Natural stone is becoming even more popular in the UK for building, restoration, refurbishments and makeovers – and there are many different natural stone suppliers out there to source stone from.
But not all natural stone suppliers are the same. If you’re considering natural stone for your next project, it’s worth taking a moment to read this article. It will help you understand the different types of suppliers – what they do, and what you can expect from them.
Five key pieces of the jigsaw
The tasks undertaken by natural stone suppliers can be broadly split into five distinct areas. In some cases, these tasks are undertaken individually by five different specialist businesses. In others, one business may cover the whole process from start to finish. Here are the five key task areas:
As the name suggests, this is the part of the process where natural stone is extracted from the ground. This is either by means of mining (underground) or quarrying (open cast). These days, for the production of natural stone, quarrying is much more common than mining. This process produces large slabs or blocks of stone for cutting, plus smaller pieces which are normally used for aggregates.
In the UK, one of the greatest concentrations of natural stone quarrying is along the Lincolnshire Limestone Belt. It dates back around 170 million years and runs in a wide swathe running from north east to south west across much of Central England.
2. National (and International) Stone Wholesaling
Stone wholesalers are effectively the middlemen between the quarries/mines and the local natural stone suppliers. They purchase slab/block stone in bulk from quarries around the country (or around the world). They supply it to local stone distributors, taking responsibility for transport – mainly by sea, rail and road. Most natural stone which is brought into the UK from abroad is imported by these stone wholesalers.
3. Local Stone Supply/Distribution
These natural stone suppliers are also middlemen – this time, between the wholesaler and the manufacturer. They purchase smaller stocks of stone, which they distribute in their distinct geographical sales area to stone manufacturers (sometimes also known as ‘stone fabricators’). These distributors don’t tend to supply direct to the public, as their stone is still in a raw unfinished state.
4. Stone Manufacturers
This is definitely the most creative part of the whole process. Stone manufacturers cut, carve and fashion the stone into usable stone products, like paving slabs, stone blocks for building and stone floor/wall tiles.
Most stone manufacturers also have a team of highly skilled stonemasons. They can craft almost anything out of stone – from beautiful natural stone staircases and fireplaces to classic window and door frames and garden features.
5. Stone Direct Sales
This is the final piece of the jigsaw, where contractors and members of the public can visit a showroom or yard to view and purchase finished natural stone products.
Most stone direct sales businesses have close links with stone manufacturers and stonemasons. This allows them to offer a bespoke service where needed, tailoring finished stone products to the customer’s exact requirements. This could be creating correct sized window and door surrounds to fit an existing space – or carving a unique pattern into a beautiful one-of-a-kind fire surround.
The importance of accreditation
Always check if your chosen natural stone supplier is a member of a respected trade organisation. The Stone Federation of Great Britain is the official trade organisation for natural stone suppliers in the UK. Their affiliated members are closely checked and audited on a regular basis to ensure complete peace of mind for customers.
All in one?
In the case of locally sourced UK natural stone, limestone specialists Stamford Stone undertake the whole natural stone supplier process from start to finish. We extract block limestone and limestone aggregate from our own quarries on the ancient Lincolnshire Limestone Belt.
Our highly trained master stonemasons then cut and carve this beautiful natural stone, before it is offered for sale direct to the public via our state-of-the-art showroom in Helpston, near Stamford. Builders, architects and contractors are invited to contact us for a sample or to discuss any commercial or restoration projects. You can find out more about how we’ve supplied stone for diverse uses by reading our Case Studies.
We can also undertake bespoke commissions to suit the most exacting requirements. Contact us today to find out more.