Looking for a timeless flooring option? Let us help you choose the best stone or tile flooring that suits your lifestyle and budget.
If you want flooring that is beautiful, unique and timeless, then stone may be the answer. No two stones are alike nor are they perfectly smooth. Colors and veining are not uniform so your floor will be unlike any other. Among the many advantages of stone is a very practical one. Natural stone flooring will virtually always increase your home’s resale value. And unlike other types of flooring, it improves with age.
How and Where to Use It
Stone tile encompasses travertine, limestone, sandstone, granite, marble, and slate. Each type of stone offers various earthy color options, often depending on where the stone was quarried. Typically, natural stone floor tile sizes are 12”x 12”, 13”x 13”, 16”x 16” and 18”x 18”. The tile comes with two kinds of edges: a polished bull-nose edge that has a rounded or curved appearance, or a polished straight 90-degree edge that offers a more contemporary look.
Your new stone floor will come with any one of a number of finishes on it. The finish creates greater variety within categories. The same granite, for example, takes on a totally different look when it takes on a different finish.
Stone must be sealed to protect the finish and more porous types, such as marble, are not ideal for rooms where spills are likely to occur.
Agglomerate Stone or Manufactured Stone is made from natural stone chips suspended in a binder such as cement, epoxy resins, or polyester. These products offer the look of natural stone but are stain and scratch resistant, offer consistency and strength and are virtually maintenance free.
Takes the shine off polished stone and leaves small etching marks (pits in the surface). It gives the stone a rustic or antique appearance.
A worn-down look achieved by applying heavy-duty plastic or metal brushes to the stone.
Bull Nose Edge
The rounded or curved edge of a natural stone floor tile.
A blowtorch is passed over the stone, heating the surface crystals until they explode. This leaves a rough, unrefined texture.
This igneous rock is the hardest of all flooring stones with a very dense grain, making it virtually impervious.
Produces a flat, matte, or satin finish by stopping short of the last stage of polishing.
Results when magma, the molten rock from the center of the earth, cools and hardens.
Sedimentary stone formed by the accumulation of organic materials, such as shells and coral, sand, or precipitates.
A very dense and easily polished metamorphic rock.
Simply means “changed form.” When high pressure and heat are applied to certain rock in the earth’s crust, the result can be marble, slate or quartzite.
Polished Surface Finish
A beautiful mirror-like finish is the result of using progressively finer polishing heads during the polishing process.
The state of being porous. Indicator of how much liquid the stone will absorb. Sandstone is very porous. Granite is not.
Excavation of rock from large deposits pushed up through the earth’s crust.
Sedimentary stone composed of loose grains of quartz. Noted for its rough texture and porosity.
Saw-Cut Refined Finish
After initial cutting, the stone is polished enough to take out the heaviest saw marks but not enough to give it a honed finish.
Formed by the accumulation of sediments, such as plant or animal debris (limestone), mechanical weather debris (sandstone), or precipitates (travertine).
Quarried blocks of stone that have been cut into sheets.
A fine-grained metamorphic rock that easily splits into sheets. It’s composed of clay, quartz and shale.
Split Faced Finish
A rough texture achieved by hand cutting and chiseling at the quarry, exposing the natural cleft of the stone.
A crystallized, partially metamorphosed limestone, formed by natural mineral springs. It has a honeycombed structure and a lot of surface pitting.
Stone with a lovely smooth or slightly pitted surface and broken or rounded edges and corners.
Stone is one of the most expensive flooring options. Supply depends on nature and it must be found, quarried, cut, polished, and transported. The more rare and distant your choice, the higher the cost will be.
To get the luxe look for less, try stone in a small area, such as a foyer or hearth or as a border around a less expensive flooring option.
Care and Cleaning
Sand, grit, and dirt can damage natural stone surfaces because they are abrasive. Use a vacuum on your floor if it’s textured. But avoid the beater bar. Those bristles are tough and might scratch your flooring.
An old-fashioned dust mop works well, as does a broom. Wet mop as needed. Wipe up spills immediately. Use soap, not detergent, for good-old fashioned mopping.
Don’t use products that contain lemon juice, vinegar or other acids on marble, limestone, or travertine. Avoid abrasive cleaners or any ammonia-based cleaners. These products will dull the floor’s luster.
