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FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

Natural Stone


What is Natural Stone?
"Natural Stone" refers to a number of products quarried from the earth, used over many thousands of years as building materials and decorative enhancements. These products include Granite, Marble, Limestone, Travertine, Slate, Quartzite, Sandstone, Adoquin, Onyx, and others. They are more than just rocks – natural stone is hand selected from the best, most consistent sources for durability and beauty.

Natural stone products differ in composition, color, and texture even among pieces from the same source. This is usually considered a benefit, lending itself to one of a kind designs and distinctive, dramatic applications.


Who needs natural stone in the USA ?
In past eras, Natural Stone has mainly been used for large-scale construction and in formal applications such as churches and government buildings. It has also been used for road construction and monuments. For residential construction, wood and brick have been the traditional choice. However, there has been a growing trend in recent years to use Natural Stone in residential construction for both structural and decorative use. Popular applications include entryways, atriums, bathrooms, fireplaces, floors, countertops, and many other surfaces.


Why should I use natural stone in my home?
Natural stone is prized its distinctive beauty and the sense of peaceful tranquility it creates, but there are also many practical benefits to using Natural Stone in your home. Natural Stone products are more durable than many artificial products, often lasting for decades with very little maintenance. With Natural Stone there are no worries about exposure to harmful chemicals in the home or released into the environment during production or disposal. Why invest time and money into a look-alike? Natural Stone is the real thing that the artificial products try to emulate.


What are the different kinds of natural stone?
Natural Stone products include Granite, Marble, Limestone, Travertine, Slate, Quartzite, Sandstone and Onyx.

Granite

For maintenance-free elegance and durability, granite is unmatched. Its incredible strength and density makes granite the perfect choice for massive structural work – walls, monuments and supports. Though it is the hardest of structural stones, the amazing variety of mineral-rich colors and natural patterns gives it ornamental value as well. Granite products are ideal for flooring, countertops, vanities and decorative exterior applications.

Marble

Prized for its timeless style, texture and high-gloss polish along with a rich palette of beautiful colors, marble has a place anywhere in the home. Available in solids or dramatic veined varieties, marble may be carved or sculpted in many ways, making it one of the most versatile decorative stones. Often seen as a symbol of luxury, modern technology brings beautiful marble products even to budget-conscious homeowners.

Serpentine Marble

Also referred to as Verde Antique, Serpentine Marble is a dramatic green color with strong white veining.

Slate

Formed over thousands of years of sedimentary deposit and compression, slate splits naturally into beautifully textured layers. The various shades of slate products – brown, yellow, dark gray, pink, lavender and more – may even occur within the same piece of stone. Durable and stain-resistant, slate products are often used for flooring, cladding and landscaping.

Quartz

Shimmering and sparkling with tiny quartz crystals, Quartz is a rock similar to slate with a medium grained texture and incredible durability. Differing mineral content creates many color variations, from the sedate white, gray or beige to more adventurous shades of purple and pink. Quartzite is widely used for wall veneers and decorative tiles. A naturally non-skid texture makes it a perfect candidate for flooring indoors and out, including areas with heavy traffic and exposure to the elements.

Sandstone

With a uniform texture, an appealing variety of colors and finishes, and weather resistant durability, it's easy to see why sandstone products have been used for thousands of years for walls, floors, and pavers. As with other types of rock, its variations result from differing mineral composition – there's a sandstone product to match any décor.

Limestone

The muted, soft tones of limestone are perfect for today's casual and comfortable lifestyles. Available in hues of soft beige and tan, either polished or honed, limestone products are ideal for bathrooms, fireplaces, countertops and flooring in low-traffic, informal areas.

Travertine

Valued for its banded, pitted “distressed” appearance, travertine adds rich, distinctive character to a variety of indoor and outdoor building projects. Its patterns and veining effects were formed by hot spring water percolating through underground limestone. When used for interior applications, travertine is often filled with cement, grout or resin and sealed to create a smooth, stain-resistant surface.

Shell Stone

Shell Stone is a sedimentary stone similar to limestone, with many small shells embedded and visible upon its surface.

Onyx

A translucent stone with a glossy, polished surface, onyx is composed of crystalline silica and closely related to agate, a semi-precious stone. Often found in caves, onyx is formed by the slow flow of cold, carbonated spring water. Onyx is available in pastel shades of yellow, brown, green, orange, and white.

