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1. Q. IS NATURAL STONE A GOOD CHOICE FOR HOME USE?

A. YES. Natural stone is a terrific (not to mention beautiful) material to use in all areas of your home. Knowing the different types of stone, their finishes and applications will help you to make an informed decision on which stone is the best for your project.

2. Q. CAN YOU EXPLAIN THE DIFFERENT FINISHES FOR STONE?

A. There are many finishes and options available. Here are the most widely used:

  • Polished — A high gloss surface.
  • Honed — Smooth with squared edges and without a polished surface.
  • Tumbled — Lightly tumbled to achieve rounded edges and a surface that is not as smooth as honed.
  • Antique Tumbled — Medium tumble edges and surface to achieve a slight rustic look.
  • Cobbled or Distressed — Heavily tumbled edges and surface to achieve an aged or ancient look.
  • Brushed — Acid washed and wire brushed for a smooth textured surface.
  • Flamed — Blow torched for a rough textured surface.

3. Q. DOESN’T STONE STAIN? I DON’T WANT STAINS!

A. YES. All natural stone can stain and etch (a dull spot in a polished or honed surface), including GRANITES. Sealers DO NOT prevent staining as they are a moisture barrier only, yet they will help to give you a small amount of time to wipe up spills. It is nearly impossible to prevent staining or etching, but serious stains can be almost completely removed and any etching can be resurfaced if either is truly bothersome to you. To help keep a perspective on choosing to use natural stone, remember the following:

1. For centuries, many European countries have used natural stone from floor to ceiling, inside and out. The stone becomes stained, cracked, pitted…and that is why we love it! These characteristics only make it that much more beautiful. (Only we Americans get uptight about such things!)
2. Because stone is quarried from the earth and not “man” made, it is improbable to ever find two exact matching tiles or matching slabs for that matter. One slab may even look different from each end of itself. That is also the beauty because each piece is different, but when pieces are put together as a whole it is a masterpiece! (Be sure to purchase enough to complete your project as you may not be able to get more from the same lot.)
3. Stone is timeless. It does not get dated like the 70’s Avocado Green and Harvest Gold décor did.
4. Stone will last longer than any of us will. There are centuries old castles, made of 100% stone and still standing today!
5. It is a natural resource that will never run out.
6. The more it is used, the faster a “Patina” (light sheen on the surface) will develop. The “Patina” will also aid to prevent staining to a lesser degree.

4. Q. WHAT IS THE BEST STONE TO USE IN MY HOME?A. It is really a matter of choice and the look you want to achieve. Ask yourself the following questions when making your decision: Is it beautiful to me? Do I love it? Could I live with it for years? The best advice that I can ever give to anyone choosing stone is: Go with what you are drawn to from the beginning. First, because you will only spend a lot of time and become confused when laboring over the “right” decision by looking at many different stones and colors; secondly, you will probably not be happy with your selection if you have to settle on something else; and finally, you will more than likely go back to what you liked the first time. Reviewing the following most used stone types will help when you are ready to make your choice.

