Laterite Stone Frequently Asked Questions

Describe the use of Laterite as a building material

Known as Vettukallu or Chenkallu in Kerala, Laterite is a residual ferruginous rock first discovered in the Malabar region ( Northen Kerala ).

Because it gains in strength on exposure to sun and air, as well as its low cost, it was widely used as a construction material in this part of India. One of the advantages is that it is soft when it is quarried and only hardens on exposure.

Its earthy, rustic appeal make it number one option for eco friendly constructions. Low costs compared to bricks and a negligible loss of material, make it a preferred choice as a building material . Because of the stones larger surface area, cement costs also come down substantially.

 

 

Lateritic soils are highly weathered and altered residual
material formed by the in-situ weathering and
decomposition of rocks in tropical regions of all over
the world having heavily rainfall. They are formed by
intensive and long-lasting weathering of the underlying
parent rock due to leaching of silica over a long period
of time leaving a soil rich in iron oxides, hydroxides and
alumina. When such lateritic soils are exposed to
atmosphere, the iron hydroxides lose the moisture
quickly to form iron oxides, which develop a good bond
with other particles in soil to form the concretionary
laterite. Lateritic soils are rich in sesquioxides (Fe2O3,
Al2O3 or both) and low in bases and primary silicates
but may contain appreciable amounts of quartz and
kaolinite. Due to the presence of iron oxides, lateritic
soils are red in color ranging from light through bright
to brown shades. They are composed essentially of
hydrated aluminum and iron oxides and they can be
used as a good building material

The methods of quarrying, dressing and construction all
are entirely different from other stone masonry
materials. Laterite blocks are soft for easy quarrying and
shaping, but they become hard when exposed to
atmospheric oxygen. The ease of cutting and shaping
laterite and hardening with age due atmospheric
exposure makes its use different and versatile in
building applications. Manual quarrying and dressing
was adopted in the past was more laborious and time
consuming. Machine quarrying of laterite was invented
and used for the first time in Kerala, India using mobile
rotary saw machine that was introduced for the first
time and popularised since 1993. It consists of
following steps: (i) Removal of top soil and levelling
the surface, (ii) Marking lines on levelled horizontal bed
of laterite, (iii) Moving cutters through these lines up to
desired depth of stone, and (iv) Dis-lodging stones
manually using bars and hauling to construction site.

Northen Kerala region is defined in its broadest geological and geographic meaning as the land confined between
mountain ranges of the Western Ghats (rising to a
height between 600 mand 1800 m) and Arabian Sea.
The midland portion of Northen Kerala, which comprises of
undulating terrain with hills and valleys, drained by
several rivers, is known for extensive occurrence of
laterite. In this locality
prolonged rainfall, intermittent dry seasons and sloping
terrain are conducive to good quality and strong laterite formation

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