3 Reasons to Build with Flint - a guide to knapping flint

Flint is a building material that has been used since the late Roman times, especially in the South and South-East of England where other building materials were unavailable; it was extremely difficult to transport limestone from the Peak District or the Cotswolds. In the 15th and 16th centuries, different types of flint work such as knapping flint, unknapped, chalk and field flint were experimented with to create different architectural effects. The effects of these experiments can still be seen today at the Holy Trinity Church in Suffolk and the Norwich Cathedral, as well as many others. Read on to discover three reasons why flint is a great building material to use on heritage and more modern buildings.

  1. Minimal Environmental Impact
    First of all, flint is a natural material, it’s a sedimentary rock formed gradually by the deposition of materials which compact over time. As it’s a natural building material, its environmental impact is very low; it does not need to be manufactured using intensive machinery or treated with strong chemicals. What’s more, after its use, it can be reused again in another construction project. Unknapped flint, for example, might be shaped to form knapping flint, for a refreshed and smooth appearance.
  2. Durability
    Flint is an incredibly resilient building material that can survive for thousands of years, as evidenced by the Roman Fort of Burgh Castle in Norfolk. It is also resistant to scratching and other forms of surface damage that softer stones can be prone to, weathering in particular. In fact, it’s often said that flint will both reflect and outlive any civilisation that uses it; the craftsmanship of the builder can often be seen through the flint work itself, such as whether the builder was right or left-handed.
  3. Decoration
    It’s an attractive looking stone and can be arranged in different ways to create a more decorative appearance on building exteriors and walls. Knapping flint is one style of flint work in which the flint is shaped by a hard hammer leaving the lithic core, an attractive flat piece of flint, often black in colour. Field flint, however, is one of the most common types of flint and it can be laid either randomly or coursed. It is formed through farming processes; the annual ploughing of the land combined with natural erosion brings the flint to the surface. It can then be knapped or left unknapped to suit individual buildings and requirements.

Ernest Barnes has an extensive knowledge of both historic and present day flint work with a large portfolio of flint clients including historic priory walls and smaller flint repairs.