The use of stone in masonry, construction, and interior design extends back in time so far that it can be considered one of the oldest professions in human history. From sculptures, to heritage monuments, civilizations, and renaissance art, the usage of stone, and more specifically natural stone, seems to be a timeless choice. Let’s explore everything you need to know about the use of natural stones such as marble, granite, travertine, and slate, how they are composed and the best ways to care for them in your home.
How Are Natural Stones Formed
Considering that the Earth’s crust is constantly undergoing expansion, erosion, and the slow fluid movement between tectonic plates, and that the Earth’s mantle is rich in minerals and gases; extreme pressure and right temperature conditions can lead to magnificent natural phenomena.
With the right mix of minerals, extreme pressure, and millions of years worth of time, a variety of stones can be formed. Bred from the depths of the Earth, natural stones undergo a very slow process where it makes its way closer towards the bedrock of the Earth’s crust. This slow process that pushes rock formations many kilometres up from the mantle adds to the complexity of natural stone formations.
Stones can be categorized by way of formation:
By way of surface level activities on the Earth’s crust, such as the movement of lakes, oceans, glaciers, wind, rain, and other environmental occurrences – sediments, and other free flowing minerals can find their way to becoming rocks. Generally, these rocks are formed closer to the surface of the earth, and may include fossils or the process petrification. This means that bio matter gets caught up in the process of the sedimentary rock formation, or high amounts of pressure, and becomes solidified.
To metamorphose means to transform. The quality of transformation on a geologic scale can lead to some spectacular natural stone formations. Consider a sedimentary rock like limestone, formed closer to the surface of the Earth’s crust. Through the movement of the Earth, surface rocks can find their way deeper into the crust. Now exposed to other minerals, more heat, and exponential pressure, this once limestone can become a new stone – marble.
Igneous rocks, simply put occur through rapid cooling and solidification of material straight from the mantle. Often through volcanic eruptions, the how lava is spewed out to the Earth’s surface, where it will carry precious minerals with it.
Calcareous vs Siliceous
Majority of stones can further be categorized by the mineral composition. Calcareous stones are composed mainly of calcium carbonate. This includes stones such as:
Siliceous stones on the other hand are composed of silica or quartz like particles. Stones that are composed of silica are:
Types of Natural Stones Used In Homes
The vibrancy, quality, and lustre of the stone is highly dependent on and where it comes from. Stones can vary in colour, hue, and the patterns or streaks known as veining also differs.
As sturdy as they might feel, it’s important to remember that stones are porous. With proper care, maintenance, and restoration – marble, granite, and other stones in your home can last generations!
Granite is a form of igneous rock. This means it was exposed to incredibly high heats during it formation. Due to this solidification of molten material, it is one of the most durable types of natural stone out there. This is why it is a common choice for high traffic areas such as kitchen countertops, flooring and outdoor use.
Quartz is a great option if you’re looking for a highly durable natural stone. Quartz can be an attractive choice for flooring and countertops because the manufacturing process can create a wide range of colours to choose from, in comparison to other natural stones like granite or marble. Quartz is also slightly less on the hardness scale in comparison to granite, and so this flexibility in its composition is more resilient to chipping or cracking. Above all, quartz as is non-porous, which means you don’t have to worry about sealing the stone. This a great low-maintenance option for areas of high traffic use like your kitchen and bathroom.
Terrazzo has grown in popularity since the 20th century. It is a composition of stone chips. The composite is combined by utilizing a concrete or epoxy-resin. Terrazzo is popular because of its possibilities for customization. Since the process of binding stone chips such as marble or quartz (or both) is done so with epoxy-resin, the potential for colour mix and matching, along with being able to choose the colour of the resin, makes the construction material unique.
Slate is commonly used in bathrooms, backsplashes, walls and flooring. It is highly resilient as it is a very hard and durable stone. The types of stone walls that you might see used in interior decor or accent walls that are stone textured is probably slate!