What the Pros Say
Stone flooring should be installed by a professional. It requires special skills and tools. It also requires a stable substrate on which to lay the tiles. This is often achieved with a cement backer unit (CBU) for support and a moisture barrier.
Stone is often packaged and stored wet. Make sure you judge the color of a dry sample and in good light.
Ceramic tiles are a popular choice of flooring due to their aesthetic appeal, as well as their durability and easy care. A properly installed ceramic tile floor will outperform and outlast nearly any other floor covering product created for the same application. Modern ceramic manufacturing technology has created a virtually limitless number of colors, sizes, styles, shapes and textures that can add rich beauty and character to any room in your home.
How and Where to Use It
The durable and moisture-resistant qualities of ceramic tile make it an excellent choice for flooring in bathrooms, foyers, mudrooms, laundries, and kitchens. Like wood and stone, it also works well with radiant floor heating.
With the variety of colors and finishes available it’s possible to create a patterned floor, one that mimics stone, wood, and concrete, or one that is subtly shaded.
Ceramic tile is a fired clay molded into a desired shape and usually protected by a glaze. Porcelain tile contains feldspar clay and is baked at a higher temperature. This results in a denser, harder, nonporous surface that resists water, stains, and extreme temperatures. The color goes all the way through the tile.
The larger of a tile’s two layers. The top layer is called the glaze.
Cement backer unit. Provides a supportive and water resistant layer between the porous substrate and the mortar and tile applied on top of it.
A process in which clay material is forced through a mold for the desired shape versus pressing the tile.
In a pattern, the tile that is most prominent across the largest area.
Tiles are fired in a kiln at temperatures of around 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit.
A glass derivative that is applied to ceramic tile as part of a glaze liquid, along with colored dyes, by a high pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.
Glass-forming minerals and ceramic stains that are applied to the body or bisque of a ceramic tile in a matte, semi-gloss or high-gloss finish. Offers better stain and moisture resistance than unglazed tile, as well as a hard non-porous, impermeable surface after firing.
The process of applying a liquid prepared from frit and colored dyes to ceramic tile either by high-pressure spray or direct pouring.
A type of cement used to fill the space between and provide support for ceramic tile. Comes in two types: Portland cement based and epoxy based. Both compounds may have sand added to provide additional strength. Pigment is added to the cement at the job site during the mixing process.
Single fired ceramic tile.
Intricate patterns of ceramic tile, often created with 2”x2” tiles or smaller.
A classic method of tile installation in which a thick layer of mortar is applied to a waterproofed and steel reinforced substrate. This provides a strong, flat base onto which the tile can be installed. Effective, but labor-intensive.
An industry accepted and more efficient method of tile installation in which tile is adhered directly onto a backer board that is nailed to a plywood or concrete substrate using a much thinner layer of mortar.
Ceramic tile is available in a range of prices depending on quality and artistry. It may be priced by the piece, by bulk, or by square foot. Many small patterned and mosaic tiles are mounted on 12×12-inch mesh panels that are priced by the square foot.
Care and Cleaning
Glazed ceramic tile resists stains, odors and dirt and can be cleaned with a damp mop or common household cleaners.
Regular sweeping loosens and removes most dirt. A vacuum cleaner can also be used to sweep, but make sure you use one without a beater bar to avoid dulling and scratching the tiles. Vacuum cleaner attachments are great to suck up dirt along edges or in between tiles.
Mild scrubbing with a soft brush or electric polisher/scrubber may be required for textured tiles. After cleaning with a mild detergent, rinse thoroughly with clean, warm water to remove leftover residue. If necessary, wipe the tile dry with a clean towel to remove any film.
What the Pros Say
Using a white or a light colored grout brings out the color of the tile. Choosing a dark grout with a light tile, or light grout with a dark tile, however, highlights the grout, itself, and therefore emphasizes the geometric pattern of the design.
When choosing grout color, it’s a good idea to select a color that blends in with the overall color of the tile to minimize the appearance of the grout. Though if the tile is installed in a high traffic area, then it may be wise to select a darker grout to hide dirt.
Some people believe that small rooms call for small tile. Not always true. In fact, using a larger size tile in a smaller room will visually increase the size of the space. And fewer grout lines will create a cleaner surface appearance.
Conversely, using a tile size that’s too small and requires more grout joints may make the floor look too busy.
Thanks to the World Floor Covering Association for their valuable assistance and input; wfca.org.
© Caruth Studio