Q: We’re in the process of a main floor remodel and absolutely love the look of natural stone flooring. But we’ve heard that stone floors can be a real bear to take care of. What does it really take to keep them looking good? Are there certain stones we should look into over others? Or should we just forget it and go with wood or porcelain tile?
A: Everyone loves natural stone floors, but not everyone knows how to take care of them. If you love natural stone, you should absolutely go for it. Stone floors have been popular for centuries, and there’s no denying that they add a sense of luxury to the home that doesn’t come from any other material. There are a multitude of variations in natural stone, so when you say you love the look, what is it, exactly that you love? Try making a list of the attributes and qualities you admire in your favorite natural stone floors. This will help you determine what kind of stone you’re looking for. Here are some of the best stones used for flooring:
Marble: Marble offers a sense of warmth. Although it can stain and scratch, it has real character. It’s porous, so it does need sealing. But it’s a sophisticated choice that can feel formal or casual. Over time, marble develops a “lived with” patina. Some varieties are harder and more stain-resistant than others, but marble does need a little extra TLC. Marble is a nice choice for the bathroom since there is generally very little foot traffic, and it’s mostly bare feet. Some of the most popular marbles are white, including White Carrara, Statuaria Venato, and Arabescato. Beige marbles, such as Crema Marfil and Galala are popular too. Marble is usually used on floors, walls, and showers, with a matching vanity top of the same material. Here at Stone Ace., we always try to have both slabs and tiles available.
Limestone: Similar to travertine, limestone is a bit more resilient. It often keeps its striations as it forms, so it has a tendency to look like wood. It has an “earthen” appearance and looks good with a smooth or rougher finish. Just use caution with limestone. It’s porous, so it does need regular sealing. Shades of white, gray, and beige are most often requested.
Travertine: A relatively soft stone, travertine varies widely in pattern and color. It does have the tendency to scratch and stain, but many love it because it feels soft underfoot. It has a native matte finish that’s inviting and warm.
Granite: One of the hardest natural stones out there, nothing holds a shine or repels water the way granite will! It comes in an array of beautiful colors and it’s highly resistant. Long the top countertop choice, granite makes beautiful flooring as well. However, it is very hard and unforgiving. Granite typically isn’t thought of as “cozy” but it is a stone that will stand up to the demands required for flooring.
Finish is another element to natural stone flooring that will make a difference. While a highly polished finish, for example, is great for a countertop, it’s not so great for kitchen or bathroom floors. It can be very slippery and scratch easily, plus it’s difficult to keep the shine. A honed finish is a good choice for floors. In a honed finish, the stone is sanded with a coarse abrasive to create a smooth, matte surface. It won’t show scratches as much and it’s more slip resistant.
As far as cleaning and maintenance, there are a few basic rules that should help keep your stone floors looking beautiful for a long time to come:
• Wipe up spills right away. The longer they sit, the greater the risk of permanent damage.
• Use rugs at entryways to keep dirt and sand off of natural stone.
• Have stone floors professionally polished and avoid any waxy “shine agents” that will build up over time and take away the natural beauty.
• Clean natural stone floors often with warm water and mild soap such as dishwashing liquid. Avoid abrasive cleansers and scouring pads.
• Never use bleach, ammonia, vinegar, or other highly acidic substances on natural stone. Also avoid alkaline substances such as baking soda.
With some careful consideration and planning, you can enjoy the look of natural stone for many years. Keep in mind that natural stone is also an element that will add value to your home. At our Stone Ace showroom locations, we have many of these stones in stock. Our stone and surfacing professionals would be glad to show you around, answer any other questions you might have about stone flooring, and advise you on sealants and cleaners to ensure the longevity of your floors. Good luck with your decision-making process.