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When it comes to construction, rock has been used for thousands of years!1
Just look around, and you’ll see modern-day examples of history in the making. From old stone walls to bridges and dams, rock structures are all around us. Something else you might notice is the variation in rock colors.
If you take a trip to arid areas — like where Natina is headquartered in Arizona — you don’t even need to be a geologist to see the varying red-to-black rocks.
But what you’re actually looking at is a coating on the rocks called desert varnish.2
It’s sort of like Mother Nature’s way of doing a makeover!
But specifically, desert varnish is a natural coating that’s made up of clay minerals, manganese, and/or iron oxides and hydroxides, as well as a few other particles, such as sand grains and trace elements.
The real VIPs, aka the distinctive elements, of the varnish are manganese (Mn) and iron (Fe). They work together to give this mineral makeup its distinctive look, but that’s not all it takes.2
It’s not just the mineral makeup of the rocks that gives them the desert varnish.
Bacteria take manganese from the environment, oxidize it and cement it onto rock surfaces, along with clay and other particles. This creates a gorgeous and unique coating.
The environmental sources for desert varnish components come from outside of the rock, most likely from atmospheric dust and surface runoff. In areas where water cascades over cliffs, the rocks feature stunning streaks of black varnish.2
So, the next time you’re admiring the beauty of desert varnish, remember that it’s all thanks to the expert skills of these amazing bacteria and a little help from Mother Nature herself.
Interestingly, it’s by looking at rocks like these that scientists have calculated the age of our planet to be approximately 4.5 billion years old.3
That’s plenty of time for desert varnish to form on rocks, but what if you need it to happen a bit quicker? We have a “solution” for that! But first, we want to cover more about patina — whether it be on rocks or metal.
Patina, such as desert varnish, is often associated with time-tested structures, but it can also be a desirable finish for new construction. That’s especially true if your project needs to blend into an existing area, such as along a river bank where part of it has eroded, but the other parts haven’t.
When erosion happens, there are a few ways crews mitigate the problem:
— AROUND ROADWAYS: Say there’s a landslide. What happens next is a cut slope is typically required for roadway placement or widening in areas that traverse a hillside. A cut slope is the vertical cut adjacent to the road, where earth is removed to accommodate the road.4
— AROUND WATER: When erosion occurs on shorelines, the first step is often to build retaining walls, but they offer no ecological benefits, are a barrier to wildlife and will require replacement down the road. Other approaches are re-sloping the land, adding a rock toe — a low layer of rocks along the shore — or adding irregular-shaped rocks called riprap.5
— FOR MULTIPLE AREAS: Geotextiles are porous fabrics used for erosion and sediment control purposes in sediment traps and basins, post-construction stormwater control measures and stone-lined stormwater conveyances — including spillways.6
When adding in structural components like these, it can be an eyesore. But it doesn’t have to be.
For instance, when building a rock toe to prevent shoreline erosion, a natural patina on the rocks can add an attractive touch, while also being environmentally friendly.
Plus, if there are other construction elements, such as a road guardrail or handrail next to the water, Natina can add patina to that, too!
So, let’s talk about patina on various metals because often, construction projects contain multiple building materials.
Copper statues or roofs that look a little green and stand out in a good way are due to the patina that forms as copper ages gracefully (like we all want to)!
It happens because when copper is exposed to oxygen and weathering, it creates a chemical reaction that naturally encourages a blueish, greenish, brownish film. One of the most famous examples of copper experiencing patina is the Statue of Liberty.7
Have you ever looked at a piece of metal and wondered if its discoloration was rust, tarnish or just a natural patina like on Lady Liberty?
Restorer for O’Sullivan Antiques in New York City, Eileen Fulton, explains that patina is just a color change, and it doesn’t flake off from metals like copper. Rust, on the other hand, is red and is typically found only on iron, while tarnish is a thin layer that appears black or gray and affects many different metals, such as antique silver spoons.8
Now you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at when you see a piece of metal. And when it comes to rock, you’ll see similar colorations, as we’ve previously discussed.
We’ve covered how desert varnish can take thousands of years to develop. But, who has that kind of time? Luckily, Natina’s color technology can speed up this process and recreate the natural patina of rock without harming the underlying surface.
Our Natina Rock Solution can save the day in just a matter of weeks! That’s a far faster timeline than it takes for rocks to naturally age and develop a desert varnish.
Choose Natina for your next construction project and we’ll work our magic, just like we’ve done on our previous projects! Check out our work, here. We can color rock, steel and concrete, making us your one-stop-shop for beautifying your total project.
