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Sedimentary rock
USDA Mineral Sandstone 93c3955.jpg
Cut slab of sandstone showing Liesegang banding
Typically quartz and feldspar; lithic fragments are also common. Other minerals may be found in particularly mature sandstone.

Sandstone is a clastic sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized (0.0625 to 2 mm) silicate grains. Sandstones comprise about 2025% of all sedimentary rocks. [1]


Most sandstone is composed of quartz or feldspar (both silicates) because they are the most resistant minerals to weathering processes at the Earth's surface, as seen in the Goldich dissolution series. [2] Like uncemented sand, sandstone may be any color due to impurities within the minerals, but the most common colors are tan, brown, yellow, red, grey, pink, white, and black. Since sandstone beds often form highly visible cliffs and other topographic features, certain colors of sandstone have been strongly identified with certain regions.

Rock formations that are primarily composed of sandstone usually allow the percolation of water and other fluids and are porous enough to store large quantities, making them valuable aquifers and petroleum reservoirs. [3] [4]

Quartz-bearing sandstone can be changed into quartzite through metamorphism, usually related to tectonic compression within orogenic belts. [5] [6]


Sandstones are clastic in origin (as opposed to either organic, like chalk and coal, or chemical, like gypsum and jasper). [7] The silicate sand grains from which they form are the product of physical and chemical weathering of bedrock. [8] Weathering and erosion are most rapid in areas of high relief, such as volcanic arcs, areas of continental rifting, and orogenic belts. [9]

Eroded sand is transported by rivers or by the wind from its source areas to depositional environments where tectonics has created accommodation space for sediments to accumulate. Forearc basins tend to accumulate sand rich in lithic grains and plagioclase. Intracontinental basins and grabens along continental margins are also common environments for deposition of sand. [10]

As sediments continue to accumulate in the depositional environment, older sand is buried by younger sediments, and it undergoes diagenesis. This mostly consists of compaction and lithification of the sand. [11] [12] Early stages of diagenesis, described as eogenesis, take place at shallow depths (a few tens of meters) and are characterized by bioturbation and mineralogical changes in the sands, with only slight compaction. [13] The red hematite that gives red bed sandstones their color is likely formed during eogenesis. [14] [15] Deeper burial is accompanied by mesogenesis, during which most of the compaction and lithification takes place. [12]

Compaction takes place as the sand comes under increasing pressure from overlying sediments. Sediment grains move into more compact arrangements, ductile grains (such as mica grains) are deformed, and pore space is reduced. In addition to this physical compaction, chemical compaction may take place via pressure solution. Points of contact between grains are under the greatest strain, and the strained mineral is more soluble than the rest of the grain. As a result, the contact points are dissolved away, allowing the grains to come into closer contact. [12]

Lithification follows closely on compaction, as increased temperatures at depth hasten deposition of cement that binds the grains together. Pressure solution contributes to cementing, as the mineral dissolved from strained contact points is redeposited in the unstrained pore spaces. [12]

Mechanical compaction takes place primarily at depths less than 1,000 meters (3,300 ft). Chemical compaction continues to depths of 2,000 meters (6,600 ft), and most cementation takes place at depths of 2,000–5,000 meters (6,600–16,400 ft). [16]

Unroofing of buried sandstone is accompanied by telogenesis, the third and final stage of diagenesis. [13] As erosion reduces the depth of burial, renewed exposure to meteoric water produces additional changes to the sandstone, such as dissolution of some of the cement to produce secondary porosity. [12]


Framework grains

Paradise Quarry, Sydney, Australia (1)Saunders Quarry-1.jpg
Paradise Quarry, Sydney, Australia
Grus sand and the granitoid from which it is derived GrusSand.JPG
Grus sand and the granitoid from which it is derived

Framework grains are sand-sized (0.0625-to-2-millimeter (0.00246 to 0.07874 in) diameter) detrital fragments that make up the bulk of a sandstone. [17] [18] These grains can be classified into several different categories based on their mineral composition:

Photomicrograph of a volcanic sand grain; upper picture is plane-polarised light, bottom picture is cross-polarised light, scale box at left-centre is 0.25 millimeter. This type of grain would be a main component of a lithic sandstone. LvMS-Lvm.jpg
Photomicrograph of a volcanic sand grain; upper picture is plane-polarised light, bottom picture is cross-polarised light, scale box at left-centre is 0.25 millimeter. This type of grain would be a main component of a lithic sandstone.