  • GRANITES — Granites usually have a “spattered” or “swirled” grain and can contain many colors (minerals). Generally, granites have a polished finished and have a “busy” look, but to keep up with current trends, more manufacturers are producing honed (smooth & unpolished) and flamed (rough textured) surfaces. Granites may be purchased in slab and dimensional tile form and can be used in almost any application. It has become ever popular as it is being used frequently in newly built tract housing, apartment/condominium complexes and commercial buildings. Granites are imported from many countries and have just as many colors and sizes to choose from. A note in using polished granite is to know that it can be slippery to walk on until a patina builds on it. As with any other commodity, stone is also graded for quality standards. Be wary if it is extremely inexpensive…(less than $7.00 per square foot unless you are buying a large quantity.) The price ranges in granites can be anywhere in between $8.00 to $90.00 per square foot, depending on the color, rarity and where the stone comes from. The “blue” stones, containing minerals/gems such as sodalite are usually in the higher priced ranges.
  • LIMESTONES – There are many types of limestone available and vary to many degrees, depending upon where it comes from. Unpopular to belief, limestone is also a perfectly suitable stone to use in all areas of your home. Most limestones have softer earth tone colors; may contain a “swirl” veining movement throughout; can contain fossils; or may have a light speckled grain. Limestones, just like granite or any other natural stone can stain, etch or get scratched, but again, you should not use natural stone if this will bother you. Limestone also is widely available in dimensional tile and slab form. This stone is used most frequently in higher-end homes, architectural designs and commercial applications as it is easy to work with, the colors are muted compared to granites, it is available in as many finishes and textures as granite and it is still relatively new to the market. It is still considered to be a “custom” choice, as it has not reached the overuse level of granite. Some limestones from countries such as France and Portugal can be somewhat porous but are perfect for flooring, backsplashes, fireplace surrounds and outdoor uses. Limestone from countries such as the US and Israel (Jerusalem Stone) are generally heavier and usually as dense as granite, which makes it suitable for almost every application.
  • SLATES – Slate used to be used mainly for chalkboard, billiard tables, science lab areas and roof tiles. However, in recent years it has become more popular for residential use in most applications, with the exception of fabricated counter tops. Slate tiles are generally rough in surface texture, with the exception of the tumbled version. Most slates are available in a wide variety of sizes in dimensional tiles; a few in slab form and most can be gotten in crates of random pieces like flagstone. It is a perfect stone for water areas such as showers & spas, patio/driveway areas, pool surrounds and roofing applications. Most slates contain a huge variation of color, even within the same lot and some will even look to have been stained from spills of red wine, which is not the case. This is caused from earth minerals such as iron and only adds to the beauty of the stone. Slate holds onto heat well, which is another reason besides being fire proof; it is widely used as roofing material. (Use light colors in outdoor areas where you may be walking barefoot!) Since slates have a softer property, be aware that it can shale off the surface more easily. This will not harm it per se, but may cause you concern if you are not aware that it happens. One of the difficulties of slate is that it is varied in thickness. Because of the shale properties, it is very difficult to cut evenly. Generally, manufacturers will cut them with a “gauged” thickness or “sawn back” treatment, leaving one side smoother. Because of the varied thickness between each piece of tile, specific sized installations may be more of a challenge, so expect your installer costs to be a bit higher. Slate itself is generally a less costlier stone. Expect anywhere from $4.00 – $8.00 per square foot, dependent upon the grade and country of origin. Again, beware of any extremely inexpensive prices and be sure to check the quality of the slate to be sure that it has not been filled with dyes. Test by holding a piece under running water for a few minutes and also by putting a few tablespoons of vinegar or lemon juice on it and wiping off. If any color comes off, return it immediately! Just a note: I only recommend using any acidic solution on stone in this instance for testing purposes only.
  • MARBLE – Most people are familiar with marble in many uses. From Greek statues to Roman baths, marble has been used for centuries in just about every possible application, both interior and exterior. Marble has the same general properties of limestone and can stain, etch or scratch, but it only becomes more beautiful over time and use. It is readily available in just about every color, size, finish and texture known to man. Most marbles have a veining of a mineral throughout them and are generally thought to be from Italy, but it in actuality it is quarried from all over the world. Tumbled marble has become extremely popular in the United States in the last few years for backsplash, flooring and shower areas. Prices range from $6.00 – $30.00 per square foot, again dependent upon the rarity, color and country of origin. A couple of drawbacks to marble to be aware of is: 1. Green marbles containing serpentine need to be installed in water areas with specific setting guidelines that your installer should know of as water can warp and break apart green marbles; 2. Polished marble can be slippery to walk upon until a patina has built up on the surface.
  • TRAVERTINE – Travertine is marble, except it is filled with “holes.” To understand what causes the holes, think of it this way…wherever a river or stream was prior to the marble being quarried is where you will find travertine. Because of the holes, people can be scared off because travertine is generally thought to be more porous and not suitable for residential use. This is not the case, as all of those holes become filled in with grout during installation, giving it a very unique look. The same travertine can be used in two separate areas but appear another way just by using two different grout colors! Travertine can be purchased with the holes pre-filled, but in my experience with it, I don’t recommend it. In general, the epoxy fill that is used has a color to it that does not look natural to the stone and it has a tendency to come out after a short amount of time in high traffic areas. Expect to pay anywhere from $5.00 – $15.00 per square foot.

