Tile and stone floors offer cleanliness, durability, and a historical elegance that is difficult to match using any other flooring material. Whether it be with the natural beauty of sedimentary, igneous, or metamorphic cut stone or the versatility of custom tile, these floors are a smart choice for timeless design as well as resale value.
While these floors require little regular maintenance they do need periodic professional cleaning and sealing in order to maintain their long lasting natural qualities. The following are some, but not all, of the types of common tile and stone floors with a brief description and a little insight on their preservation requirements.
Ceramic tiles are durable, easy to clean, and made in a vast variety of custom colors, patterns, shapes, and sizes. Properly glazed and maintained, tile flooring will not absorb odors, support allergens or bacteria nor will it burn or scorch. Ceramic tile can outlast almost any other type of flooring. As a non-porous material the Ceramic itself does not need to be sealed, but the grout that holds the tile is porous and not only needs to be sealed, but needs proper periodic cleaning with an alkaline and acidic cleaner.
Porcelain tile has many of the same qualities of ceramic tile. The durability, lack of support of bacteria or allergens, as well as the fact that it will not scorch or burn. The primary difference is that ceramic is made of clay and minerals whereas porcelain is fired from fine sand. The end result is a very similar product with the porcelain being denser, harder, and more difficult to install. Properly glazed porcelain is non-porous and yet the grout is porous and must be cleaned with an alkaline and acidic cleaner.
Travertine is a natural sedimentary stone formed by precipitates within underground waterways. It is a smooth porous stone that has many different unique and natural colors and pattern variations. The tile can also be polished or honed whether you want a gloss or flat look. Travertine is only properly cleaned using alkaline and the floors are vulnerable to acidic materials which can “etch” the stone. Travertine and the surrounding grout must be properly sealed and cleaned as a regimen of proper maintenance and installation.
Marble is a natural metamorphic stone where the stone itself is only produced through immense pressure and heat that is experienced by particular rocks beneath the crust of the earth. Like all natural stones it can be polished or honed for a glossy or subdued flat appearance. Marble and its grout must not only be properly sealed, but also cleaned using alkaline. As with all natural stones, marble is vulnerable to acidic substances that may “etch” the stone where exposed.
Granite is an igneous stone that is formed by molten rock that has cooled and hardened. Granite and any grout that is used are both porous, therefore they both must be properly sealed and cleaned periodically. Cleaning should be done using alkaline. The finish on granite can be made glossy or more flat and dull depending upon whether you polish or hone the surface.
Slate is a metamorphic stone that is created under similar conditions as granite and like granite it is porous and therefore must be properly cleaned and sealed. As with all grout, it too is porous and must be properly cleaned. Slate and the grout is cleaned using alkaline and cleaning as well as sealing must be completed periodically to ensure long life and health of the natural stone. Unlike other natural stones slate cannot be polished though it is possible to use finishes that have enhancers or are made to leave a wet look that will bring some gloss to the slate.
Pavers are typically made from concrete, brick, or natural stone and while each of these have different intrinsic qualities, all are porous and therefore must be cleaned with alkaline and though some say sealing is optional, they maintain their beauty longer if sealed. Most pavers are designed to have similar qualities to slate where they cannot be polished, but they can be sealed with special enhanced sealants or other sealants designed to leave a “wet” look in order to accomplish a more polished appearance.
Mexican pavers are formed from different types of clay with the three main types being Saltillo/Super Saltillo, Lincoln, and Hacienda. All three are porous and therefore should be cleaned with alkaline and sealed. As with most pavers, Mexican pavers cannot be polished, but they can be given a brighter more polished look by using a sealer that has enhancers to give them more of a glazed or wet look.
Terrazo materials are specially manufactured using chips of natural material that are formed together into a single solid surface. Terrazo can be purchased in pre-made sections, tiles, or made on site. By its very nature Terrazo is porous and must be both sealed and cleaned properly using alkaline. Terrazo materials can be polished for a brighter glossy appearance and honed for a more flat and matte look.
Flagstone is a sedimentary rock that is formed over time by sedimentary material. Flagstone can be honed for a flatter matte look or polished in order to make it appear more bright and glossy. Flagstone is porous and therefore vulnerable to outside elements unless properly sealed. Flagstone can be cleaned with alkaline and should be completed routinely. The sealer should be routinely replaced but not necessarily as often as the deep cleaning.
Limestone is a sedimentary stone that is formed by sedimentary animal debris. Limestone is like all natural stones in that it is porous and therefore needs to be periodically sealed as well as routinely cleaned using alkaline. Limestone can be polished to a glossy finish or honed to a flat finish dependent upon the look desired.
Finished Stone Floors
The following are types and methods of finishing stone floors.
Properly polishing stone floors requires a series of increasingly fine polishing tools in order to bring out the natural luster and beauty of the stone and the crystals commonly found within most stone. Polishing is oftentimes used with marble, limestone, and granite flooring.
While polishing uses increasingly finer materials to bring out an ever increasing glossy appearance. Honed is a method that is similar to polishing, yet stops before the finest of the materials are used. This gives the honed floor the same smooth surface yet its appearance is flat and therefore less prone to showing scratches and blemishes. A honed floor typically requires less routine maintenance. It is common for marble, slat, and limestone to be honed
An acid washed surface is not smooth like the polished or honed surfaces. Acid Washed techniques produce a glossy surface and yet leave the imperfections such as tiny pits and small etchings. This is a popular finish for both marble and limestone that produces an antique or rustic appearance. It is not uncommon for granite to also be acid washed in order to bring down the gloss and give the granite a unique look.
When a finish is saw-cut refined it is processed in order to remove the primary saw marks that made the stone and yet not the finer saw marks that cut it to its final size. This gives the a stone yet another unique look that is typically found on granite, limestone, or marble. Most saw-cut refined finishes have a flat matte appearance.
This is a unique technique that produces a textured surface that is oftentimes useful in areas where individuals are at risk for a slip and fall. To achieve this finish the stone is subjected to intense heat and then very rapid cooling where it pops and chips leaving the desired texture. This is common with granite.
Split faced finishing is commonly seen on slate surfaces. This technique is oftentimes completed by hand and shows the marks from the tools used. This finish is has a texture to it but not nearly as rough as a flamed finish.
The tumbled finish is literally achieved by tumbling pieces of the stone together which produces a pitted smooth surface stone that has irregular, broken, and rounded edges. Limestone and marble are commonly found with a tumbled finish.
A brushed finish is a technique that is used to give the stone the appearance of having been exposed and worn over time. It is accomplished using repeated brushing of the stone until the desired look is achieved.