Matrix is very fine material, which is present within interstitial pore space between the framework grains. [1] The nature of the matrix within the interstitial pore space results in a twofold classification:


Cement is what binds the siliciclastic framework grains together. Cement is a secondary mineral that forms after deposition and during burial of the sandstone. [1] These cementing materials may be either silicate minerals or non-silicate minerals, such as calcite. [1]

Sandstone that becomes depleted of its cement binder through weathering gradually becomes friable and unstable. This process can be somewhat reversed by the application of tetraethyl orthosilicate (Si(OC2H5)4) which will deposit amorphous silicon dioxide between the sand grains. [21] The reaction is as follows.

Si(OC2H5)4 (l) + 2 H2O (l) → SiO2 (s) + 4 C2H5OH (g)

Pore space

Pore space includes the open spaces within a rock or a soil. [22] The pore space in a rock has a direct relationship to the porosity and permeability of the rock. The porosity and permeability are directly influenced by the way the sand grains are packed together. [1]

Types of sandstone

Schematic QFL diagram showing tectonic provinces QFLtriangle.svg
Schematic QFL diagram showing tectonic provinces
Cross-bedding and scour in sandstone of the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous) of Jackson County, Ohio Logan Formation Cross Bedding Scour.jpg
Cross-bedding and scour in sandstone of the Logan Formation (Lower Carboniferous) of Jackson County, Ohio
Red sandstone interior of Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona, worn smooth by erosion from flash flooding over thousands of years Lower antelope 2 md.jpg
Red sandstone interior of Lower Antelope Canyon, Arizona, worn smooth by erosion from flash flooding over thousands of years

Sandstones are typically classified by point-counting a thin section using a method like the Gazzi-Dickinson Method. This yields the relative percentages of quartz, feldspar, and lithic grains and the amount of clay matrix. The composition of a sandstone can provide important information on the genesis of the sediments when used with a triangular Quartz, Feldspar, Lithic fragment (QFL diagrams). However, geologist have not been able to agree on a set of boundaries separating regions of the QFL triangle. [1]

Visual aids are diagrams that allow geologists to interpret different characteristics of a sandstone. For example, a QFL chart can be marked with a provenance model that shows the likely tectonic origin of sandstones with various compositions of framework grains. Likewise, the stage of textural maturity chart illustrates the different stages that a sandstone goes through as the degree of kinetic processing of the sediments increases. [23]

Dott's classification scheme

Dott's (1964) sandstone classification scheme is one of many such schemes used by geologists for classifying sandstones. Dott's scheme is a modification of Gilbert's classification of silicate sandstones, and it incorporates R.L. Folk's dual textural and compositional maturity concepts into one classification system. [25] The philosophy behind combining Gilbert's and R. L. Folk's schemes is that it is better able to "portray the continuous nature of textural variation from mudstone to arenite and from stable to unstable grain composition". [25] Dott's classification scheme is based on the mineralogy of framework grains, and on the type of matrix present in between the framework grains.

In this specific classification scheme, Dott has set the boundary between arenite and wackes at 15% matrix. In addition, Dott also breaks up the different types of framework grains that can be present in a sandstone into three major categories: quartz, feldspar, and lithic grains. [1]


The Main Quadrangle of the University of Sydney, a so-called sandstone university SydneyUniversity MainBuilding Panorama.jpg
The Main Quadrangle of the University of Sydney, a so-called sandstone university
Sandstone statue Maria Immaculata by Fidelis Sporer, around 1770, in Freiburg, Germany MariaImmaculatal Augustiner.jpg
Sandstone statue Maria Immaculata by Fidelis Sporer, around 1770, in Freiburg, Germany
17,000 yr old sandstone oil lamp discovered at the caves of Lascaux, France Lampe a graisse - Lascaux.jpg
17,000 yr old sandstone oil lamp discovered at the caves of Lascaux, France

