Stone floors are natural, beautiful, and always stylish. The naturally cool, hard surface is ideal for warm climates and does not harbor dust or allergens. Before choosing a specific type of stone, arm yourself with knowledge to find the best fit.
The amount and size of pores in a stone, referred to as porosity, affects its strength and stain resistance. If you plan to install stone in a high-traffic area, such as a kitchen, mudroom, or family bath, you'll want to choose a hard, dense stone that is nonporous, such as granite or slate. Softer, more porous stones, such as marble, limestone, and travertine, require regular applications of sealants and frequent cleaning to prevent staining and pitting.
Stone Types You can find natural stone in an incredible range of colors and patterns. As with gemstones, rare colors and patterns cost the most. Here are some characteristics of the popular varieties:
Granite With hundreds of available varieties, this in-demand stone can be flamed for slip-resistant texture in busy kitchens and bathrooms.
Limestone Known for its natural, earthen appearance, limestone is formed from sedimentary materials, such as coral and shells. Unlike some stones, when limestone is cut from the same slab, it has little color variation from tile to tile. The stone can be sanded perfectly smooth for a soothing, refined look, or machine-tumbled for a worn look. If you use limestone in a room where acidic liquids might spill, consider sealing this porous material every few years.
Marble This porous stone is a sophisticated choice for formal spaces but is easily scratched. Slabs or tiles come in many colors, based on where they were quarried. Some varieties of marble are harder and more stain-resistant than others, so ask your dealer if the marble you are considering will perform well for the use you have in mind
Slate A rustic classic available in geometric pieces and irregular shapes, slate is usually found in dark gray, soft red, and medium green.
Travertine This crystallized, partially metamorphosed limestone is often mistaken for marble.
Stone Tiles Stone tiles have been used in home interiors for thousands of years. They are made by slicing boulders and slabs of rock into thin squares or rectangles. The appearance of stone varies from tile to tile due to veining, natural imperfections, and even fossils. Color palettes also vary by the type of stone and location of the quarry.
Installing stone tiles is labor-intensive and extremely exacting. Hire a seasoned, dedicated professional to ensure proper installation. A proper substrate, the surface on which the stone tile will be laid, is also critical. With concrete subfloors, installers may opt to apply the mortar directly onto the subfloor and then simply lay the tile. A wood subfloor requires cement backer for support and as a moisture barrier.
Talk to a stone dealer to find out whether the variety of stone you are considering for your home requires sealing and, if so, how often it should be reapplied. Quality stone sealers fill spaces between the crystals and minerals in stone tiles, so they resist water and stains, rather than just covering the surface. Stone floors in low-traffic areas and nonporous stone, such as granite, may not need to be sealed.
Because stone tiles can be thicker than other flooring surfaces, you may need to install a transition strip to connect your new stone floor to the flooring in an adjacent area. Your stone dealer may be able to fabricate a stone transition for you, or you can purchase a ready-made transition made from the same surface as the adjacent floor