Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized mineral particles or rock fragments. It is a common rock type that is found all around the world, often forming in areas where there is a lot of sand accumulation, such as in deserts, riverbeds, or coastal areas.

The mineral composition of sandstone can vary widely, but common minerals include quartz, feldspar, mica, and clay minerals. The color of sandstone can also vary widely depending on the mineral composition and impurities, ranging from white or light gray to red, brown, or even green.

Sandstone is typically a well-cemented rock, meaning that the sand grains are held together by some type of mineral cement, such as silica, calcium carbonate, or iron oxide. The degree of cementation can vary, and this can affect the strength and durability of the rock. Sandstone can be porous, allowing it to hold and transmit fluids, such as water or oil, and this property makes it an important reservoir rock in the petroleum industry.

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

Texture: Clastic (only noticeable with a microscope).

Grain size: 0.06 – 2mm; clasts visible to the naked eye, often identifiable.

Hardness: Variable, soft to hard, dependent on clast and cement composition.

Colour: Variable through grey, yellow, red to white reflecting the variation in mineral content and cement.

Clasts: Dominantly quartz and feldspar ( orthoclase, plagioclase) with lithic clasts and varying minor amounts of other minerals.

Other features: Gritty to touch (like sandpaper).

Minerals: Quartz or feldspar (both silicates)

Sandstone Composition

Chemical Composition of sandstone usually quartz framework grains are the dominant mineral in clastic sedimentary rocks. Because of they have exceptional physical properties such as hardness and chemical stability.Physcial properties of these quartz grains survive multiple recycling events and also allowing the grains to display some degree of rounding. Quartz grains evolve from plutonic rock, which are felsic in origin and also from older sandstones that have been recycled. Second most abundant mineral is feldspathic framework grains.

Feldspar can be seperate into two subdibision. They are alkali feldspars and plagioclase feldspars. Feldspars minerals is distinguished under a petrographic microscope.

Alkali feldspar is a group of minerals in which the chemical composition of the mineral can range from KAlSi3O8 to NaAlSi3O8, this represents a complete solid solution.

Plagioclase feldspar is a complex group of solid solution minerals that range in composition from NaAlSi3O8 to CaAl2Si2O8.

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 millimetre. This type of grain would be a main component of a lithic sandstone.

Lithic framework grains are pieces of ancient source rock that have yet to weather away to individual mineral grains, called lithic fragments or clasts. Lithic fragments can be any fine-grained or coarse-grained igneous, metamorphic, or sedimentary rock, although the most common lithic fragments found in sedimentary rocks are clasts of volcanic rocks.

Accessory minerals are small percentage of the grain in a sandstone.Common accessory minerals include micas (muscovite and biotite), olivine, pyroxene, and corundum. Many of these accessory grains are more density to silicates minerals in the rocks. These heavy minerals moere durability to weathering and can be used as an indicator of sandstone maturity through the ZTR index.

Common heavy minerals include zircon, tourmaline, rutile (hence ZTR), garnet, magnetite, or other dense, resistant minerals derived from the source rock.


Matrix is present within fractured pore space between the framework grains. This pore space can be seperate into the two class. They are Arenites and Wackes. Arenites are texturally clean sandstones that are free of or have very little matrix. Wackes are texturally dirty sandstones that have a significant amount of matrix.


Cement is binds the siliciclastic framework grains together. Cement is a secondary deposition minerals after during burial of sandstone.These cementing materials may be either silicate minerals or non-silicate minerals, such as calcite. Silica cement can consist of either quartz or opal minerals. Calcite cement is the most common carbonate cement. Calcite cement is an assortment of smaller calcite crystals. Other minerals that act as cements include: hematite, limonite, feldspars, anhydrite, gypsum, barite, clay minerals, and zeolite minerals.

Types of Sandstone

Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed of sand-sized grains of mineral, rock, or organic material. The composition, texture, and color of sandstone can vary widely, leading to the classification of different types of sandstone based on these characteristics. Here are some common types of sandstone:

  1. Quartz Sandstone: This type of sandstone is primarily composed of quartz grains. It is often white, gray, or light-colored due to the dominance of quartz.
  2. Arkose: Arkose is a type of sandstone that contains a significant amount of feldspar, in addition to quartz and other minerals. The presence of feldspar gives arkose a pink or reddish color.
  3. Greywacke: Greywacke is a type of sandstone that contains a mix of quartz, feldspar, and rock fragments. It often has a dark gray or greenish color.
  4. Feldspathic Sandstone: As the name suggests, this sandstone contains a high percentage of feldspar, giving it a distinctive appearance. The color can range from light to dark, depending on the mineral composition.
  5. Arenite: Arenite is a term used for sandstone with a high percentage of quartz grains. It is often well-sorted, meaning that the grain sizes are fairly uniform.
  6. Wacke: Wacke is a type of sandstone that contains a mix of quartz, feldspar, and clay minerals. It is often poorly sorted, with a range of grain sizes.
  7. Cross-Bedded Sandstone: Cross-bedding is a sedimentary structure where the layers of sediment are inclined to the horizontal bedding plane. Cross-bedded sandstone often forms in environments with flowing water, such as rivers or dunes.
  8. Oil Sandstone: Some sandstones are important reservoir rocks for oil and natural gas. They have the porosity and permeability necessary for the storage and flow of hydrocarbons.
  9. Red Sandstone: Sandstone can take on a reddish hue due to the presence of iron oxide (rust). The color can range from light pink to deep red.
  10. Coconino Sandstone: This is a well-known type of sandstone found in the United States, particularly in the Grand Canyon. It is often characterized by its cross-bedding and is thought to have formed in ancient sand dune environments.