Sandstone has been used since prehistoric times for construction, [26] [27] decorative art works [28] and tools. [29] It has been widely employed around the world in constructing temples, [30] churches, [31] homes and other buildings, and in civil engineering. [32]

Although its resistance to weathering varies, sandstone is easy to work. That makes it a common building and paving material, including in asphalt concrete. However, some types that have been used in the past, such as the Collyhurst sandstone used in North West England, have had poor long-term weather resistance, necessitating repair and replacement in older buildings. [33] Because of the hardness of individual grains, uniformity of grain size and friability of their structure, some types of sandstone are excellent materials from which to make grindstones, for sharpening blades and other implements. [34] Non-friable sandstone can be used to make grindstones for grinding grain, e.g., gritstone.

A type of pure quartz sandstone, orthoquartzite, with more of 90–95 percent of quartz, [35] has been proposed for nomination to the Global Heritage Stone Resource. [36] In some regions of Argentina, the orthoquartzite-stoned facade is one of the main features of the Mar del Plata style bungalows. [36]

See also


  1. 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 Boggs, Sam (2006). Principles of sedimentology and stratigraphy (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River, N.J.: Pearson Prentice Hall. pp. 119–135. ISBN   0131547283.
  2. Prothero & Schwab, Donald R. & Fred (1996). Sedimentary Geology. W. H. Freeman. p. 24. ISBN   0-7167-2726-9.
  3. Swanson, Susan K.; Bahr, Jean M.; Bradbury, Kenneth R.; Anderson, Kristin M. (February 2006). "Evidence for preferential flow through sandstone aquifers in Southern Wisconsin". Sedimentary Geology. 184 (3–4): 331–342. Bibcode:2006SedG..184..331S. doi:10.1016/j.sedgeo.2005.11.008.
  4. Bjørlykke, Knut; Jahren, Jens (2010). "Sandstones and Sandstone Reservoirs". Petroleum Geoscience: 113–140. doi:10.1007/978-3-642-02332-3_4. ISBN   978-3-642-02331-6.
  5. Essentials of Geology, 3rd Edition, Stephen Marshak, p 182
  6. Powell, Darryl. "Quartzite". Mineral Information Institute. Archived from the original on 2009-03-02. Retrieved 2009-09-09.
  7. 1 2 "A Basic Sedimentary Rock Classification", L.S. Fichter, Department of Geology/Environmental Science, James Madison University (JMU), Harrisonburg, Virginia, October 2000, JMU-sed-classif (accessed: March 2009): separates clastic, chemical & biochemical (organic).
  8. Leeder, M. R. (2011). Sedimentology and sedimentary basins : from turbulence to tectonics (2nd ed.). Chichester, West Sussex, UK: Wiley-Blackwell. pp. 3–28. ISBN   9781405177832.
  9. Blatt, Harvey; Tracy, Robert J. (1996). Petrology : igneous, sedimentary, and metamorphic (2nd ed.). New York: W.H. Freeman. pp. 241–242, 258–260. ISBN   0716724383.
  10. Blatt and Tracy 1996, pp. 220-227
  11. Blatt and Tracy 1996, pp. 265-280
  12. 1 2 3 4 5 Boggs 2006, pp. 147-154
  13. 1 2 Choquette, P.W.; Pray, L.C. (1970). "Geologic Nomenclature and Classification of Porosity in Sedimentary Carbonates". AAPG Bulletin. 54. doi:10.1306/5D25C98B-16C1-11D7-8645000102C1865D.
  14. Walker, Theodore R.; Waugh, Brian; Grone, Anthony J. (1 January 1978). "Diagenesis in first-cycle desert alluvium of Cenozoic age, southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico". GSA Bulletin. 89 (1): 19–32. Bibcode:1978GSAB...89...19W. doi:10.1130/0016-7606(1978)89<19:DIFDAO>2.0.CO;2.
  15. Boggs 2006, p. 148
