Materials used for construction
(Building Stones & Cement)

The term 'construction minerals' is used to describe all minerals and rocks used by the construction industry, for example in road making, in house construction and as railway ballast. The largest component of construction minerals and the most voluminous materials extracted in India are 'aggregates' - a term used to describe granular or particulate material which is suitable for use, on its own or with a binder such as cement, lime or bitumen, in construction as concrete. The two principal types of aggregate are crushed rock (limestone, igneous rock and sandstone) and sand and gravel.

Dimension stone was for centuries the prin­cipal load-bearing material of buildings, bridges, harbour works and so on, a function now largely taken over by concrete and steel.  The common building stones are granites and massive sandstones and limestones, which can be quarried in sizeable rectangular blocks free from internal fractures, without yielding an undue proportion of waste fragments.  High compressive and shear strengths are required for load-bearing structures. A wider variety of porphyritic igneous rocks, marbles, tuffs, fossiliferous lime­stones and travertine are used as decorative stone for facings, pavings and interior walls.  Slate, characterised by a closely spaced cleav­age developed by crustal stresses, which facilitates the separation of thin layers, is a traditional roofing material.  The bulk and weight of dimen­sion stone required for major building works demand ease of transport from quarry to construction site. 

The most durable building stones used both as aggregate and dimension stone are granites and similar plutonic rocks with massive texture, low porosity and stable minerals. Sandstones, especially those with calcareous cement, are subject to the effects of permeation by water, and limestones to solution and reaction on a larger scale. Despite these disadvantages, limestones have provided some of the most beautiful building materials.

Other minerals used in the construction industry are clay, chalk and limestone for cement making, brick clay, gypsum, and slate.

Table 1 - Non-metallic construction materials.



Desirable properties

dimension stone

limestone, sandstone, granite, other igneous rocks. Ornamental stone includes limestone, marble, tufa, granite, syenite etc.

regular, widely spaced partings (bedding, joints), high compressive strength,resistance to weathering, especially in industrial regions


strongly cleaved fine-grained metamorphic rocks, usually of pelitic composition, locally pyroclastic

regular, closely spaced cleavage, resistance to weathering



crushed basalt, dolerite, fine granite, greywacke, quartzite, hornfels, flint etc., industrial waste in combination with bitumen

resistance to abrasion (massive, fine to medium grain Size), low porosity, binds well with bitumen, non-slip surface, does not acquire polish

aggregate (for concrete and as fill for road and building foundations, dams)

sand and gravel (fluvial, glacial, marine), crushed rock as for roadstone, industrial waste

appropriate range of particle sizes, low contents of impurities, especially sulphides, organic matter, coal, micaceous rocks, opal, chalcedony

bricks, tiles

clay, marine, alluvial, glacial or in deep weathering zones: raw materials fired at high temperatures

no excess water, low iron, sulphides, sulphates CaCo3>5% minimizes shrinkage, carbonaceous matter (≥S%) assists firing


limestone, argillaceous limestone, often mixed with clay: limestone converted to lime by calcining in kiln, product ground to powder

constant composition, correct ratios CaO, Al203, SiO2, Fe2O3, low S, MgO, P, alkalies


quartz sand, quartzite

absence of impurities, low iron

plaster, plasterboard

gypsum, anhydrite from evaporates


insulating materials

fibrous and flaky metamorphic minerals, asbestos, mica, vermiculite: diatomite

not injurious to health


residue from distillation of oil: natural residues of oil seepages

Appropriate melting temperature for conditions of use e.g. in road making


Availability of Construction Material in India

In India, rocks are quarried largely for use as building stones.  Not all rocks are, however, suitable for this purpose, since several indespensible qualities are required in a building-stone which are satis­fied by but a few of the rocks from among the geological forma­tions of a country.  Rocks that can stand the ravages of time and weather, those that possess the requisite strength, an attrac­tive colour and appearance, and those that can receive dressing ­whether ordinary or ornamental-without much cost or labour, are the most valuable.  Resistance to weather is an important factor.

With this in view the architects of New Delhi, who required a most extensive range of materials for a variety of purposes, building as well as ornamental, invited the opinion of the Geo­logical Survey of India in regard to the suitability of the various building and ornamental stones quarried in the neighbouring areas of Rajasthan and Central India.  A special officer of the Survey was deputed to advise on the matter after an examination of the various quarries in the vicinity.

In northern India, the ready accessibility of brick-making materials in unlimited quantities has rendered the use of stone in private as well as public buildings subordinate.  Excellent material exists in large quantities in a number of the rock-systems of the country.