Slate is one of the most common types of flooring, as it’s very hard and able to stand up to high traffic. Slate is favoured by pet owners because it’s not likely to be scratched or scraped, and it is excellent for foyers, hallways, and other high traffic areas. Plus, it looks beautiful!
Slate has a very long lifespan, so you likely won’t have to replace it, but the sealer finish will have to be stripped and re-applied based on wear and tear. Raw slate is absorbent and not water-resistant.
Marble has been used throughout history and was a symbol of wealth and prosperity. The stone itself is abundant, and is used across cultures. The marble extraction process is often done by slow carving out large quarries. Marble is often named after where they are mined, such as Italy’s famous Carrara marble – responsible for much of the marble carvings Italian art is known for.
While marble is a stunning option showing opulence for flooring and countertops, it is very high maintenance – it is easy to show wear and tear. Marble has to be cleaned and sealed regularly as it is a very porous stone. Additionally, as it is made of limestone, the stone is best cleaned with a pH-neutral cleaner.
Travertine is a natural stone formed in geothermic areas of the Earth. Like marble, it comes from the limestone family. As such, it is a very porous rock, and is considered a higher maintenance type of natural stone. Travertine is often used in outdoor settings and for tiling bathrooms. In fact it was used historically in Rome for building structures, bath complexes and water ways. Travertine is characterized by tiny holes that are formed, so if you decide to use it, be aware that it needs to be sealed regularly to maintain its sheen and beauty in high traffic areas.
Maintaining Natural Stone at Home
As sturdy as they might feel, it’s important to remember that stones are porous. Depending on the type of stone, the stain resistance varies, but one thing is universal among natural stone that is used in interior spaces – they are not stain proof. The worst thing you can do is to neglect proper care of your investment and be left with a lustreless stone that is supposed to accent your space.
If there’s one key thing you can do you maintain your natural stone, especially for your countertop is to clean up messes and spills immediately. This way, it makes it removes the potential of liquids to leave stains.
Here are 5 habits you should adopt to care for your natural stone at home:
- Wipe things down immediately – especially during winter and you track road salt into the home
- Be extra cautious when using acidic solutions and citrus
- Consider having your stone countertop, backsplashes, vanities, and flooring sealed
- Start using coasters
- Even though natural stone countertops can handle high heat, use a heat resistant pad or cork padding when transferring hot objects from stove to countertop
- Dust, mop, and remove debris often
A Mistake to Avoid When Caring For Your Stone Countertops, Floors, and Walls
Avoid using harsh solvents, acidic chemicals, or substances high in alkalinity. This is important, especially for natural stones that are of calcareous nature. Natural stones like Marble are a metamorphosed rock stemming from limestone. Its structure is built from minerals of calcium carbonate. When calcium carbonate is exposed to acidic solutions, a chemical reaction will occur, which will erode at the stone.
Also avoid using abrasive scrubs on stone. This can etch away at the surface of the stone or disrupt the sealant leaving the stone exposed to further problems with staining and erosion down the line
What you can do instead is using a microfibre cloth in combination with pH-neutral cleaners, or mild detergent like dish detergent, wipe away the dirt or grime from the stone surface. Be sure to go over the area you cleaned with a damp cloth to remove any residual soap suds.
Hiring a Professional to Take Care of the Natural Stone in Your Home
Restoration of natural stones involves a wide array of techniques. It can be as simple as removal of scratches, filling in any erosion or chips on the surface of the stone, using mechanical abrasion to smooth out any damages or simply the reapplication of grout. Grout is a highly viscous cement used as a filler to fill spaces between ceramic or natural stone tiles.
Services can also involve using stone floor scrubbers, buffers, or super heated water to penetrate paint or any biological matter stuck inside the stone. Depending where your stone is located, there may be algae, fungi, moss, or spores growing in the stone!
In general, natural stone such as marble has an innate reflectivity to it, and does not need a coating or wax to achieve a renewed shine. Instead, natural stone master technicians will utilize a series of different gritted diamond polishing pads. This method of restoration through careful polishing is done until the desired finish is achieved.