These types of sandstone can vary in hardness, porosity, and other physical properties, making them suitable for different applications, including construction, architecture, and art.

Depositional environments and sediment sources for sandstone formation

Sandstone can form in a variety of depositional environments, depending on the sediment source and transport mechanisms involved. Some common environments where sandstone is deposited include:

  1. Fluvial: Sandstone deposited in rivers or streams is called fluvial sandstone. These rocks typically have a well-sorted texture and contain quartz as the dominant mineral. The sand grains are usually rounded or subrounded, and the sediment may also contain silt and clay. Fluvial sandstone can be further classified based on the size and shape of the sediment grains, and the degree of sorting and rounding.
  2. Aeolian: Sandstone formed from wind-blown sediments is called aeolian sandstone. These rocks are typically well-sorted, with rounded or angular grains of quartz and other minerals. The sediments are often cross-bedded, reflecting the direction of wind transport. Aeolian sandstone may also contain some silt and clay, but typically less than fluvial sandstone.
  3. Marine: Sandstone deposited in marine environments is called marine sandstone. These rocks can form in a variety of settings, including beaches, shallow marine environments, and deep-sea environments. Marine sandstone is typically well-sorted and composed of quartz and other minerals, including feldspar and lithic fragments. The sediments may also contain shells and other marine fossils, and may exhibit cross-bedding and other sedimentary structures.
  4. Deltaic: Sandstone formed in deltaic environments is called deltaic sandstone. These rocks typically have a poorly sorted texture and contain a mix of sediment grain sizes, including sand, silt, and clay. The sand grains may be rounded or angular, and may contain a variety of minerals, including quartz, feldspar, and lithic fragments. Deltaic sandstone may also exhibit cross-bedding and other sedimentary structures.
  5. Other environments: Sandstone can also form in other environments, such as alluvial fans, deserts, and glacial settings. These rocks may have unique characteristics depending on the sediment source and transport mechanisms involved.

Sandstone Formation

Formation of the sandstones are cemented grains that may either be fragments of a pre-existing rock or be mono-minerallic crystals. The cements binding these grains together are typically calcite, clays, and silica. Grain sizes in sands are defined (in geology) within the range of 0.0625 mm to 2 mm (0.0025–0.08 inches). Clays and sediments with smaller grain sizes not visible with the naked eye, including siltstones and shales, are typically called argillaceous sediments; rocks with larger grain sizes, including breccias and conglomerates, are termed rudaceous sediments. The most common cementing materials are silica and calcium carbonate, which are often derived either from dissolution or from alteration of the sand after it was buried. Colors will usually be tan or yellow (from a blend of the clear quartz with the dark amber feldspar content of the sand). The environment where it is deposited is crucial in determining the characteristics of the resulting sandstone, which, in finer detail, include its grain size, sorting, and composition and, in more general detail, include the rock geometry and sedimentary structures. Principal environments of deposition may be split between terrestrial and marine, as illustrated by the following broad groupings:

Terrestrial environments

  • Rivers (levees, point bars, channel sands)
  • Alluvial fans
  • Glacial outwash
  • Lakes
  • Deserts (sand dunes and ergs)

Marine environments

  • Deltas
  • Beach and shoreface sands
  • Tidal flats
  • Offshore bars and sand waves
  • Storm deposits (tempestites)
  • Turbidites (submarine channels and fans)

Petrographic analysis techniques for sandstone

Petrographic analysis techniques are used to study the mineralogy, texture, and fabric of sandstone samples. Some of the commonly used techniques for petrographic analysis of sandstone include:

  1. Thin-section analysis: This involves cutting a thin slice of the sandstone sample and placing it on a glass slide for microscopic examination. Thin-section analysis can provide information on grain size, sorting, shape, mineralogy, and sedimentary structures.
  2. X-ray diffraction (XRD): XRD is a technique that is used to identify the mineralogical composition of sandstone samples. The method involves bombarding a sample with X-rays, which are then diffracted by the minerals present in the sample. The diffraction pattern can be used to identify the minerals present in the sample.
  3. Scanning electron microscopy (SEM): SEM is a technique used to obtain high-resolution images of the surface of sandstone samples. The method involves scanning the sample with a beam of electrons, which interact with the surface of the sample and produce an image. SEM can be used to examine the surface texture of sandstone samples and the shape and size of individual grains.
  4. Cathodoluminescence (CL): CL is a technique that is used to study the luminescence properties of minerals in sandstone samples. The method involves bombarding the sample with electrons, which excite the minerals present in the sample and cause them to emit light. CL can be used to identify the mineralogy of sandstone samples and to study the diagenetic history of the rocks.
  5. Grain size analysis: This involves sieving sandstone samples into different size fractions and measuring the percentage of each fraction. Grain size analysis can provide information on the texture and sorting of the sandstone sample.
  6. Chemical analysis: Chemical analysis of sandstone samples can provide information on the elemental composition of the rocks. X-ray fluorescence (XRF) is a common technique used for chemical analysis of sandstone samples.

