When most people think of shale they immediately envision the gray, thin layers of shoreline rock by a lake or river. It’s beautiful, but it doesn’t always go with local homes and the surrounding landscape. That’s a huge misconception. The truth is that shale has an incredible amount of variety, and you can usually find a type to match your project.
Shale’s variety comes from its origins. Shale is what is called a clastic rock. That means that it’s composed of other minerals that have cemented together due to natural forces. Shale is a clastic sediment – it’s made of bits of other broken rock. Shale comes in many, many colors because it’s composed of the materials that eroded and cemented in a particular region. It shares this origin with sandstone, but unlike it, shale is finer-grained.
People often worry that because shale really is made of particles of other stones it will rapidly erode in damp weather. Part of the misconception comes from the fact that most shale comes from watersheds where the elements have already left noticeable wear. Shale strength and texture is based on how old it is. Younger shale hasn’t been exposed to as much heat and pressure, so it’s coarse and not as firmly cemented.
Keep in mind, however, that all shale took millions of years to reach its present form. It didn’t get smoothed out right away. If you want your garden path to outlast all of recorded human history, maybe you have cause to worry, but most of us have far more modest goals!
Want to give shale a try? Start with our Wood Stone. You can use it as a wood substitute because thanks to shale’s properties, it absorbs water in much the same fashion as wood. If you like it, see if you’d like to build it into a Water Feature - Our Specialty.