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In building and masonry, dimension stone is any natural stone that has been precisely cut to meet specific size or shape guidelines. Cutting of the stone may be performed using trimming, grinding, or drilling techniques. The raw material stone is usually chosen for its color texture and durability. After shaping and treating, dimension stone is used to create aesthetic effects in building, design, and construction. Any kind of rock may be used, though granite, marble, and sandstone are common, as well as limestone and slate.
Dimension stone is different from the crushed stone used, for example, in gravel walkways, though they can both be harvested from the same quarry. Each piece of dimension stone must be a uniform size and shape, while individual crushed stones can vary. Instead of simply being blasted away from the cliff face using high-power explosives, dimension stone must be harvested using techniques that can be more precisely controlled. These techniques include sawing, burning with jet-piercing torches, and carefully controlled use of light explosives.
After separation from the rock face, large slabs of stone are cut into the required shapes. The resulting dimension stone may then undergo a process known as finishing, which involves treating the stone to achieve a desired aesthetic effect. Common finishes include polish to make the rock glassy and reflective, sand blasting to make a rough pitted texture, and flaming, or using a heat that is sometimes strong enough to change the color of the stone.
When used in construction, dimension stone can take several forms. Since stone is expensive, many buildings that appear to be made out of stone are actually only faced with stone. Veneer refers to large slabs of stone attached to a backing. It is mostly ornamental, though it does add a layer of insulation to the structure.
Dimension stone can also be used in smaller quantities for either decoration or utilitarian purposes. Stone counter tops are a common example. They are usually made of granite, though slate or some other material may sometimes be used. The decorative stone tile used for flooring and wall treatments is also a form of dimension stone. Any monument or tombstone also falls into this category, as long as it is made out of stone and not concrete.