Cantera Stone

Cantera is a sedimentary stone that comes from the riverbeds of Mexico. It is used extensively for architectural columns, moldings, and for pavement tiles.


How do natural stone tiles differ from ceramic tiles?
The most important difference is this – Natural Stone is a product of nature, and Ceramics are man-made. Most man-made materials cannot compare in durability to natural ones. While damaged ceramic tiles usually need replacing, natural stone usually needs minimal restoration if stained or scratched. Other differences are explained below:

CERAMIC
NATURAL STONE
Homogenous composition
Unique composition
Low absorbency, thin and lightweight, corrugated backing
Differs from category to category
Acid resistant
Acid sensitivity varies from stone to stone.
Have only one plain finish and practically no edge finishes.
Have a whole spectrum of finishes like Polished, Honed, Antiquated, Tumbled, Leather, Rugged (Split face, River Rough, River Wash, Flamed) and more. Different types of edges like beveled, bull-nosed etc. are possible.
The sizes in ceramics are restricted and patterns are very uniform and geometric.
No size restriction. Available in huge slabs as large as 125' X 75' or in small



Where in my home can I use natural stone?
Natural Stone can be used on nearly every surface both inside and outside the home, including floors, kitchen countertops, vanity tops, bathrooms, patios, walkways, fireplaces, facades, wall cladding, and garden landscaping.


Why is granite preferred for kitchen/bar countertops?
Countertops in kitchens and bar areas are often exposed to acidic substances such as lemon, vinegar, alcohol, and tomato sauce. Knives, dishes, pots and pans, and other implements may cause scratching of lesser materials. Granite is the hardest and densest of all natural stones – the feldspar content keeps it water resistant, and the silicates it contains won't react with acid. These properties help Granite resist staining and retain its fine luster over a longer period of time than ceramic tiles or other stones.

Although Marble is commonly requested for countertops in bars and kitchens, marble's high carbonate content makes it vulnerable to acidic substances.


Why are limestones and travertines preferred for family or living rooms?
The family or living room in a home is a place for peace and relaxation, and the soft, muted tones and textures of limestone or travertine are the perfect touch. Available in shades of beige, tan, yellow and gold and processed with a tumbled or antiqued texture, limestone complements all types of furniture and upholstery.


Why is marble preferred for bathrooms and fireplaces?
Homeowners often enjoy bathrooms with bold colors and smooth, flowing patterns. Marble is the perfect choice for this application due to its wide spectrum of available colors. It also lends itself well to carved patterns and details, creating both traditional and artistic designs. While kitchen countertops are often exposed to acidic substances, bathroom countertops are more likely to be exposed to alkaline products, which do not react with Marble.


Why is slate preferred for patios or atriums?
The earth tones and rustic look of slate create a comfortable, natural look that is right at home with exterior landscaping and interior garden designs. Slate is naturally slip resistant, even when wet, and is much less likely to show dust and dirt than polished granite or marble. It's also relatively low priced, which makes it a great choice for large, informal areas.


Where do natural stones come from?
Natural stones are quarried directly from the earth's crust, and every piece is unique. The only processing they need is shaping into various forms, sizes and finishes.


Why are most natural stones imported?
Sources of natural stone with desirable qualities are found all over the world, in many different locations. Some sources are better than others due to the stones' appearance, hardness, and other qualities. Therefore, stone may be quarried in China, India, Africa, South America, and some does come from within United States borders.

Cost of processing is also a factor. Since natural stone has been used as a building material for thousands of years in many locations overseas, those areas have a long-established system for quarrying and processing these stones which is efficient and economical.


What is the quality difference in stone from different countries?
Natural stone from different areas contains a varying mix of mineral deposits and rock formations. For example, the mineral Mica may be found more frequently in some areas, which means that the rock from that location will contain bigger shiny crystals than we would find in places where less Mica is found. Some countries quarry more limestone than granite. Therefore, stone from certain places may be better suited for one application than another. Natural stone qualities and characteristics differ due to geological formations, not geographical boundaries.