These petrographic analysis techniques are important for understanding the sedimentary history and depositional environment of sandstone samples, as well as for identifying their potential use as reservoir rocks in the petroleum industry.

Uses and Applications

Sandstone has been used in construction and architecture for thousands of years due to its durability, strength, and aesthetic appeal. Some common uses of sandstone include:

  1. Building facades and cladding: Sandstone is often used for building facades and cladding because of its natural beauty and durability. It is commonly used for government buildings, museums, and other important structures.
  2. Paving and flooring: Sandstone is also used for paving and flooring because of its strength and slip-resistant qualities. It is commonly used for walkways, patios, and pool surrounds.
  3. Monument and sculpture: Many historic monuments and sculptures have been made from sandstone because of its ability to be carved and shaped into intricate designs.
  4. Gravel and aggregate: Crushed sandstone is often used as gravel and aggregate in construction projects such as road building and concrete production.
  5. Oil and gas exploration: Sandstone is an important reservoir rock for oil and gas exploration, and its porosity and permeability properties are critical for hydrocarbon recovery.

Overall, sandstone has a wide range of applications in construction, architecture, and industry, and its durability and natural beauty make it a highly sought-after building material.

Geological formations and locations where sandstone is commonly found

Sandstone can be found all over the world, as it is a common sedimentary rock that forms from the accumulation and cementation of sand-sized grains. Sandstone deposits can be found in a variety of settings, including river and stream beds, beaches, deserts, and even underwater. Some notable sandstone formations include the Navajo Sandstone in the southwestern United States, the Red Rock Canyon formations in Australia, and the sandstone cliffs in Petra, Jordan. In addition, many building and monument stones are made from sandstone, and it is a popular material for construction and landscaping projects.

Sandstone can be found in a variety of geological formations and locations around the world, including:

  1. The Colorado Plateau in the southwestern United States, where it forms spectacular rock formations such as the Grand Canyon and Zion National Park.
  2. The Appalachian Mountains in the eastern United States, where it occurs in several different formations.
  3. The Sahara Desert in Africa, where it forms vast sand dunes and other features.
  4. The Red Rock Canyon in Nevada, USA, where it forms stunning red sandstone cliffs and rock formations.
  5. The Scottish Highlands, where it forms rugged mountain landscapes.
  6. The Great Australian Bight in Australia, where it forms sea cliffs and coastal formations.
  7. The Karoo Basin in South Africa, where it forms thick sedimentary sequences.
  8. The Gobi Desert in Asia, where it forms vast sand dunes and other features.
  9. The Jurassic Coast in southern England, where it forms striking coastal formations and cliffs.
  10. The Dolomites in northern Italy, where it forms beautiful mountain landscapes and rock formations.

These are just a few examples, as sandstone can be found in many other locations around the world as well.

Uses and applications of sandstone in construction, architecture, and other industries

Sandstone has been used in construction and architecture for thousands of years. Its durability, availability, and attractive appearance make it a popular choice for a variety of applications. Some common uses and applications of sandstone include:

  1. Building materials: Sandstone has been used as a building material for centuries due to its strength, durability, and resistance to weathering. It is used in the construction of walls, floors, stairs, pillars, and other structural elements.
  2. Landscaping: Sandstone is often used in landscaping for pathways, patios, retaining walls, and other outdoor features. Its natural color and texture make it a popular choice for garden designs.
  3. Sculpture and art: Sandstone is a popular material for sculpture and art due to its workability and aesthetic qualities. Many ancient and modern sculptures have been made from sandstone.
  4. Industrial uses: Sandstone is used in the production of glass, ceramics, and other industrial products. It is also used as a raw material in the production of cement and concrete.
  5. Historical preservation: Sandstone is often used in the restoration of historical buildings and monuments due to its availability and compatibility with traditional building materials.

Overall, sandstone’s versatility, durability, and aesthetic qualities make it a valuable material for a wide range of applications in construction, architecture, and other industries.

Summary key points

Here are some key points about sandstone:

  • Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized mineral particles or rock fragments.
  • Sandstone can be classified based on composition (e.g. quartz arenite, arkose, lithic sandstone) and texture (e.g. well-sorted, poorly sorted, conglomeratic).
  • Sandstone is commonly formed in a variety of depositional environments, including fluvial, aeolian, marine, and deltaic.
  • Petrographic analysis techniques can be used to determine the mineral composition and texture of sandstone.
  • Sandstone has a wide range of uses and applications, including in construction, architecture, and the petroleum industry.
  • Some common geological formations where sandstone is found include the Colorado Plateau, the Appalachian Mountains, and the Western Interior Seaway in North America, as well as the Gobi Desert in Asia and the Simpson Desert in Australia.