It’s beautiful. It’s evocative. It’s natural solid stone flooring — 300 million years in the making!
Stone floors offer something no other flooring can: history. Architects and designers since the beginning of civilization have used natural stone for their most important works. In countries around the world, stone has long been the accepted choice for cathedrals, monuments, museums, houses of government and, of course, homes.
One might say it’s an ancient idea. About 2630 B.C., Pharaoh Djoser’s Step Pyramid rose up out of the Egyptian countryside. It was the largest building of its time and much of it was made of stone. This was a tomb meant to last forever and, by constructing it from stone, it has indeed outlasted the mud-brick commonly used in inferior pyramids. It’s chief architect, Imhotep, is credited with inventing stone architecture.
There are three basic types of rock from which we carve out stone floors:
Travertine and limestone are examples of sedimentary stone. Granite is an example of igneous stone. Slate and marble are examples of metamorphic stone.
Stone flooring has long been considered the flooring material of choice for the privileged and elite. Think castles and palaces. But that is no longer the case. Advances in technology have helped make the labor-intensive process much more affordable and that savings has been passed on to modern day consumers. Since your home is your castle, why not consider stone floors?
Stone’s path to your home begins in a quarry. Large blocks of stone are cut from the earth and transported to a processing plant. Did you know that stone is just a rock until it’s been quarried? Only after cutting is it called stone. The blocks are cut into slabs. The slabs then go to a fabricator to be cut again, shaped and polished.
Today, natural stone quarries can be found throughout the world, including Italy, China, Spain, India, Canada, Mexico and right here in the good old US of A.
Among the many advantages of stone is one very practical one. Natural stone flooring will virtually always increase your home’s resale value. And unlike other types of flooring (but like a good wine), it improves with age.
While most of the information in this section refers to natural stone, there is an alternative called Manufactured Stone (or Agglomerate Stone). It’s a synthetic stone product that can be used for flooring and is typically less expensive than natural stone.
You’ve done your stone work. You understand the basic categories. You can imagine the feel of cool brushed sandstone under your feet as you walk through the breakfast room to the flamed granite in the kitchen. Stone flooring is perfect for the way you live.
It’s important, then, to make sure that you understand what makes stone flooring distinctive so that you won’t be surprised or disappointed.
No Two Stone Floors Are Alike. Ever.
You can’t have a stone floor exactly like Cousin Martha’s. You just can’t. And that’s the beauty of it. Every piece of stone is unique in the truest sense of the word — one of a kind.
That means that the samples at your retailers won’t be exactly like the flooring you have installed. The colors and mineral veining will vary. These differences make it impossible for you to hand select your flooring. You are going for an overall look, not a perfect match. This is all part of the personality of your stone floor.
Additionally, no natural stone tile will have a perfectly smooth surface. There is always a possibility that small chips or pits may show up and be more evident in certain kinds of lighting.
Natural stone also varies in hardness. Make sure to match the flooring with the kind of activities that will be taking place on it. For example, soft, porous stone flooring is inappropriate for a high traffic area. Consult your retailer.
Choose your style (see previous section) and then come back here, because next you need to think about what goes between the stones.
Cementing the Relationship
Grout is like the icing on your igneous cake. It comes in different colors and textures and can match, contrast or coordinate with your stone floor.
Grout doesn’t have to make a statement. Select a grout that is close in color to the stone for subtlety. A contrasting grout color will make the grout lines more visible and will emphasize the grid. Non-sanded grout is used with finer, more highly polished flooring. Sanded grout might be used with tumbled stone or even slate for a rustic appearance.
Grout colors used in your home can vary somewhat from the sample you viewed at the retailer. A slightly different temperature or humidity can also cause minor color shifts.
Also, trivial differences in color can occur from one room to the other. The tile setter will determine the exact layout, type of grout, and grout joint widths at the time of installation.
Seal the Stone
Most stone floors can benefit from sealing. It’s another one of those things that needs to be done by a professional. The requirements of each type of stone differ, so consult your retailer to be sure.
Sealing your natural stone flooring makes it less porous, more stain resistant and protects the stone’s original beauty.
Once your flooring is installed, it’s important to maintain all caulked areas to guard against water damage.
Stone Cold Cash
“Cost per square foot” is just one component of the overall price tag for new stone flooring. Ask your retailer to calculate the total cost of your floor-covering project. Here’s what he or she may include beyond the cost of the stone, itself:
- Furniture removal/replacement
- Some retailers or installers may charge to remove (and then replace) furniture in the room.
- Demolition/disposal of old floor covering
- Unless your home is brand new, there’s probably an old floor covering that is going to need to be removed and properly disposed of.
- Sub-floor preparation
- Depending on its condition (after removal of the old floor covering), your subfloor may need to be prepped for stone flooring installation.
- Product delivery
- Delivering your flooring may not be included in the “cost per square foot” price.
- There will most likely be a “cost per square foot” to install your new stone flooring.
- Materials required to complete the installation
- Additional materials may be required to properly install your stone flooring.
- Many retailers offer financing as an option of payment. Be sure to check the interest rate, minimum payment due and any finance charges if you choose to pay your purchase off over time.
Ask your retailer and/or consult the manufacturer’s warranty and care guide for directions on cleaning and maintenance.
Stone flooring is an investment and one with a good return. It’s almost guaranteed to add value to your home. Taking care of it isn’t hard, but knowledge is power. Click here to find a professional stone floor cleaning company in your area.
It’s Its Own Worst Enemy
Sand, grit, and dirt can damage natural stone surfaces because they are abrasive. Use a vacuum on your floor if it’s textured. But avoid the beater bar. Those bristles are tough and might scratch your flooring.
An old-fashioned dust mop works well, as does a broom. Wet mop as needed.
Walk-off mats or area rugs on either side of entrances from the outside will help collect dirt before it reaches your beautiful new floor. Choose a rug or mat with a non-slip surface.
There’s Clean And There’s Cleaner
Damp mopping your natural stone floor will help keep it looking beautiful. But your retailer or manufacturer can suggest special cleaners meant specifically for stone floors.
Wipe up spills immediately. Use soap, not detergent, for good-old fashioned mopping. Liquid Ivory or a castile soap product work well. Too much cleaner or soap may leave a film and cause streaks, so rinse well. Change your rinse water frequently.
Don’t use products that contain lemon juice, vinegar or other acids on marble, limestone, or travertine. Avoid abrasive cleaners or any ammonia-based cleaners. These products will dull the floor’s luster.
Retail grout cleaners, scouring powders or bathroom tub and tile cleaners can mar the finish on your stone.
Never mix bleach and ammonia. The combination creates a toxic gas.
To remove algae or moss from your stone in outdoor pool, patio or hot tub areas, flush with clear water and use a mild bleach solution.
Last But Not Least
Have a floor warming party! Ask your strongest friends to help you move your furniture back on to your new floor to avoid chipping, scratching, or cursing. Pad the feet of your furniture with felt pads or some other kind of protector to guard against damage.
As with all new floors, it’s important to maintain the caulking in areas that are susceptible to water. You don’t want water seeping under your flooring.
Remember that each stone has its own level of porosity. The more porous the stone, the more likely it will stain. Sealing your stone floor may be a really good idea. Use a reliable professional.
Unlike the proverbial rolling stone, yours have found their place in your home. Enjoy the beauty and timeless quality of your new stone flooring.