  16. Stone, W. Naylor; Siever, Naylor (1996). "Quantifying compaction, pressure solution and quartz cementation in moderately-and deeply-buried quartzose sandstones from the Greater Green River Basin, Wyoming" . Retrieved 2 October 2020.Cite journal requires |journal= (help)
  17. Dorrik A. V. Stow (2005). Sedimentary Rocks in the Field: A Colour Guide. Manson Publishing. ISBN   978-1-874545-69-9 . Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  18. 1 2 Francis John Pettijohn; Paul Edwin Potter; Raymond Siever (1987). Sand and Sandstone. Springer. ISBN   978-0-387-96350-1 . Retrieved 11 May 2012.
  19. 1 2 Prothero, D. (2004). Sedimentary Geology. New York, NN: W.H. Freeman and Company
  20. Prothero, D. R. and Schwab, F., 1996, Sedimentary Geology, p. 460, ISBN   0-7167-2726-9
  21. Zárraga, Ramón; Alvarez-Gasca, Dolores E.; Cervantes, Jorge (1 September 2002). "Solvent effect on TEOS film formation in the sandstone consolidation process". Silicon Chemistry. 1 (5): 397–402. doi:10.1023/B:SILC.0000025602.64965.e7.
  22. 1 2 3 Jackson, J. (1997). Glossary of Geology. Alexandria, VA: American Geological Institute ISBN   3-540-27951-2
  23. Boggs 2006, pp. 130–131.
  24. Carozzi, A. (1993). Sedimentary petrography. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall ISBN   0-13-799438-9
  25. 1 2 Robert H. Dott (1964). "Wacke, greywacke and matrix; what approach to immature sandstone classification?". SEPM Journal of Sedimentary Research. 34 (3): 625–32. doi:10.1306/74D71109-2B21-11D7-8648000102C1865D.
  26. Applegate, Alex; Zedeño, Nieves (2001). "Site E-92-8: A Late Prehistoric C-Group Component at Nabta Playa". Holocene Settlement of the Egyptian Sahara: 529–533. doi:10.1007/978-1-4615-0653-9_19.
  27. Royden, Mike. "The Calderstones". Mike Royden. Archived from the original on 2008-07-25. Retrieved 2009-07-20.
  28. Bahn, Paul G. (1998). The Cambridge illustrated history of prehistoric art. Cambridge, U.K.: New York. p. 84. ISBN   978-0521454735.
  29. Smith, Kevin N.; Vellanoweth, René L.; Sholts, Sabrina B.; Wärmländer, Sebastian K.T.S. (August 2018). "Residue analysis, use-wear patterns, and replicative studies indicate that sandstone tools were used as reamers when producing shell fishhooks on San Nicolas Island, California". Journal of Archaeological Science: Reports. 20: 502–505. doi:10.1016/j.jasrep.2018.05.011.
  30. Saleh, Saleh A.; Helmi, Fatma M.; Kamal, Monir M.; E. El-Banna-a1, Abdel-Fattah (May 1992). "Study and consolidation of sandstone: Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt". Studies in Conservation. 37 (2): 93–104. doi:10.1179/sic.1992.37.2.93.
  31. Saleh, Saleh A.; Helmi, Fatma M.; Kamal, Monir M.; E. El-Banna-a1, Abdel-Fattah (May 1992). "Study and consolidation of sandstone: Temple of Karnak, Luxor, Egypt". Studies in Conservation. 37 (2): 93–104. doi:10.1179/sic.1992.37.2.93.
  32. Grissom, Carol A.; Aloiz, Emily M.; Vicenzi, Edward P.; Livingston, Richard A. (2020). "Seneca sandstone: a heritage stone from the USA". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 486 (1): 163–176. doi:10.1144/SP486.4.
  33. Edensor, T. & Drew, I. Building stone in the City of Manchester: St Ann's Church. Retrieved on 2012-05-11.
  34. Hannibal, Joseph T. (2020). "Berea sandstone: A heritage stone of international significance from Ohio, USA". Geological Society, London, Special Publications. 486 (1): 177–204. doi:10.1144/SP486-2019-33.
  35. "Definition of orthoquartzite – glossary". Retrieved 2015-12-13.
  36. 1 2 Cravero, Fernanda; et al. (8 July 2014). "'Piedra Mar del Plata': An Argentine orthoquartzite worthy of being considered as a 'Global Heritage Stone Resource'" (PDF). Geological Society, London. Archived from the original (PDF) on 9 April 2015. Retrieved 3 April 2015.


