commodity Summaries 2023.  https://pubs.usgs.gov/publication/mcs2023. NOTE:  2023 version reports 2022 statistics.

United States Geological Survey (USGS) Commodity Summaries 2024. https://pubs.usgs.gov/publication/mcs2024. The 2024 summary reports 2023 statistics.

SME Industrial Minerals & Rocks 7th Edition.  SME Books. Editors: Jessica Elzea Kogel, Nikhil C. Trivedi, James M. Barker, Stanley T. Krukowski, 2006.