Granites are light-coloured, coarse grained, granulose plutonic rocks containing quartz and feldspars and minor amounts of micas (muscovite and biotite).  In commercial parlance, the term granite has become synonymous with all crystalline rocks that have a high compressive and shearing strength, pleasing colours, take a good polish, and are used for decorative purposes. Being variously coloured - white, pink, red, grey, black, etc, highly resistant to wear and tear as well as weathering, granite is most sought-after stone to be used as building as well as decorative stone.

India possesses enormous deposits of all varieties of granites. It is one of the largest producers of granite in the world.  We produce enough granite to meet our domestic demands, as well as some for the export markets. Major production of granite in raw as well as processed form comes from Tamil Nadu, Karnataka, Andhra Pradesh, Rajasthan, Gujarat, Uttar Pradesh and Orissa.

The important granite producing centres in Tamil Nadu are Dharmapuri, Erode, Madurai, Salem, Virudhunagar and Vilupuram districts. In Rajasthan, production centres are mainly spread in the districts of Jalore, Pali, Sirohi, Barmer, Ajmer, Jaisalmer, Jhunjhunu and Jodhpur. Karnataka is another important producer of granite varities occurring in the districts of Bangalore, Mysore, Gulbarga, Hassan, Raichur and Kolar. Good quality granite is found in three districts of Uttar Pradesh, namely Lalitpur, Mahoba and Banda. However, almost all the production comes from Lalitpur district. In Andhra Pradesh, important mining areas are located in the districts of Chittoor, Anantapur, Kurnool, Prakasam, Srikakulam, Warangal, Karimnagar and Khammam. Bihar, Kerala and West Bengal also produce granite.

For use as dimension stone, limestone is required to have a pleasing colour, be able to split in layers 1 to 1½ inches thickness.   For manufacture of Portland cement, limestone containing  more than 45% CaO is usually preferred.  Magnesia, sulphur and phosphorus are regarded as deleterious elements.  Therefore the limestone should have less than 4% magnesium oxide (MgO), less than 2% Al2O3, 1 to 2%, Fe2O3 and 12 to 16% SiO2. 

In Andhra Pradesh, limestone production suitable for use as dimension stone and for manufacture of Portland cement comes from Adilabad, Karimnagar, Krishna, YSR, Nalgonda, Anantpur and Kurnool districts.  Limestone is also produced in Rohtas district in Bihar; Bokaro, Garwah, Hazaribagh, Palamau and Singhbhum districts of Jharkhand; Raipur, Janjgir-Champa and Durg districts of Chhattisgarh; Amreli, Junagarh, Jamnagar, Porbandar and Kachchh districts of Gujarat; Neemuch, Katni, Satna, Rewa and Bilaspur in Madhya Pradesh; Pulwama and Anantnag in J & K; Gulbarga and Chitradurg in Karnataka; Chandrapur and Yavatmal in Maharashtra; Ajmer, Pali, Chittorgarh, Sirohi, Nagaur, Kota, Bundi and Jaipur in Rajasthan; Dehradun and Garhwal areas of Uttarakhand; Ariyalur, Tiruchirapalli, Perumbalur, Thoothukudi, Virudhunagar, Coimbatore, Ranga Reddy, Tirunelveli, Dindigul and Karur in Tamil Nadu; and Palakkad in Kerala.

Coarse-grained marbles are more suitable for architectural and monumental uses; it is the coarseness of the grain, which is the cause of the great durability of marble against meteoric weather­ing.  The fine-grained, purest white marbles are reserved for statuary use, for which no other varieties can be of service.

The marble deposits of India are fairly widespread and of large extent.  The principal source of the marbles of India is the crystalline formation of Rajasthan -- the Aravalli series.  Marble quarries are worked at Mekrana (Jodhpur), Kharwa (Ajmer), Maundla and Bhainslana (Jaipur), Dadikar (Alwar), and some other places, from which marbles of many varieties of colour and grain, including the beautiful white variety of which the Taj Mahal is built, are obtained.  It was the accessibility of this store of material of unsurpassed beauty which, no doubt, gave such a stimulus to the Mogul taste for architecture in the seventeenth century.

Good quality marble also occurs in a large outcrop near Jabalpur, Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, Motipura in Baroda, Narsingpur in Madhya Pradesh, Kharwa in Ajmer.  Some quarries in and around Jaipur furnish a dense black marble, capable of taking an exquisite polish, largely employed in the ancient buildings of Delhi, Agra and Kashmir.