Further reading

Related Research Articles

Shale Fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock

Shale is a fine-grained, clastic sedimentary rock, formed from mud that is a mix of flakes of clay minerals and tiny fragments of other minerals, especially quartz and calcite. Shale is characterized by its tendency to split into thin layers (laminae) less than one centimeter in thickness. This property is called fissility. Shale is the most common sedimentary rock.

Sedimentary rock Rock formed by the deposition and subsequent cementation of material

Sedimentary rocks are types of rock that are formed by the accumulation or deposition of mineral or organic particles at Earth's surface, followed by cementation. Sedimentation is the collective name for processes that cause these particles to settle in place. The particles that form a sedimentary rock are called sediment, and may be composed of geological detritus (minerals) or biological detritus. The geological detritus originated from weathering and erosion of existing rocks, or from the solidification of molten lava blobs erupted by volcanoes. The geological detritus is transported to the place of deposition by water, wind, ice or mass movement, which are called agents of denudation. Biological detritus was formed by bodies and parts of dead aquatic organisms, as well as their fecal mass, suspended in water and slowly piling up on the floor of water bodies. Sedimentation may also occur as dissolved minerals precipitate from water solution.

Quartzite Hard, non-foliated metamorphic rock which was originally pure quartz sandstone

Quartzite is a hard, non-foliated metamorphic rock which was originally pure quartz sandstone. Sandstone is converted into quartzite through heating and pressure usually related to tectonic compression within orogenic belts. Pure quartzite is usually white to grey, though quartzites often occur in various shades of pink and red due to varying amounts of hematite. Other colors, such as yellow, green, blue and orange, are due to other minerals.


The lithology of a rock unit is a description of its physical characteristics visible at outcrop, in hand or core samples, or with low magnification microscopy. Physical characteristics include colour, texture, grain size, and composition. Lithology may refer to either a detailed description of these characteristics, or a summary of the gross physical character of a rock. Examples of lithologies in the second sense include sandstone, slate, basalt, or limestone.

Greywacke A hard, dark sandstone with poorly sorted angular grains in a compact, clay-fine matrix

Greywacke or graywacke is a variety of sandstone generally characterized by its hardness, dark color, and poorly sorted angular grains of quartz, feldspar, and small rock fragments or lithic fragments set in a compact, clay-fine matrix. It is a texturally immature sedimentary rock generally found in Paleozoic strata. The larger grains can be sand- to gravel-sized, and matrix materials generally constitute more than 15% of the rock by volume. The term "greywacke" can be confusing, since it can refer to either the immature aspect of the rock or its fine-grained (clay) component.

Arkose Type of sandstone containing at least 25% feldspar

Arkose is a detrital sedimentary rock, specifically a type of sandstone containing at least 25% feldspar. Arkosic sand is sand that is similarly rich in feldspar, and thus the potential precursor of arkose.

Quartz arenite

A quartz arenite or quartzarenite is a sandstone composed of greater than 90% detrital quartz, with limited amounts of other framework grains and matrix. It can have higher-than-average amounts of resistant grains, like chert and minerals in the ZTR index.