Why can some stones not be used for exterior applications?
Some types of stone are better suited for interior applications than exterior because they cannot withstand harsh weather extremes and may crack, crumble, or fade. Also, stones with naturally slip-resistant surfaces are better for outdoor walkways or patios than those with smooth, polished surfaces. Some multicolored slates bleed color upon contact with water.


Do granite slabs or granite tiles emit harmful radiation?
Granite tiles and slabs for commercial and residential applications do not emit harmful radiation. For more information, consult the Marble Institute of America's website.


Cost of Stone


Why are some stones more expensive than others?
Stones that are harder and denser are more difficult and expensive to quarry and process. Quarrying methods vary as well; stones may be quarried below ground, which is more expensive than above ground. Also, since natural stone is quarried all over the world, long distance shipping factors into the price.


Why are bigger sizes more expensive?
The larger the stone, the more difficult it is to process, handle, pack, and transport. Larger sizes also tend to have a higher amount of waste compared to the part that is used, which makes them more expensive.


Do I get lower prices for larger quantity?
The availability of a particular stone is the most important factor in determining price. However, handling and transportation cost does drop slightly for a larger quantity. The best way to reduce cost is to find a stone dealer who is running a special on a particular product.


Stone Finishes


What are different kinds/types of stone finishes?
The different types of stone finishes include:

Natural Cleft

Unique to slate, it has a slightly uneven surface that is still usable for flooring. This finish cannot be created, but occurs naturally as the layers of slate are quarried. One side (back side) can be gauged to facilitate ease of “thin set” installation. Some marbles, sandstones and limestones are available with heavy clefting, suitable for wall installations only.

Polished

Grinding, sanding, and buffing produces a high gloss, mirror-like surface.

Honed

Grinding and sanding produces a smooth, yet not glossy finish. This is best for low maintenance, high traffic applications.

Flamed

A flamed surface is achieved by subjecting the stone to the high temperature flame of a torch and burning most of the carbon content, leaving textured quartzites with gentle coloration.

Sandblasted

This is a rough, but tidy look created by applying a high pressure blast of sand to the stone’s surface.

River Wash

This finish is often given to granites, and provides a non-slippery surface while retaining the coloration and grain structure of the stone.

Leather

Available only in Melange marble, this finish gives the stone a suede look and feel. This texture is smooth and slip-resistant.

Tumbled

Tumbling stones in a solution of sand, water and mild acid creates an old world, weathered look.

Split Face

Mainly used for cladding, this is achieved by splitting stone either by hand or by machine so that the surface exhibits a natural quarry texture. It has a flat back and uneven front surface, and creates the uneven look of protruding bricks.

Fleuri Cut

This is achieved by cutting quarried marble or stone parallel to the natural bedding plane.

Cross-Cut

The cross-cut method involves end-cutting blocks of travertine to display a less linear, more rounded “wavy” pattern.

Vein Cut

Opposite of cross-cutting, the veining of the stone is shown as a linear pattern.

Veneer Stone

Any stone used as a decorative facing material as wall cladding which is not meant to be load-bearing. Veneer may be made from different finishes, such as split face, cleft, honed, polished, flamed or tumbled.

Gauged vs. Ungauged

Slate is cleft out of blocks to form tiles. When it is cleft by machine or saw, it is gauged because a uniform thickness is formed. Ungauged stone is hand-cleft and its thickness may vary up to 5/8 of an inch.


What is bullnose marble tile and how is it made?
Marble is considered one of the softer natural stones. Bullnose marble tiles are rounded tiles used for corners and edges. It is advised that marble bullnose tiles be fabricated by a professional using a grinder and bugging pad.


Why are some finishes preferred for a particular application?
There are three important reasons for choosing one finish over another in certain applications:

Safety

When choosing flooring, it's important to choose a slip-resistant surface for outdoor applications where the floor may become wet. Highly polished surfaces should only be used for interior floors. Also, highly clefted, uneven surfaces may cause a tripping hazard when used for flooring.

Maintenance

Softer, less dense stones such as marble or limestone are unsuitable for high traffic areas because they will quickly become dull and will need frequent restoration to maintain their finish.

Usability

The application should be consistent with the type of finish selected. A rough finish such as flamed would be a poor choice for countertops, due to the difficulty in cleaning it. Clefted material should not be used for tabletops, because it would present an uneven surface.


