Reusing durable materials has been going on for centuries. In Europe, stones from ancient abbeys or castles become foundations for new buildings and pavers become fences. In the U.S., reclaimed granite is a hot salvage item for reuse in yards and gardens.
Reclaimed vs. Newly Quarried Granite
Granite is a popular dimension stone in the U.S. It can be quarried in blocks or slabs to meet most size specifications. It has become increasingly popular as an outdoor stone because it is more resistant to acid rain than marble.
But while it is durable, granite shows its age, which is a key selling feature for fans of reclaimed granite. Granite has a rich patina that comes with wear and age, adding to reclaimed granite’s special value. Reclaimed granite is characterized by a weathered and softened look with darkening from mold and lichens that cannot be recreated with new granite, says Nick Christy, president of Atlantic View Landscaping of Douglas, Mass. Reclaimed granite’s aged look is desirable in high-end landscaping projects and is in high demand for walkways, walls, and patios in the gardens of classic New England homes.
Granite Sourcing and Costs
Reclaimed granite has always been a desirable product but it’s even more so now, as it becomes more rare.
"It’s getting fairly hard to find, as you might imagine. You can’t go out and quarry it. It’s mostly from older buildings—the facades, window lintels, stairs," Christy says. Atlantic View is always on the lookout for aged granite. When the company learned of a state hospital being deconstructed, Atlantic View purchased and trucked 40 dump trailer loads to its site for future use.
Salvage companies are also a good source for reclaimed granite. Gavin Historical Bricks of Iowa City, Iowa, offers granite cobblestones from old city streets. According to the company, these cobbles were originally used as ballast on ships traveling from Europe to America more than 200 years ago. With their rounded tops, random lengths and widths, granite cobbles can be used for driveways, walkways, or in walls, according to co-owner John Gavin.
Reclaimed granite runs from about $10 per square foot for cobbles up to $50 per square foot for granite pieces from deconstructed buildings.
Setting and Maintaining Granite
When Atlantic View uses its reclaimed granite for landscaping projects, any resizing of the granite is done with the aim to keep the historic look. If a piece of granite has to be cut, it is handled in the field by skilled masons. They drill and split, saw and cut, torch and flame the edges on any newly sawn pieces to give them an aged, weathered look. .
Reclaimed granite is very durable for exterior application but should not be used for structural purposes. Rashod R. Johnson, director of engineering for the Mason Contractors Association of America, suggests that reclaimed granite be used only for aesthetic applications, including walkways, stairs and retaining walls no more than four or five feet high. Reclaimed granite requires no maintenance, but some homeowners opt to apply sealer on walkways
Johnson advises against using reclaimed granite to create any structures. Granite is hard, but brittle, he says. While quarried granite can be tested, there is no way to test reclaimed granite to determine its present composition without breaking it. If it is too brittle and used in a structural application, it could fail, Johnson says. Reclaimed granite can be dry set or wet set. Dry setting does not use mortar. It relies on the grooves and other features of the granite to interlock the pieces. To build a low wall, the granite pieces are carefully selected to pair shapes that will work with neighboring stones to create cohesion. Wet setting uses the bond between the granite and mortar to provide the strength for the project. Concrete, which can put undue stress on granite as it cures, should not be used.
Credit: Renovate with Tommy Mac