Given that you really don't want to drop stone paving on your foot, it seems odd that it can be so fragile. But there it is. Before paving slabs are laid safely next to each other, their edges are a little vulnerable to chipping and damage. Our challenge is therefore to reduce the chances of stone becoming chipped as much as possible and, like any other challenge, it’s a great opportunity for some innovation and creative problem solving.
In our Bespoke Stone Centre, we've evolved our packing methods considerably since we began. It seems a lifetime ago that we used to stack slabs or step treads directly on top of each other and protect with a swathe of cling wrap. Now, there are several methods that we use to protect the stone. For example, the ends of long step treads are particularly vulnerable to damage when they are overhanging the edges of a pallet, so now we use timber frames to support the full length of the stone. Simple but very effective!
Some time ago we learned the best approach to keeping paving slabs and bespoke items in excellent condition is to use foam, and not just any old foam; use the wrong product and it stains the paving. Depending on the size of the items, we use either small spacers or whole sheets laid between the slabs. This keeps the slabs apart and makes them easier to separate and lift at the other end. The only exception to this is when we pack fixed-width, random-length paving, which we find remains more stable if packed without spacers.
Once the stone is stacked, we add tension banding straps and wrap the whole in heat shrink. Some might accuse us taking too much of a belt-and-braces approach, but over the years we've substantially reduced the number of jobs where damage is sustained en route to the site. This means that customers are happy and we're happy.
Taking pains like these result in no small outlay. Heat shrink equipment is surprisingly expensive, and the number of spacers we get through has to be seen to to be believed, but we've reached the stage where we've got packing down to as fine an art as possible.
And heat shrink has another advantage: a nice smooth surface on which to stick labels securely. Now all our stone paving comes with our sticker on the front, so you can immediately see which stone is ours after you've unloaded. It looks good, too.