Is a polished floor recommended for a commercial application?
Polished flooring may be used in a commercial application if the floor is unlikely to become wet and slippery. It is advisable to have the floor material professionally tested prior to installation. Sealers are available that can improve the slip resistance of the surface without removing its gloss.


Why is a honed finish so popular for homes?
A honed finish creates a soft, matte, appearance that is more suited to casual, comfortable environments than a formal, polished surface.


Why are travertines filled or unfilled?
Travertine is characterized by the presence of many tiny holes, caused by trapped gas bubbles during its formation. This creates a porous, uneven surface, which is referred to as Unfilled Travertine. When these cavities are filled with cement or another material, the result is called Filled Travertine and may be honed and polished to provide a uniform surface similar to marble.


Is cleft finished slate a tripping hazard?
Slate with a heavily cleft finish may create a tripping hazard. Most slates are lightly clefted and suitable for flooring in kitchens, bathrooms and on patios. A pallet of slate may contain a few pieces with heavy clefting, but these are generally not used for the flooring installation.


Why can some finishes not be used outside?
Polished stone surfaces may become slippery when wet, and tend to lose their shine in a short time due to weathering.


What is thermal or flame finish?
The thermal, or flamed finish is achieved by subjecting the stone to the high-temperature flame of a torch. This burns off most of the carbon content, creating textured quartzites with gentle coloration. Only granite is tough enough to withstand this treatment, and the piece must be fairly thick or it may crack or break under heat and pressure. This is a popular finish for commercial wall and flooring applications.


What is stone tumbling?
Tumbling stones in a solution of sand, water and mild acid creates an old world, weathered look. Typically sizes of 5/8" X 5/8" to 6"X 6" and sometimes even 8"X 8" are true tumbled pieces. Larger sizes are given a "Tumbled" finish, manually. Very small pieces like 5/8" X 5/8" & 1" X 1" are usually, mounted on 12" X 12" meshes for ease of installation. Most commonly used size is 4" X 4" and it is used in straight & diamond patterns, or as accent pieces. When mixing different size tumbled pieces, the look may vary.


Is the sizing always exact in tumbled material?
Tumbled stone pieces are intended to produce a rustic, old-world look. Therefore, they are not created with precision and may vary slightly in size. Some pieces may have large chips on the edges or may have a corner missing. Care must be taken to ensure an even surface when installing tumbled stone flooring.

Stone Installation


Can I specify that there be no grout joints?
Creating an installation without visible grout joints is difficult, but if the surface of the floor is straight and the tiles are perfectly cut, very little grout should be seen. A professional, experienced installer should be chosen to create this look.


What are the tightest grout joints I can request?
The tightest grout joint that you may request is 1/16".


What is blending? When is blending recommended?
Because stone is a natural product, there is always some variation within a selection. By sorting out the stone tiles before installing, it is possible to place the tiles on the surface before installing, blending the varying colors, grain, and veining as desired.


What are general recommendations for installation?
  • Open all boxes and mix up all of the pieces before installation. This will help to create a visually pleasing distribution of stone variation.
  • A good installer knows that green marble and some other stones require water-free epoxy thin-set.
  • When stone is installed on a concrete slab at ground level, ensure that a proper moisture barrier is in place prior to installation.


Can the installer fill travertine with grout?
When travertine is filled at the factory or at the time of installation, the fill can work its way out of the spaces. Normal maintenance may involve re-filling these voids.


Who determines grout color?
Grout is an important design element. Because it is used to fill the spaces between each tile, the grout must be selected carefully. A wide variety of grout colors is available to enhance the beauty of the tile installation and may be chosen to contrast with, match, or accent the tile.

  • Contrast Grout: emphasizes a pattern created by the tile.
  • Matching Grout: blends seamlessly with the tile.
  • Accent Grout: a shade slightly different from the tile, gives them an appearance of depth.


Can marble tile be installed on wood surfaces?
No. It is not recommended that marble tiles be installed directly on wood flooring or any other flooring that moves. The movement can cause tile to crack. The best solution is to have cement board installed by a professional installer over the surface to be tiled.


