Amarestone Natural Stone Blog

The most majestic French limestone

Posted by Steve Turner on Tue, Nov 12, 2019 @ 09:47 am

Tuffeau French limestone

The stone that is used as the building material of some of France's most elegant and best known buildings is surprisingly little known outside France.

We have all seen pictures of the beautifully elegant chateaux that France is famous for but we seldom hear about the stone that was used to build them.

Chateau de Saumur - French limestone tuffeauChâteau de Saumur - Tuffeau French Limestone

Tuffeau is a white/cream, fine grained limestone quarried in and around the Loire valley and the river's tributaries in France.  It was formed around 90 million years ago during the Mesozoic era.

Tuffeau should not be confused with Tuff stone (a consolidated volcanic stone) or with Tufa stone (a travertine type stone), both of which have quite different technical properties.

 

Tuffeau French limestone -  Chateau Montsoreau
Château Montsoreau on the south bank of the Loire near Saumur

 

It has been widely used as a building material for the most grandiose royal chateaux down to the humblest of cottages.French limestone Tuffeau door surround and wall

Technically, Tuffeau is a lightweight, stone that is about half the density of an average granite and up to 50 times more porous than granite. In spite of these apparent disadvantages, it has been used for centuries to create many of France's most iconic buildings.

The advantage of Tuffeau is that it is a uniform and homogenous stone perfectly suited for use as building blocks and for carving.  Our Chitré Tuffeau quarry is kept busy supplying fresh cut blocks for the renovation of the region's architecture.

 

French limestone Tuffeau - former quarries now used as troglodyte dwellings

The extraction of the stone has left several hundreds of kilometres of caves, some of which had been turned into "troglodyte" dwellings. The caves provided a constant temperature throughout summer and winter. These qualities also made them ideal for use as wine cellars for the local vineyards and also for use as "champignonnieres" for the production of mushrooms.

Some of the caves still produce mushrooms but many are now used as restaurants or quirky holiday rental properties.

Recently, Tuffeau has been considered for use as a replacement for the English Clunch limestone which is proving difficult to source nowadays.

It is also perfect for those learning the art of stone carving as it is soft but relatively uniform in texture and grain. 

We keep samples of Tuffeau (and many other French limestones) at our samples showroom in Arborfield, near Reading, Berkshire in the UK. Please call, email or leave a message on the form on this page if you'd like to visit the showroom or receive samples.

See more details on our range of French Limestone.

 

If you have any other questions or need expert help with your natural stone project, please call us on 0345 260 80 70 or email steve@amarestone.com.

 

Click to download our natural stone brochure

 

Thanks for reading.

Steve Turner
Amarestone 

Tel: 0345 260 8070

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Topics: French limestone, tuffeau, listed building