Serpentine forms large outcrops in the Arakan range of Burma and also in Baluchistan.  It occurs as an altera­tion-product of the basic and ultra-basic intrusions of Cretaceous and Miocene ages.  From its softness and liability to weather on exposure it is of no use for outdoor architectural purposes, but serpentines of attractive colour are employed in internal decora­tions of buildings and the manufacture of vases, statuary, etc.  Serpentinous marble (Verde antique) is rare in India.

Vindhyan sandstones - The Vindhyan and, to a lesser extent, the Gondwana formations afford sandstones admir­ably suited for building works.  The most preeminent among them are the white, cream, buff and pink Upper Vindhyan sand­stones, which have been put to a variety of uses.  It is the most widely quarried stone in India, and being both a freestone as well as a flagstone it can yield, according to the portion selected, both gigantic blocks for pillars from one part and thin, slate-like slabs for paving and roofing from another part.  The superb edifices, modern and medieval, of Delhi, Rajasthan and Agra are built of red and white Vindhyan sandstone quarried from a number of sites in the vicinity.

Some of the Vindhyan sandstones are so homogeneous and soft that they are capable of receiving a most elaborate carving and filigree work.  Centuries of exposure to the weather have tested their durability.

Upper Gondwana sandstones - Another formation possessing resources in building-stones of good quality is the Upper Gondwana, which has contributed a great store of building-stone to Orissa and Chanda.  The famous temples of Puri and the other richly orna­mented buildings of these districts are constructed of Upper Gondwana sandstones.

The Mesozoic (Umia) sandstone of Dhrangadhra and the Cret­aceous sandstone underlying the Bagh beds of Gujarat (Songir sandstones) furnish Gujarat with a very beautiful and durable stone for its important public and private buildings.

Among the Tertiary sandstones, a few possess the qualities re­quisite in a building-stone, e.g. the Murree and Kamlial (Tarki) sandstones; but the younger Siwalik sandstones are too uncon­solidated and incoherent to be fit for employment in building work.


Quartzites are too hard to work and have a fracture and grain unsuitable for dressing into blocks.


Laterites of South India are put to use in building ­works, due to the ease with which they are cut into bricks or blocks when freshly quarried and their property of hardening with exposure to air.  Its wide distribution from Assam to Comorin makes laterite a widely used material for road-metal.  This stone is not capable of receiving dressing for any architectural or ornamental use.


Slates for paving and roofing are not of common occur­rence in India, except in some mountainous areas, e.g. at Kangra and Pir Panjal in the Himalayas and Rewari in the Aravallis.  When the cleavage is finely developed and regular, thus enabling them to be split into thin even plates, the slates are used for roofing; when the cleavage is not so fine, the slates are used for paving.  True cleavage-slates are rare in India; what generally are called slates are either phyllites or compacted shales in which the planes of splitting are not cleavage-planes.

The chief slate-quarries of India are those of Kangra, in the Kangra district; Rewari, in the Gurgaon district; and Kharakpur hills in the Monghyr district.


Besides the foregoing examples of the building-stones of India, a few other varieties are also employed as such when readily available and where a sufficient quantity exists.  Of these the most important are the basalts of the Deccan, which, from their prevalence over a wide region of Western India, are used by the Railways and Public Works Department for their buildings, bridges, the permanent way, etc.  The traps furnish an easily workable and durable stone of great strength, but its dull and subdued colour does not recommend it to popular favour.  Recently, some trachytic and other acidic lavas of light buff and cream colours have found use in buildings.


Gypsum forms large bedded masses or aggregates occurring in association with rocks of a number of different geological forma­tions.  Large deposits of pure gypsum occur in the Tertiary clays and shales of Rajasthan, Gujarat (Kutch) and Tamil Nadu (Madras), though in less pure state.  In Jodhpur, Nagour and Bikaner, beds of gypsum are found among the silts of old lacustrine deposits and are of considerable economic interest.  Millions of tons of gypsum, the alteration-product of pyritous limestone of Salkhala age, are laid bare in the mountains of the Uri and Baramula area of Kashmir in a stretch of about 40 km along the strike.  In Spiti, Sirmur, Kumaon and other Himalayan areas, the gypsum occurs in large masses replacing Carboniferous or other limestones.  In some cases gypsum occurs as transparent crystals (selenite) associated with clays.


Ordinary alluvial clay, mixed with sand and containing a little proportion of iron is used for brick-making.  Fine grained clay, nixed with fine sand, is used in tile making.  Clays suitable for brick-making should have a fusion point around 950 to 1000oC so as to render strength to the fired brick.  Such clays occur in considerable quantities in Uttar Pradesh, Bihar, Madhya Pradesh and West Bengal. 

Notes & Handouts

The Himalayas

Kumaon Himalayas

Askot Basemetals



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