What thin set is recommended for onyx tile?
Onyx tile is translucent and colored thin sets and grouts will show through. White or translucent thin set is recommended to ensure that the innate beauty of the tiles are not affected.


How much tile waste do I need to calculate in my project?
Depending on the installation pattern, experts recommend adding 10%-15% of the total square feet of the project to ensure you have enough natural stone tile. It is advisable to add another 5%-10% for future fixes in the event of breakage.


What type of subfloor do I need to install under slate tiles?
Slate tiles must be installed on a solid subfloor or over cement boards.


One of my slate tiles is bleeding? What should I do?
It is advised that professional installers check the slate tiles prior to installation for bleeding. In the rare instance that a slate tile bleeds, replace it promptly.


Can I install porcelain tiles in tight patterns?
It is recommended that porcelain tiles be installed with a minimum of 1/8" lines for grout.


What is the best way to cut mosaic tile?
Mosaic tiles can crumple under normal cutting conditions. It is important to secure the tiles between wood or other solid tiles to firmly hold them while using a wet saw fitted with a diamond blade.


What type of thinset do I need to use in the installation of mosaic tiles?
It's recommended by professional installer to use modified thin set, according to the manufacturer’s instructions on the package.


What type of grout do I need to use in the installation of mosaic tiles?
Non-sanded grout is recommended for glass mosaic tiles. Sanded grouts will dull the finish.


What trowel should I use to install mosaic tile on a wall or other vertical surfaces?
Generally, 1x16" or 3/16" V notched trowels are recommended depending on the size and thickness of the mosaic tile.


Can I use self-adhesive sheets for installing mosaic tile on a wall?
Yes. There are self-adhesive sheets available on the market to install mosaic tiles on vertical surfaces and walls. Follow the instructions provided by the manufacturers.


What surface can meshed random landscaping tiles be installed over?
Mesh-backed landscaping tiles can be installed on solid level surfaces including concrete.


What type and size of trowel should I use for meshed lanscaping tiles?
1/2" quare notch trowels are recommended for spreading mortar on landscaping tiles.


Can pavers be set in sand?
Pavers can be set in sand with the proper installation procedure and materials.


What is the recommended depth of mortar for ledger panels on walls?
0.5" of mortar is recommended for the intallation of landscaping tiles.

Stone Color


How many different colors of stones are available?
Natural stone is available in a nearly endless variation of colors, patterns and veining. These may include shades of beige, gray, gold, red, pink, blue, and green.


Can I specify the exact stone color I want?
Granite, marble, and slate may be available in nearly any color, so it may be possible to specify stone color, with some tolerance for shade differences. Not all stones are available in all colors, however. Travertines, for example, are only found in shades of beige, yellow, and gold.


What criteria do I use to select stone color?
The criteria for selecting stone color will depend on the application. Color choice can make a room appear larger or smaller, formal or warm and inviting. Consider the following characteristics:

  • Lighter colors tend to make a smaller room seem larger.
  • Dark colors tend to make a room more intimate and cozy.
  • Solid colors, smooth and polished tiles show more dirt and require more maintenance.
  • Patterned material, usually in a honed finish, is one of the easiest to maintain.
  • Dramatic patterns can help highlight and accent portions of the room, including architectural features.



How much variation can I expect from the sample of stone shown?
Each stone is unique, and some types of stone display more variation between the pieces than others. Granites show little variation in color, but may have differing patterns and grain density. Slates tend to show a wide variation in color, even within the same pallet of stone.


What are the neutral stone colors?
The neutral tones found in natural stone include beige, tan, and cream. Most people enjoy these colors, and find that they complement all types of furniture and fixtures.


What are the accent stone colors?
Any color may become an accent color, contrasting with the main color in the room. For example, a white stone border can accent a black floor.


What is grain structure and vein formation in the stone?
The grain structure in a piece of stone was formed during an igneous stone's cooling process. The slower the stone cooled, the larger the grains. “Grain” refers to the crystalline and flowery patterns visible on the stone's surface. Some stones, particularly marble and granite, have a great amount of veining, which is caused by the distribution of various minerals within the stone.

Stone Availability


How long does it take to get stone?
Many popular items are readily available from current stock. Others may take 90 to 120 days for delivery.


Can I order a designer's stone with a particular color/look/feel?
Since stone is a natural product, it is not possible to order a specific stone.

