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York Stone – What You Need to Know

If you’ve visited a cathedral or walked down an old English high street, chances are you will have come across York Stone in some shape or form. A legendary stone quarried from the Yorkshire countryside, York stone is one of the UK’s most popular types of paving even though a great deal of people don’t know exactly what it is.

The trick’s in the name – York stone has become something of a marketing term rather than a definition. With no mention of the type of stone, colour or shape, it can be difficult to know who’s talking about what!

The Facts

York Stone normally is used in reference to the reclaimed paving flagstones, also known as Old York or Reclaimed York. Quarried from Yorkshire, this hard wearing sandstone was laid hundreds of years ago all over the country for paving, house signs, headstones, fireplaces and all types of buildings from churches to shops.  A Reclaimed York Flagstone would have been lifted up during re-development and is now ready to be re-used elsewhere. 

It’s the reclamation that makes York stone all the more desirable. Unlike new quarried stone, reclaimed stone usually has more immediate character. Having been subject to weathering for hundreds of years, reclaimed stone can add instant charm as well as looking less out of place when extending old patios and paths.  York stone is in high demand and the fact that the reclaimed varieties cannot simply by quarried make this stone one of the more expensive paving options. Reclamation is a more time-consuming, difficult and irregular process than quarrying, only adding to the legendary status of the stone. 

The reclaimed nature of York stone also means no two pieces are the same. There are no set, modular sizes as you would expect with new stone and there is no calibrated thickness, though York stone paving tends to be thicker than your average flagstone. 

As with all natural stone, quality is everything. You should always inspect the stock before buying and check for the following signs:

  • Flaky paving – check the surface of the paving for loose ridges and flakes

  • Missing corners

  • Paint, oil or mortar stains

  • Roofing tiles sold as paving flags

  • Irregular shapes – some flagstones may be not be rectangular, making them very hard to lay

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What about New York Stone?

York stone doesn’t just mean the reclaimed stuff. New York is exactly that – new, quarried stone ready to be laid. Like most other new flagstones it is calibrated and comes in more regular sizing, though York stone is considerably more expensive than its imported cousins.

Why? Simply due to the fact that supply is much lower and the costs of extraction in the UK are much higher. Just like imported stone, New York can come in a variety of dressings and finishes. 

You’re now one step closer to owning your own piece of England’s legendary stone! All reputable stone suppliers should be able to show you their stocks and let you check the quality. The good thing is you can now spot what’s the real thing and what’s not.