Rock cycle Transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous

The rock cycle is a basic concept in geology that describes transitions through geologic time among the three main rock types: sedimentary, metamorphic, and igneous. Each rock type is altered when it is forced out of its equilibrium conditions. For example, an igneous rock such as basalt may break down and dissolve when exposed to the atmosphere, or melt as it is subducted under a continent. Due to the driving forces of the rock cycle, plate tectonics and the water cycle, rocks do not remain in equilibrium and change as they encounter new environments. The rock cycle explains how the three rock types are related to each other, and how processes change from one type to another over time. This cyclical aspect makes rock change a geologic cycle and, on planets containing life, a biogeochemical cycle.

Rock microstructure includes the texture of a rock and the small-scale rock structures. The words texture and microstructure are interchangeable, with the latter preferred in modern geological literature. However, texture is still acceptable because it is a useful means of identifying the origin of rocks, how they formed, and their appearance.

The Folk classification, in geology, is a technical descriptive classification of sedimentary rocks devised by Robert L. Folk, an influential sedimentary petrologist and Professor Emeritus at the University of Texas.

Clastic rock Sedimentary rocks made of mineral or rock fragments

Clastic rocks are composed of fragments, or clasts, of pre-existing minerals and rock. A clast is a fragment of geological detritus, chunks and smaller grains of rock broken off other rocks by physical weathering. Geologists use the term clastic with reference to sedimentary rocks as well as to particles in sediment transport whether in suspension or as bed load, and in sediment deposits.

This glossary of geology is a list of definitions of terms and concepts relevant to geology, its sub-disciplines, and related fields. For other terms related to the Earth sciences, see Glossary of geography terms.

Gazzi-Dickinson method Point-counting technique used in geology

The Gazzi-Dickinson method is a point-counting technique used in geology to statistically measure the components of a sedimentary rock, chiefly sandstone. The main focus part of the technique is counting all sand-sized components as separate grains, regardless of what they are connected to. Gazzi-Dickinson point counting is used in the creation of ternary diagrams, such as QFL diagrams.

Lithic sandstone

Lithic sandstones, or lithic arenites, or litharenites, are sandstones with a significant (>5%) component of lithic fragments, though quartz and feldspar are usually present as well, along with some clayey matrix. Lithic sandstones can have a speckled or gray color, and are usually associated with one specific type of lithic fragment.

Geology of Cape Town Geological formations and their history in the vicinity of Cape Town

Cape Town lies at the south-western corner of the continent of Africa. It is bounded to the south and west by the Atlantic Ocean, and to the north and east by various other municipalities in the Western Cape province of South Africa.

Igneous rocks are found in Bukit Timah, Woodlands, and Pulau Ubin island. Granite makes up the bulk of the igneous rock. Gabbro is also found in the area and is found in an area called Little Guilin, named for its resemblance to Guilin in South China. This area is in Bukit Gombak. Sedimentary rocks are found on the western part of Singapore, which is mainly made of sandstone and mudstones. It also includes the southwestern area. Metamorphic rocks are found in the northeastern part of Singapore, and also on Pulau Tekong, off the east coast of Singapore. The rocks are mainly made up of quartzite, and also make up the Sajahat Formation.

Monte Muambe is volcanic caldera located south-east of Moatize in Tete Province of Mozambique

Jordan Formation

The Jordan Formation is a siliciclastic sedimentary rock unit identified in Illinois, Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa. Named for distinctive outcrops in the Minnesota River Valley near the town of Jordan, it extends throughout the Iowa Shelf and eastward over the Wisconsin Arch and Lincoln anticline into the Michigan Basin.

Catoctin Formation

The Catoctin Formation is a geologic formation that expands through Virginia, Maryland, and Pennsylvania. It dates back to the Precambrian and is closely associated with the Harpers Formation, Weverton Formation, and the Loudoun Formation. The Catoctin Formation lies over the a granite basement rock and below the Chilhowee Group making it only exposed on the outer parts of the Blue Ridge. The Catoctin Formation contains metabasalt, metarhyolite, and porphyritic rocks, columnar jointing, low-dipping primary joints, amygdules, sedimentary dikes, and flow breccias. Evidence for past volcanic activity includes columnar basalts and greenstone dikes.