Natural Stone Tiles
There has been a dramatic rise in the popularity of tiles made from natural stone. For many customers there is nothing to compare with the natural beauty of this type of floor and wall covering.
Stones inherent durability is can be fully realised by utilising this natural product in the form of tiles. The range of different stone used for tiles is large with the most popular including:
All have different aesthetic and practical properties that can lend themselves to particular applications. Some of the softer grades of limestone might be unsuitable for use as a floor tile, especially in a heavy traffic area. If you are installing a shower you should consult your supplier before selecting any tile for use in these areas, especially if you are installing a wet room as not all stone will be suitable for use in such applications.
One of the attractions of stone is that, as a naturally occurring substance, it will not usually be of one uniform colour, as is highlighted in the mosaic tiles above. Different impurities present during the formation of the rock can introduce coloured bands, striations, speckles and patches that vary from tile to tile. These impurities can also affect the overall colour: slight variations in colour might be seen between tiles hewn from the same block but large variations can be found in stones taken from different deposits. The slight variations helps to emphasize the fact that the tile is natural unlike artificial tiles will be uniform across the whole batch.
As well as different colours of stone being available the finish of the tile will also make a huge difference to the appearance. The tiles are cut from the rock and then ground with successively finer abrasives to achieve the finished surface. Some stone, such as marble, can be polished to a high gloss finish. This gloss surface is very attractive but it does not "seal" the stone or make it any more resistant to staining or water absorption. Polished stone used on floors can also be dulled by heavy traffic. Some stone tiles have a riven surface where the stone is split along lines of natural weakness to produce a slightly uneven surface - slate being a common stone employing this finish. The edges of the tiles can be cut square, chamfered or rounded or the tiles can be "tumbled" which results in a less formal, slightly more rustic look.
The thickness of the stone tiles can be consistent or they could vary from tile to tile, especially riven tiles like slate. This can make installation a little more difficult so it is vital that the correct adhesive and application method is used to ensure an even finish. Stone tiles should be fixed with adhesive specifically designed for the type of stone you are using. The adhesive should not be applied in "blobs" on the back of the tile as this can result in round patches showing through on the surface of the tile where chemicals from the adhesive have seeped through the pores in the rock structure.
Natural stone tiles will require sealing to ensure the surface does not get spoiled by dirt and stains. The type of sealant required will depend on the recommendations of your supplier. The sealant might have to be re-applied periodically depending on the amount of traffic the tiles receive. Natural stone tiles will also require careful cleaning. The correct products need to be selected to ensure the surface and sealer are not damaged by acidic or abrasive chemicals. Again your supplier will be able to advise on, and possibly supply, the correct cleaning materials.
Many ceramic tiles try to emulate the look of natural stone. Many are very convincing but their uniformity is usually a give-away. Ceramic tiles can have some advantages over natural stone in some circumstances and might be selected on practical grounds. Price can also be an issue, although the price of some stone products might be cheaper than their ceramic equivalent in some circumstances, in general stone tiles tend to be more expensive than ceramic.