Selecting the Right Natural Stone Floor Tiles and Installing Natural Stone Floor
Stone flooring is a timeless and elegant choice for any home. It combines the durability of hard flooring with the unique beauty of natural patterns, making it a popular choice for both traditional and contemporary interiors.
In this guide, we will delve into the world of natural stone floor tiles, covering everything from the types of stone available to the nuances of installation and maintenance.
Whether you are a homeowner planning a renovation or a professional looking to expand your knowledge on how to professionally install natural stone tiles, this detailed guide provides a comprehensive exploration of everything related to stone flooring.
What is Natural Stone Tile?
Natural stone tile is a type of tile made from natural stone extracted from the earth. These tiles are cut from various types of stone, including marble, granite, slate, limestone, travertine, and others.
Each type of stone tile has unique characteristics, colors, and textures, which are inherently formed by the earth over thousands or millions of years.
How does it compare to Ceramic tiles?
Natural stone tiles, made from quarried stone like marble and granite, offer a unique and luxurious appearance with variations in color and texture, but require regular maintenance including sealing, and tend to be more costly.
Ceramic tiles, manufactured from kiln-fired clay, provide a wide range of colors and patterns, including imitations of natural stone, and are generally more affordable and easier to maintain. While natural stone is durable and long-lasting, especially in varieties like granite, it can be more challenging to install due to its weight and variability.
Ceramic tile, on the other hand,is also durable but easier to install and maintain, making it a practical choice for various applications. The decision between the two largely depends on budget, desired aesthetic, and maintenance considerations.
Types of Stone Tiles
Natural Stone Tiles:
- Marble: This luxurious stone has been a symbol of sophistication through the ages. Marble tiles come in a range of colors, from subtle whites to striking blacks, each piece unique with its own veining and patterns. While its beauty is unparalleled, marble is porous and can be prone to scratching and staining. It’s perfect for spaces where elegance is paramount, like foyers and bathrooms, but it requires regular maintenance to retain its luster.
- Granite: If durability is a top priority, granite is the way to go. Known for its tough composition, it’s highly resistant to scratches, making it ideal for kitchen floors and countertops. Its granular appearance, available in various hues, adds a distinctive character to any space. Granite does need sealing to prevent stains, but with proper care, it can last a lifetime.
- Slate: For a more rustic or natural aesthetic, slate is an excellent choice. Its natural slip resistance makes it ideal for outdoor areas or wet environments. Slate tiles come in varied thicknesses, which can be a consideration during installation. They offer a robustness suited for high-traffic areas and are relatively low maintenance.
- Limestone: Limestone tiles offer a warm, earthy appearance, ideal for creating a cozy and inviting atmosphere. Softer than marble and granite, limestone requires careful selection, particularly for areas under heavy use. Regular sealing is necessary to protect its surface from stains and wear.
- Travertine: Renowned for its unique pitted surface and tumbled appearance, travertine tiles bring a distinct texture to floors and walls. It’s available in several shades, from beige to rust, fitting various design styles. Like other natural stones, it requires sealing and careful maintenance.
- Sandstone: Sandstone is another option, known for its earthy appeal and grainy texture. It offers a range of colors, mostly in tan and brown hues, resembling beach sand. It’s less durable than granite or marble but can add a unique, natural look to your space.
- Quartzite: Quartzite is a hard, metamorphic rock that is often mistaken for marble or granite. It’s highly resistant to wear and tear and comes in various colors, often with glassy, shimmering surfaces.
- Onyx: Onyx is a more exotic choice, known for its translucent quality and striking patterns. It’s softer and more fragile than other stones, so it’s usually used in low-traffic areas or as decorative panels.
Manufactured Stone Tiles:
- These tiles offer a more uniform appearance and are often more affordable than natural stone tiles. They are easier to install and come in a wide range of designs, mimicking the look of natural stone. While they lack the unique characteristics of natural stone, they offer consistency and ease of maintenance that appeal to many homeowners.
Choosing the Right Natural Stone Tiles for Your Space
Room’s Function: When installing natural stone tile, the choice of stone should be influenced by where it will be installed. In kitchens and bathrooms, where moisture and spills are common, non-porous stones like granite are ideal. For areas like living rooms and bedrooms, the elegance and warmth of marble or limestone can be more suitable.
Aesthetic Appeal: The stone you choose should complement your home’s overall design theme. Sleek, polished granite tiles or marble work well in modern settings, while the rustic charm of slate or travertine is perfect for country-style homes.
