Using Natural Stone In Your Home


FAQ's On Using Natural Stone In Your Home
Kim Keefer

Is natural stone a good choice for home use?
YES. It's 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 stone for your project.

Brown Granite

Can you explain the different finishes for stone?
There are many finishes and options available. Here are the most widely used:

  1. Polished - A high gloss surface.

  2. Honed - Smooth with squared edges and without a polished surface.

  3. Tumbled - Lightly tumbled to achieve rounded edges and a surface that is not as smooth as honed.

  4. 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.

  5. Brushed - Acid washed and wire brushed for a smooth textured surface.

  6. Flamed - Blow torched for a rough textured surface.

Granite Stains
Doesn't stone stain? I don't want stains!
YES. All natural stone can stain and etch including some 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 natural stone, remember the following:

  • 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!)
  • Because natural 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.)
  • Natural Stone is timeless. It does not get dated like the 70's Avocado Green and Harvest Gold d├ęcor did.
  • Natural Stone will last longer than any of us will. There are centuries old castles, made of 100% stone and still standing today!
  • It is a natural resource that will never run out.
  • The more it is used, the faster "Patina" (light sheen on the surface) will develop. The "Patina" will also aid to prevent staining to a lesser degree.

What is the best natural stone to use in my home?
It is really a matter of choice and the look you want to achieve. These are questions to ask yourself when making your decision:

Andes Black Granite

  • Is it beautiful to you?
  • Do you love it?
  • Could you live with it for years?

The best advice that I can ever give to anyone choosing natural 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 natural stones and colors.

Secondly, you will probably not be happy with your selection if you have to settle on something else.

Reviewing the following stone types will help when you are ready to make your choice.

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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 and 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.

As with any other commodity, natural 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.

A note in using polished granite is to know that it can be slippery to walk on until a patina builds on it.

LIMESTONES - There are many types of limestone available and they vary to many degrees, depending upon where it comes from. Unpopular to belief, limestone is also a perfectly suitable Yellow Limestone 
Slabs natural 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 natural 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 chalkboards, billiard tables, science lab areas and roof tiles. However, in recent years it has become more popular for residential use in most applications, Multi Colored Slateswith 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 of tile, 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. Honed Carrara Marble

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 actually 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 of tile, 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.

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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. 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 of tile.

Is Natural Stone more difficult or costly to install than ceramic tile?
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 lying out and whether a complex pattern is being used.

As for cost it is generally not more expensive except for 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.

Can a stone design be used or mixed with other kinds of materials?
Absolutely! The possibilities are endless. You can incorporate natural stone with ceramic, porcelain, glass, and terracotta. Anything you can think of, even mixing different types of natural stones together.

How do I figure the quantity that I will need?
Generally, tile and stone for "field" area 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 10.5x15.75 = 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 18x33 = 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 natural stone slabs, sometimes it is best to let your fabricator figure the quantity for you.

What size grout joints should I use?
Again, this is a matter of choice and the look you prefer. Honed natural stone can usually be butt jointed (tight to each other) with very little grout showing if you want to see less grout or a grid pattern. Tumbled natural stone usually has a 1/8" to 1/4" grout joint which will show off the edges more.

About the author: Kim has worked in the Building Industry for 19 years and has specialized in tile and stone for the last five, with emphasis on end-user and tile contractor drawing design specifications and visualization.

Add Shine

Erase Scratches

Get Rid of Mold and Mildew

Get Rid of
Mold & Mildew
Repair Etch Marks

Etch Marks

Here's MORE Stone STUFF:

Granite Counter Granite Countertop Andes Black Granite Juperana Persia Granite

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