Caring for natural stone: tips to keep your tiles looking beautiful
Whilst there’s no doubt that natural stone is one of the most beautiful materials available, it’s a well-known fact that it does require more maintenance than products such as porcelain or ceramic tiles. The trade-off is that well cared for stone possesses natural charm and truly unique characteristics – it was forged millions of years ago in the heart of the earth, after all. You will be rewarded for your efforts, as stone ages gracefully, looking better and better year after year.
Gorgeous travertine is one of the most popular types of stone, with many wall and floor tiles available. As travertine is a natural product, voids or pinholes can appear on the surface of the tile after installation, giving it a rustic, aged charm. You can fill these with grout or resin, or leave them as they are depending on your personal preference - though they can be harder to clean if left unfilled.
Made up of age old micro skeletons and shells compressed over millions of years, Limestone is an extremely versatile stone, available in a wide range of colours and formats. Do bear in mind that limestone tiles such as Greyfriars Abbey (shown right) can be susceptible to surface scratching which will blend in over time to create a charmingly aged effect. Some types of limestone contain iron oxide which can cause degradation of the outer layers if they come into prolonged contact with water – be sure to check that your chosen stone is compatible with your intended installation area. Limestone can also be treated with oils to give different effects to the surface, such as antique oil to add sheen. The image to the right shows tiles treated with slate enhancer.
The veined appearance of marble is exposed when individual pieces are cut, so no two tiles will ever be exactly the same. Whilst this is guaranteed to create a remarkable visual effect overall, it’s worth considering when you make your choice if you prefer uniformity. Differences in shade and tone are also an inherent feature and add to the impact, particularly when installed on a grand scale. A popular use for marble is as a splashback behind a cooking area, and whilst this looks beautiful, marble can be susceptible to damage from substances like cooking oil. It is very important to ensure that marble is properly sealed if intended to be used in this way.
Basalt was once lava flowing from volcanoes, so tiny bubbles were formed as it cooled. This is an inherent feature which tells of its dramatic beginning. If choosing basalt tiles for your home, we recommend you use black grout and clean thoroughly before installation to ensure no adhesive makes its way into the holes as this can cause speckling and disrupt the natural, inky beauty of the surface.
One of the most popular styles of natural stone, slate tiles are made up of smooth flat layers, giving it a unique and dramatically varied depth of colour. Mix and match various types of slate in many sizes to create an attractive effect. As its surface is layered, flaking can sometimes occur, exposing more striking differences in shade. If this happens, simply clean and reseal the affected area.
Simple, rustic terracotta (shown left) is undoubtedly beautiful, with its orange and red hues conjuring images of its origins in sun-baked countries such as Spain. By its nature terracotta is porous, so should be thoroughly sealed and installed in areas that do not regularly get very wet. Terracotta is incredibly versatile, and linseed oil or beeswax can be applied to enhance the natural beauty of the surface if desired, or it can be left natural for a more rustic aesthetic.
Here we have covered some of the key considerations to take into account when selecting your natural stone tiles. We would always recommend reading our detailed fixing guides before installation and ordering several samples prior to purchase to ensure your desired product is well suited to your project. Always ensure that the sub floor is strong and rigid enough to cope with the weight of stone tiles.
Whichever stone you opt for, when well cared for it will offer you unparalleled beauty and astonishing durability that will last for many years. There is little that can match the uniqueness of stone and the variety of colour that appears naturally adds character which is only enhanced when installed on a large scale.