Size and Shape: The dimensions and shape of the natural stone tiles can drastically affect the room’s appearance. Larger tiles can give a seamless, open look, ideal for smaller spaces. Smaller, mosaic-style tiles are great for creating detailed patterns or feature areas.
Installing Natural Stone Tile in Your Home
Preparing for Installation
Measuring and Buying Tiles: Accurate measurement of the area to be tiled is crucial. It’s recommended to buy an additional 10-15% more tiles than the measured area to account for cutting, breakage, and future repairs.
Tools and Materials: The installation of natural stone tiles requires specific tools such as a tile cutter or wet saw for precise cutting, trowels for applying mortar, tile spacers for even tile placement, and a level to ensure the tiles are laid flat. Materials needed include the tiles themselves, mortar for bedding, grout for filling the joints, grout remover and a sealant to protect the tiles.
Natural Stone Tile – The Installation Process
When installing natural stone tiles, it is very important to follow the right installation process to prevent potential issues such as cracking, uneven flooring, moisture damage, grout failure, and long-term deterioration of the tiles. Proper installation ensures the durability and aesthetic appeal of the flooring and helps in avoiding costly repairs or replacements down the line.
Surface Preparation: The foundation on which the tiles are laid must be sturdy, flat, and clean. This may involve leveling the floor and filling any cracks or irregularities.
Laying the Tiles:
- Start by dry-laying the tiles to finalize the layout. This step is crucial for understanding how the tiles will fit together and where cuts will be needed.
- Spread a layer of thin-set mortar on the floor using a notched trowel. Place the tiles firmly into the mortar, remember to place tile spacers to ensure consistent gaps for the grout.
- Measure and cut tiles to fit along walls and in corners. A wet saw is ideal for making precise cuts when cutting natural stone.
Grouting and Sealing:
- After the mortar has set (usually 24-48 hours), remove the spacers and apply grout between the tiles, wiping away excess with a damp sponge.
- Sealing the tiles is a crucial step, especially for porous stones like marble and limestone. The application of tile sealer protects the tile surface from stains and moisture and should be repeated every one to two years, depending on foot traffic and usage.
Maintenance and Care of Stone Flooring
Is Natural Stone Flooring Easy to Maintain? How do I maintain it to preserve its beauty?
Regular Maintenance: Daily sweeping or vacuuming of the entire floor is essential to remove dirt and grit that can scratch the stone surface. Mopping with a damp mop and a pH-neutral cleaner designed for stone will help maintain its natural beauty.
Long-term Care: In addition to regular cleaning, stone floors should be resealed periodically to maintain their resistance to moisture and stains. Immediate attention to spills, particularly acidic substances like wine or lemon juice, is crucial to prevent staining, especially in softer stones.
Specific Care for Different Stone Types:
- Marble, Limestone, Travertine: These stones are more susceptible to acid etching and staining. Be extra careful with acidic substances and ensure they are sealed properly.
- Granite: While more resilient, it can still benefit from sealing to prevent stains.
- Slate: Often has a natural texture; sealing can help in cleaning and maintaining its appearance.
By adhering to these maintenance guidelines, your natural stone flooring can retain its beauty and elegance for many years. Remember that consistent and appropriate care is key to preserving the unique qualities of your stone floors.
For more information on the maintenance of stone tile floors, please read our blog post on the subject.
FAQS about Stone Tile Floor & Installing Natural Stone Tiles
What Types of Natural Stone Flooring are Available?
There are several types of natural stone flooring available, each offering unique characteristics, colors, and textures. These stones are prized for their natural beauty and the distinct touch they bring to interiors and exteriors. Some of the most popular types are marble, granite, slate, limestone, and travertine.
How Durable is Natural Stone Flooring?
There are many questions about the durability and longevity of natural stone tiles, especially in high-traffic areas and under different conditions (like moisture or direct sunlight). The durability of natural stone tile varies significantly depending on the type of stone chosen.
Each type of stone tile has its own properties that affect its strength, resistance to wear, and overall longevity and all stone types require specific maintenance and care. When choosing natural stone flooring, consider the room’s function, your lifestyle, and the overall aesthetic you want to achieve.
Granite: Granite is one of the hardest and most durable natural stone flooring options. It’s highly resistant to scratches, chips, and cracks, making it suitable for high-traffic and heavily used areas like kitchens and entryways.
