The term ‘natural stone’ encompasses all kinds of natural stones like marble, granite, slate, etc… Natural stone is widely quarried all over the globe, after which the product is cut to size in specialised factories. Since natural stone is a one hundred percent natural product, it gives each and every resulting tile a unique character. Each tile has its very own texture and/or colour nuances, which are exactly what lends it its typical ambiance. Natural stone is a timeless and durable material, and is available in a plethora of colours and textures. These specific qualities ensure its enduring place in a variety of interior styles.
When using the correct variety, natural stone is also an attractive medium for landscaping your garden. A stone patio proves exceptionally durable and unique in its natural form, thus lending it that typical natural quality. It’s worth pointing out that variations in colour and texture are rule, rather than exception.
Some varieties of natural stone are, despite their hardness, rather susceptible to scratching. Each kind is therefore destined for very specific usage. Each stone sports its own special code, indicating under which conditions and in what rooms it should be used. Durability, scratch- and/or stain resistance is further determined by finish. It’s of crucial importance to choose the correct stone in a bathroom, kitchen, or in the vicinity of a fireplace. Qualities such as durability, slip- and heat resistance, being scratch- and stain repellent, will further determine its appropriate use.
Unlike natural stone tiles for indoor use, patio tiles must be able to withstand various weather conditions. Sensitivity to freezing temperatures is key. Gorgeous natural stone patio tiles, exhibiting cracks at the first sign of frost, is something to be avoided, There are also natural stones which can be affected by UV-rays, causing them to lose their luster and colour as time goes by.
The potentially slippery character of stone is also to be contemplated, when considering it for use in the garden. Some natural stone varieties can be (depending on their finish) slippery when wet. When used in proximity to a pool this can result in extremely dangerous conditions. In those instances where a furniture set will ultimately be adorning a natural stone patio, one should be mindful of resistance to abrasion. The installation of natural stone is always determined by its designated use. For example, compared to a patio, a driveway will require a more substantial foundation, Some natural stone and/or large surface applications require the installation of an expansion joint. This joint will absorb the energy released by movement of the material, thus prohibiting cracks.
Natural stone is usually installed using a special mortar. Bonding is also an option, provided the tiles show uniform thickness. The tiling surface should always be dry and clean. Once installed, cement – and adhesive residue should be carefully removed before the floor can dry out, and a possible protective coating is applied. When renovating, it is entirely possible to instal tiles on top of an existing hardwood- or tile floor. Provided of course this is technically feasible, since the floor height will be altered by doing so. Like floor tile, natural stone can be used in combination with radiant floor heating. While a tile floor is cold to the touch, it is capable of storing heat, and then slowly releasing it back into the living area when needed.
Be mindful of fluctuating temperature induced stress, caused by opposing forces in the natural stone and substrate. To avoid stress fractures, one must first calculate the ideal balance between the natural stone, the size of the tiles, floor insulation and maximum temperature.
When purchasing natural stone, it’s always useful knowing exactly what specific maintenance your floor will require.
Each individual natural stone requires its own specific cleaning method. Your tile distributor can help you navigate the vast array of available maintenance product. His advice will prove invaluable. A regular and purposeful maintenance schedule is of the utmost importance in preserving the beauty of your natural stone floor.
Natural stone vs Ceramic
NATURAL STONE VS CERAMIC
Different method of manufacturing
- Natural stone: pure natural; quarried, transported over long distances and cut to size in a factory.
- Ceramic tiles: factory produced by firing clay and minerals
Although natural stone is not necessarily more durable and maintenance friendly compared to ceramic tiles, it is widely regarded as a status symbol.
Natural stone tends to be more expensive than ceramic tile. Nowadays, the difference in price has dropped significantly, and you may well find standard sizes of natural stone available from € 30 / sqm. On the other hand, you are sure to come across exclusive ceramic tiles, sporting a high price tag.
Unique versus mass production.
Being a pure natural product, no two natural stone tiles are identical. Tile manufacturers will go to great lengths to create nuances in their ceramic tiles, thus ensuring a more natural looking product.
Chance of imperfections
The incidence of imperfections is more prevalent in natural stone (veining, colour nuances ,…). Even though these imperfections impart a unique character to natural stone, variations obviously have to be kept within tight limits. These potential blemishes are always pointed out in the stone’s fact sheet.
