Natural Stone is becoming increasingly popular throughout the world as wall and floor coverings. Increased foreign trade means that many more varieties of natural stone from around the globe are more readily available to consumers.
In recent years the use of stone has become more and more widespread as designers and architects are leaning towards the use of natural products in their projects. The huge variation in character and colour of tiles allow for it to be applied in almost any situation. Stone is now cut using modern sophisticated techniques to create different kinds of finishes. Tiles can also now be treated using new chemicals, which protect it in environments where other materials would have previously been specified.
Travertine is a form of calcium carbonate, which results from deposition by springs or rivers. It is often beautifully coloured and banded as a result of the presence of iron compounds or other impurities. When used for decorative purposes travertine can be called onyx marble, Mexican onyx, and Egyptian or Oriental alabaster.
Travertine stone has long been used as a building material, as well as for cladding. Travertine is popular in tile format because of the variation in finishes that can be crated in the quarrying and manufacturing process. Unfilled travertine is a popular alternative to limestone because of its textured surface. Honed and filled travertine is probably the most common form of travertine tile, simply because it contains many of the properties people are seeking in a natural stone floor, whilst it also represents excellent value in terms of price. The smooth finish of honed and filled travertine also makes it easy to clean and maintain.
Limestone is, by definition, a sedimentary rock wholly or in large part composed of calcium carbonate. It is ordinarily white but may be coloured by impurities. Most limestones are pale in colour, with darker stones being less common. The texture varies from coarse to fine. Most limestone is formed by the deposition and consolidation of the skeletons of marine invertebrates. Limestone deposits are frequently of great thickness.
Limestone is mainly quarried for use as a building material and is successfully applied in all domestic areas as well as being heavily used in commercial developments. Limestone tiles vary in colour, thickness, and finish. Technological advancements in engineering and quarrying, has enabled many of the previously labour intensive finishes to be created by machinery. This increase in productivity is reflected on the high street where quality natural limestone flooring is available at prices much lower than in previous years, although the hardest and highest quality limestone will always command a premium price.
In recent years reclaimed limestone has also become popular. Previously fitted stone slabs are salvaged, cleaned and often calibrated before being re-sold as authentic antique limestone flags. Good quality limestone tiles generally command a higher price than travertine, slate and other variations of natural stone.
Slate is a versatile natural stone found in slabs, which are split to make sheets. The sheets are then cut down to make tiles. The surface is usually left uneven after splitting which gives it its characteristic uneven, or riven surface.
Slate is hardwearing and can vary hugely in colour making the stone adaptable to many different situations. Slate is commonly used internally and externally. This is because it is not only durable but also the riven surface gives it non-slip properties, ideal for patios and courtyards.
Slate can vary in quality, with the best quality slate being resistant to chipping, cracking and abrasion. When fitted and maintained correctly slate tiles can last for years.
Generally, slate is cheaper to buy then limestone or travertine. Although, some of the best quality slate tiles, as well as slate that has been enhanced by applying a process like brushing which will be more expensive.
Marble is a metamorphic rock, which is created by the metamorphism of limestone. Due to the durability and strength it has commonly been used in building materials and sculpture. Sometimes marble has been a term casually used to describe a rock which is capable of taking a polished surface. This is not so true nowadays as quarries develop polishing techniques for softer stones such as limestone and travertine.
White marble is derived from on very pure limestone. Impurities in limestone are mobilized when the stone comes under intense heat and pressure. The impurities crystallize again to give giving the marble its colour. Sand, silt, clay and iron oxide are just some of the impurities that contribute to colour.
Marble can vary hugely in price with some varieties being available at similar prices to good quality travertine. In general, many of the vibrant colours such as, green, red, blue and gold are usually more expensive.
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-size mineral or rock grains. Like sand, sandstone may be any colour, but the most common colors are tan, brown, yellow, red, gray, and white. Some varieties of sandstones are very hard, strong and durable, making them ideal for construction purposes. Many are also resistant to weathering which makes them ideal for patios and paving.
Unlike the fine grain, smooth finish of limestone, sandstone is a sedimentary rock with a rougher, more abrasive face, suitable for areas requiring slip resistance. Swimming-pools, patios and paths all benefit from its coarser texture and higher porosity, aiding grip where many manmade materials fail.
Granite is an igneous rock, formed mainly by the crystallization of once molten material under conditions of extreme heat and pressure. The properties of granite, that make it the ideal stone surface, are its hardness and inherent resistance to acid. Granites are not "attacked" by the acids normally present in foods and cleaning products, yet granite is a porous stone and requires proper sealing with a silicone based impregnator to prevent staining.