Marble: While marble is known for its beauty and elegance, it’s softer and more porous than granite, making it susceptible to scratches, stains, and etching (especially from acidic substances). It’s best used in lower-traffic areas to avoid scratching and where it can be well-maintained.
Slate: Slate is highly durable and resistant to chips and scratches. Its natural texture also provides slip resistance, which is beneficial in wet areas or outdoor spaces. It can withstand heavy traffic, making it suitable for both indoor and outdoor use.
Limestone and Travertine: These stones are softer and more porous than granite and slate, which makes them more susceptible to wear and staining. They are best used in lower-traffic areas and require regular sealing to maintain their appearance.
Sandstone: Sandstone varies in durability. It is generally softer and more prone to wear than other stones like granite and slate. Regular sealing is necessary to protect its surface, and it’s best used in areas with moderate traffic.
Quartzite: Quartzite is extremely hard and durable, often even more so than granite. It’s highly resistant to scratches and etching, making it suitable for kitchens and high-traffic areas.
Onyx: Onyx is a softer and more fragile stone. It’s prone to scratching and staining and is best used in low-traffic areas or as a decorative feature rather than as main flooring.
In general, natural stone flooring is renowned for its longevity, often lasting decades when properly maintained.
The key to preserving the beauty and durability of natural stone tiles lies in regular maintenance, which includes sealing, proper cleaning, and avoiding harsh chemicals. Additionally,
How you install natural stone tiles and the stone’s finish (polished, honed, brushed) can also impact its durability and suitability for different spaces.
When considering natural stone tile for flooring, it’s important to balance aesthetic preferences with practical considerations of where and how the flooring will be used, ensuring that the chosen stone can withstand the expected wear and tear.
Is Natural Stone Flooring Slippery When Wet?
The slipperiness of natural stone flooring when wet is a valid concern, especially in areas like bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor spaces where moisture is common. The slip resistance of natural stone flooring depends on the type of stone and its finish.
Here’s a breakdown of how different natural stone floors behave when wet:
- Granite: Granite is relatively less slippery compared to other polished stones due to its granular composition. However, when polished, it can become slippery when wet. Textured finishes can improve its slip resistance.
- Marble: Polished marble can be quite slippery when wet due to its smooth surface. Choosing a honed or brushed finish can enhance traction, making it safer under wet conditions.
- Slate: Slate is one of the more slip-resistant natural stones due to its natural cleft texture. This makes it a popular choice for bathrooms, kitchens, and outdoor applications where moisture is present.
- Limestone and Travertine: These stones can be slippery when wet, especially if polished. Opting for a honed, brushed, or tumbled finish can improve their slip resistance. Travertine, with its naturally pitted surface, can offer better traction in its natural state.
- Sandstone: Sandstone has a naturally gritty texture, which provides decent slip resistance. However, as with other stones, its finish can affect its slipperiness when wet.
- Quartzite: Quartzite, when polished, can be slippery if wet. A textured finish can make it more suitable for areas where it might come into contact with water.
- Onyx: Onyx is typically polished to enhance its translucency and can be quite slippery when wet, making it less ideal for high-moisture areas.
To improve the slip resistance of natural stone flooring, especially in wet areas, here are some recommendations:
- Choose Textured Finishes: Opt for honed, brushed, tumbled, or flamed finishes instead of polished surfaces. These finishes provide more grip and reduce the risk of slipping.
- Apply Non-Slip Treatments: There are various products available that can be applied to natural stone to increase its slip resistance without significantly altering its appearance.
- Use Mats or Rugs: In areas prone to moisture, such as near sinks, baths, and showers, placing non-slip mats or rugs can provide additional safety.
- Regular Maintenance: Keeping the stone clean and free of any build-up that might make it more slippery is important. Some cleaning products can also make the floor more slippery, so choosing the right cleaning agents is crucial.
It’s important to consider the slip resistance of natural stone flooring, especially in areas where water or moisture is present. The right choice of stone and finish can significantly enhance safety and functionality.
Choosing stone tiles for your floor is not just about selecting a material; it’s about investing in a piece of the earth’s natural beauty.
By considering the type of stone, the specific needs of your space, and adhering to proper installation and maintenance practices, your stone flooring can be a beautiful and lasting feature of your home.
For personalized advice or professional assistance with your stone tile flooring project, our team is ready to guide you. Feel free to contact us for a consultation, and let’s start the process of bringing the natural elegance of stone flooring into your home today!
You might also be interested in our guide on How to Replace a Broken Tile: A DIY Guide