5. Q. IS STONE MORE DIFFICULT OR COSTLY TO INSTALL THAN CERAMIC TILE?

A. On the whole, it is not more difficult to install. There are exceptions of course such as the difficulties with thickness gauges, which takes more time in planing the layout and whether a complex pattern is being used. As for cost it is generally not more expensive except for time spent on laying out patterns and the thickness gauging again, at least for the tile contractors I have worked on projects with. The setting supplies and procedures are the same, but stone is heavier to work with. I suggest talking it over with your installer and also taking the time to look at previous jobs he or she has installed if possible. I will be giving tips on selecting a tile contractor/installer in my next article.

6. Q. CAN A STONE DESIGN BE USED OR MIXED WITH OTHER KINDS OF MATERIALS?

A. Absolutely! The possibilities are endless. You can incorporate stone with ceramic, porcelain, glass, and terracotta…anything you can think of, even mixing different types of stones together.

7. Q. HOW DO I FIGURE THE QUANTITY THAT I WILL NEED?

A. Generally, tile and stone for a “field” area (space where plain tile will be) is figured by the square foot. To figure square footage, measure the area that you will be putting the tile with a tape measure. Examples:

1. You measure your room and it comes out to be 10-1/2 feet wide by 15-3/4 feet long…you would calculate it by multiplying 10.5×15.75 = 165.38. Round this number off to the closest whole number (165). I suggest adding on a 10-15% overage to plan for cuts, breakage and a little extra to store in case a piece needs to be replaced later in time.

2. You measure your wall area to be covered and you get 18″ tall and 33″ long. Multiply 18×33 = 594″. Now divide that number by 144, resulting in 4.13sf. (There are 144 sq. inches per square foot). Again, round it off and add on for overage.

When figuring for decorative tile or trim, it is usually by the piece and calculated by the lineal foot.

For slabs, it is best to let your fabricator figure the quantity for you.

8. Q. WHAT SIZE GROUT JOINTS SHOULD I USE?

A. Again, this is a matter of choice and the look you prefer. Honed stone can usually be butt-jointed (tight to each other) with very little grout showing if you want to see much grout or grid pattern; tumbled stone usually has a 1/8″ to 1/4″ grout joint which will show off the edges more.

9. Q. WHAT SIZE OF STONE TILE SHOULD I USE FOR MY PROJECT?

A. It depends upon the project itself and the area size. Something to keep in mind is that if the area to be tiled is small, it is better to use a bigger size tile, if you want the area to appear larger. It is not uncommon to believe that if you have a small perimeter of floor that you should use a 4″, 6″, or 12″ tile, which is not necessary. When doing so, it will make the area feel small and you will have more grout joints.

10. Q. I DON’T LIKE THE GRID PATTERN I SEE FREQUENTLY. WHAT CAN YOU SUGGEST FOR AN ALTERNATIVE?

A. There are many pre-set repeating stone patterns available, or you can make your own “random” pattern from different size pieces of stone. A pre-set pattern is easier to use and the amount of stone that will be needed for the project will be easier to figure. To also help from keeping a grid pattern from being so obvious is to use a grout color that is as close as possible to the color of the stone. Using dark grout with light tile, or light grout with dark tile was a popular look in the 80’s. However, I think it is better to see as little grout as possible. Your stone is the expensive part of your project so you should want to show it off, not your grout!

11. Q. CAN YOU HELP ME WITH DESIGNING MY STONE LAYOUT?

A. Yes, I can. I charge an hourly fee of $75 and I will need several things from you:

1. A copy of your blueprints, including the elevations if you have them and the area to be tiled clearly marked; or a drawing of the area, including the dimensions and the area to be tiled shown. Make sure to specify what room/location it is, if it is not marked on the blueprint.
2. The style of home you have; or the look you prefer, i.e….rustic, contemporary, elegant, traditional…
3. Whether or not you have already chosen your stone. If so, what did you pick and what size? If not, do you want me to make suggestions for you? If yes, do you have a set budget?
4. Will you want to use decorative trim pieces? If so, did you choose one yet? What are the dimensions of a piece(s)?

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