Laterite as a building material
Known as Vettukallu in Kerala, Laterite is a residual ferruginous rock first discovered in the Malabar region of Kerala and Karnataka.
Because it gains in strength on exposure to sun and air, as well as its low cost, it was widely used as a construction material in this part of India. One of the advantages is that it is soft when it is quarried and only hardens on exposure.
Popular for its earthy, rustic appeal, skilled workmanship in the Malabar region also enables a shine on these stones. Low costs compared to bricks and a negligible loss of material, make it a preferred choice as a building material in this region. Because of a larger surface area, cement costs also come down substantially.
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Transportation costs are high, which it is why it is normally region specific and used where it can be sourced locally with relative ease. The stone has a deep red colour because of the iron oxide composition.
It requires skilled workmanship to handle this material and sourcing is limited to license holders in a region. Technological advances have enabled machine cutting which gives a smoother product.
The rising construction costs and drive towards locally available products have fueled a demand for this product in recent years.
While laterite is founds in various parts of India, the regions where it is used extensively as a building material are Kerala, Goa. Karnataka and Andhra Pradesh.