Durability & Maintenance
- Even though certain natural stones proof extremely durable, it doesn’t mean they’re indestructible. Durability depends on the hardness and the variety of the natural stone. Since not every natural stone will stand the test against acid or other chemical elements, it’s crucial to use appropriate products when dealing with them. There is a complete assortment of specifically formulated maintenance products on the market (www.lithofin.com), which can not only be used in the initial thorough cleaning of your new floor, but that will also allow you to take care of day to day maintenance afterwards. When choosing your natural stone and its finish, it’s important to keep its application in mind (e.g. living room, foyer, bathroom, store…), always check the stone’s code carefully, as this will indicate specific use of this particular stone. Also bear in mind that foot traffic can alter a stone’s finish with the passage of time; a glossy finish can turn matte, and vice versa. When purchasing natural stone, always ask for the fact sheet for your particular stone.
- Ceramic tiles: highest level category ceramic tiles are, just like the most durable of natural stones, virtually indestructible; as an added bonus they can not be damaged by acids or other chemical elements. Even in high traffic areas, their finish remains the same over the years.
Thickness of the tiles
Not only did natural stone tiles used to be thicker, their thickness would also vary from tile to tile. This could complicate matters when renovating, with high-rise construction, and would greatly hinder installation. Nowadays natural stone tiles are relatively thin and calibrated, making them just as easy to instal as ceramic ones.
How to maintain natural stone?
There is a full range of specific cleaning products for natural stone, from the first thorough cleaning after installation, to protecting the floor, and finally its regular maintenance
Is natural stone more susceptible to scratching?
You can prevent scratches, and wear in general, by applying felt pads under chairs and seats. Should scratches still occur, they will be rendered less visible through regular maintenance, using appropriate products.
Can each type of natural stone be used under all conditions?
One of the main guidelines when choosing your natural stone: always choose the stone and its surface finish, in relation to its proposed application (kitchen, living room, bathroom, store)
Technical Education identifies three types of spaces, and links each of them to certain conditions, which the natural stone must meet.
- individual dwellings (apartments and private homes)
- buildings with moderate public use
- buildings with intensive public use..
Always inform the showroom consultant of your desired application.
Is natural stone frost free?
The variety of natural stone offered, is adequately tested for frost resistance. The occurrence of loose or cracked tiles is often the result of careless installation.
Will an outdoor application for natural stone not be to slippery?
Always select an appropriate finish for outdoor flooring: brushed, flamed, bush hammered, …
Is natural stone not susceptible to staining or moss proliferation when used outdoors?
A natural product is best left to Mother Nature. The stone cleans itself. A heavy rain shower can do wonders. Keep in mind not to use porous material on the north facing side of your residence. Provide an adequate slope so water will not pool on the stones. Should moss appear at the end of winter, you can easily remove it using a good outdoor cleaner.
Can natural stone be used for renovations or high rise construction?
There is a special assortment of more than 50 types of natural stone, specifically calibrated and suitable for high rise buildings and renovations.
What are calibrated tiles?
By milling the back of the tiles, one produces calibrated tiles. This operation reduces the differences in thickness between the tiles to ± 1 mm. The length, width and surface finish are not changed.
What kind of surface-finishes are available?
This technique is mainly applied to hard natural stone, with the purpose of removing cutting ridges or imperfections. This finish is typically reserved for outdoor flooring.
Honing gives the surface a subtle and light satin sheen. This application is typically used for indoor flooring.
Polishing brings out the colors in the stone, and gives it that high gloss, reflecting surface. This process cannot be applied to all types of natural stone. This application is perfectly suitable for cladding and custom work.
Flaming is achieved by heating the surface of the stone to extreme temperatures, followed by rapid cooling, and is typically limited to large surfaces. Hard natural stone like granite, is eminently suitable to undergo this process.
This method exhibits the typical blade/saw markings on the stone’s surface. These markings run parallel to each other, and in accordance with the saw direction.
- Bush hammered
This finish is achieved by working the stone with a bush hammer. On a bush hammer, one end of the metal head is rectangular, featuring rows of conical points, designed to create tiny pockets in the stone when it is struck. Bush hammering will remove all traces of any previous finish. The look of the resulting finish varies, depending on the number of points on the hammer.
This process is carried out with an air chisel. The surface can be best described as featuring a kind of delicate chiselling, with interrupting grooves.
- Natural rough
This is simply the natural state of the surface of certain materials. It is primarily used on slate and sandstone.