Stone Size and Thickness


What are typical stone sizes?
  • Standard stone tile sizes include squares of 4”, 6”, 8”, 12”, 16”, 18”, and 24”.
  • Standard thickness for 12” square tiles is 3/8”.
  • Standard thickness for 16”-24” square tiles varies from 0.5” - 0.75”.
  • Slab sizes vary from 104”x70” to 125”x80”. Smaller sizes are available as well.
  • Thickness of slabs is generally ---------------
  • Slates and Quartzites are produced in nominal sizes, not exact sizes - a 12” square tile may actually measure 11.87” square.


How can I decide which sizes are appropriate?
Tile size is a personal choice, but should be proportionate to the size of the room. Smaller spaces should use smaller tiles in order to make the most of the stone's color and other qualities.


What thickness is used for kitchen countertops?
The thickness of a kitchen countertop is generally either 0.75” or 1.25”. In the eastern U.S. the larger thickness is preferred, and western consumers prefer the thinner.


How do granite countertops differ from Corian countertops?
Granite is a natural stone, and Corian is a man-made material. As a plastic-based material, Corian is more prone to scratching, deformation and loss of finish due to heat. Granite is more durable, easy to maintain, resistant to scratches and stains – and much more appealing to the eye. Granite is available in a wider range of colors than Corian, and costs less as well.


What is thickness tolerance for different types of stone?
Thickness tolerance varies from stone to stone. Slates generally have a tolerance of 0.38”, and granite tiles have a tolerance of 0.06”.


What is stone pattern?
A combination of different sizes may be placed together to create a pattern, which adds to the beauty and uniqueness of the stone installation - and is very trendy!

Care and Maintenance


What care and maintenance of the stone products are recommended?
Stone surfaces are very easy to maintain. Clean stone floors with warm water and a mild liquid soap. Never use acid cleansers or abrasive chemicals on stone. Natural stone should be sealed after installation and every one to two years thereafter, depending on its application.


What is an impregnator sealer? How does it help stone?
Impregnator sealer consists of microscopic balls of silicone that attach themselves to crevices inside the stone. These balls become a permanent part of the stone, and act as a waterproof shield.


How often do I need to apply penetrating sealer to my natural stone surfaces?
There is no set rule on how often to seal your natural stone. Sealing can be as frequent as six months for higher traffic areas on marble, slate, travertine, and limestone or every couple of years for granite countertops. Also some sealers provide for only a single application every ten years. Please review the guidelines for each individual sealer.


Why does granite need to be sealed?
All natural stone including marble and granite, must be properly sealed to protect againt staining. Without proper and regular sealing, granite and other natural stones are pourous and can absorb spilled substances and leave unsightly stains and marks.


What can I use to seal natural stone and tile and where can I buy it?
A sealer that penetrates and protects natural stone and tile can be purchased at any home improvement or hardware store.


How do I remove ring marks and other stains from marble, granite, travertine and other natural stone surfaces?
If your marble tiles, travertine tiles or granite countertops have a stain, consult a restoration professional. A Poultice kit is another stain removal option, this product can be found at most home improvement stores.


What can I use to clean travertine, marble, or granite tiles and slabs?
Neutral cleaners are needed to clean natural stone tiles. Acidic or alkaline cleaners should be avoided as they can open the pours of the natural stone and change the color of the surface.


How can I enhance the color of travertine?
Adding depth and shine to travertine tiles can be accomplished through the application of enhancing sealers made specifically for travertine tile. Enhancing sealers are available at most home improvement and hardware stores.


How can I fill the natural voids and holes in travertine tile if I want a smoother surface?
Part of the beauty of travertine tilles, is the natural composition causes small voids and holes. If however, you want a smoother surface, the best way to fill the holes is to use a sanded grout in a color as close to the travertine as possible.


Do I need to seal porcelain tiles?
Porcelain tile does not need to be sealed. However, it is recommended that the grout be sealed or a pre-sealed grout used.


Do I need to seal glass mosaic tiles?
The tiles themselves do not need to be sealed; however the grout should be sealed to prevent stains. Because of the amount of grout and the small size of the mosaic tiles, it is easier to seal the entire surface or use a pre-sealed grout.