Natina’s patented, reactive color treatment is defined by the dedication and hard work of our people. Our team ensures the proper application and consults with you on your project.Request a quote
We specified the Natina Steel Solution to treat several elements that we designed in and around the John Muir Gravesite. We felt that Natina’s environmentally-safe, all-natural solution for treating galvanized steel was fitting for the final resting place of one of the world’s most preeminent naturalists and ecological advocates.
John Northmore Roberts & Associates
We used Natina Rock Solution to help visually mitigate some scarring on a small rock bench in the Yosemite National Park. I was very pleased with the results of the solution and found it to be appropriate and beneficial for this type of use.
Yosemite National Park
Natina is the perfect treatment for many landscape projects. When metalwork and concrete are a part of our exterior landscape designs, Natina offers an ideal way to create a natural look for introduced elements. Our office has specified Natina on metal, concrete, and even boulders to achieve the right color for natural landscapes. We’ve used Natina on items that need to function within the urban landscape as barriers and to direct pedestrian movement. The clients also like the no to low maintenance or need for sealers on the finished product. Natina reps are so helpful in ensuring that the details are addressed for the perfect end result!
Waibel & Associates
Thurston County used Natina’s Reactive Color Treatment on our most recent installation of guardrail along Waddell Creek Road and Gate Road. Natina’s final finish provided an aesthetic shade of brown to blend into the beautiful surrounding environment. This natural look was a must-have along Thurston County’s Bountiful Byway.
Thurston County Public Works
For our project in the Shoshone National Forest, there is a significant color reaction between the Natina Concrete Solution and the shotcrete wall (along with soil-nailing). In just over 2 weeks, the color treatment progress was extremely successful in mitigating the brighter gray surface. In our opinion, it better blends into the slope than the adjacent monotone single color block retaining wall. Natina Solutions plus material costs and two USFS salary days was very cost-effective and saved us time and money.
U.S. Forest Service
Natina has a wonderful brown hue spectrum for our concrete project’s desert palette. These solutions help to blend bland gray concrete, which is an eyesore, into our desert landscape for a more natural aesthetic. Being environmentally friendly is another reason Natina Solutions are chosen over other products that are calked full of chemicals, VOC’s, and other environmentally unfriendly ingredients. Natina is inexpensive compared to integral colored concrete, helps us get the perfect color we want every time, and we know it will save the project money.
MRWM Landscape Architects
I have worked with Natina for years on many guardrail projects throughout Colorado. My team and I have recommended their steel color because of its natural and lasting finish. Natina’s environmental stain is a wonderful color alternative to blend in with Colorado’s beautiful mountains. Natina is easy to work with and we have enjoyed our long relationship.
On our recent multi-modal improvement project in Northern Nevada, we wanted to ensure the metal features blended into the surrounding high desert landscape. Natina was an ideal color option to change the shiny metal pedestrian railings and guard rails into a natural, rustic brown. I recommend Natina Steel Solution for projects that need an aesthetic look or long-lasting color for galvanized metals.
As a guardrail installer, we see miles and miles of guardrail and have worked with various kinds of companies. Gonzales Construction has worked with Natina on many transportation projects over the years. Since Natina on guardrail requires no touch-ups, and the finish lasts, we recommend Natina Steel Solution to other clients over paint, weathering steel and powder coating. We have only had good experiences with them and top-notch customer service. We will continue to use Natina for all of our galvanized surface needs.
Gonzales Construction Company, Inc.
Natina was exactly what we needed at the Phoenix Zoo. At our Visayan warty pig habitat, we were looking for a safe product for this species, plus one that would withstand the harsh climate in Arizona, as well as require little upkeep. Natina was approved by our zoo veterinarians for the enclosure and agreed upon by our operations team for the low maintenance factor. The brown finish blended in well for this exhibit and we are happy with the results.
Phoenix Zoo, Arizona Center for Nature Conservation
We have been using Natina for almost 10 years. They have an extraordinary team supporting us with any questions, orders and logistics. The Natina Rock Solution is environmentally-safe, long-lasting and works great on naturalizing and blending the color into its surroundings. The earthy browns created with Natina help us and our clients' projects look beautiful. We look forward to continuing our exceptional relationship with Natina!
Instant Jungle Landscape
We have used Natina Steel Solutions on several of our cell tower sites to help blend them into the surrounding terrain. We are very impressed with the rustic, natural color. Our clients really appreciate the impact Natina has on the project aesthetics. Natina is a great company to work with, has always met all construction deadlines and is very prompt in getting back to us.
High Desert Communications