Natural Stone in the Home – Text Modules for Squidoo

Choosing Natural Stone Tiles
When you are choosing natural stone tiles for your home or garden it is important to know that the colour of many natural stones is an indicator of the quality of that stone. Take marble, for example, the more pure white it is the better the quality – the background colour is an indicator of quality in marble and so is the amount of veining – quite simply a "whiter white" with little veining is the highest quality you can obtain. But, obviously this is quite rare and very expensive so you have to make a judgement based on the cost of the marble tiles and their level of quality. This is not as easy as it sounds because most tile showrooms will have very bright lights – much brighter than those in a home – so a tile will look much lighter in colour in the showroom that when you get it home. Always ask for a sample to take home and view in more natural light and make sure it is from the actual batch you are considering. All natural stone is subject to colour variations (that's part of its beauty) even if it comes from the same quarry and manufacturer. Another factor in the quality of marble is the veining; if it is very dark that indicates poorer quality as does indistinct veining so light-coloured but distinct veins are the ideal. Try comparing various types of tile from different quarries and producers and you will soon get an idea of what type you prefer and the price you might have to pay. Other quality indicators in any type of natural stone tile are the thickness and the tile size – thicker larger tiles will always be more expensive than smaller, thinner alternatives, simply because larger tiles are more difficult to produce. Because of the fact that they are a natural product any type of natural stone tile can contain holes and these are usually filled with epoxy resin before the tiles are polished, but if you examine the tiles closely you can often see where the holes were. A few filled holes are not a problem but of the tiles have a lot of holes then, not only will they not look as good, but this will indicate that the tiles are not as durable as they could be – again this will affect cost and you might have to trade-off your budget with the look and durability of the tiles. Also watch out for inaccuracies in the cutting of the tiles – cheaper tiles tend to be cut more roughly, which is fine of you are going for a rustic look but otherwise can cause problems with uneven grout joints. But even taking into account all of these potential issues, the variation in colour and texture is part of what makes natural stone so beautiful.

Guide to Natural Stone
Natural stone floor tiles have a unique beauty and come in an enormous range of colours and textures suitable for homes from the ultra-contemporary to rustic. But if you are considering them for your home it is important to know a bit about them so that you choose the right type. Natural stone floor tiles have a unique beauty and come in a variety of colours and textures. But if you are considering them for your home it is important to know a bit about them.

Natural stone has been used for flooring for thousands of years in public buildings, places of worship, royal residences and grand houses because of its beauty and durability. Typical examples of natural stone are limestone, granite, slate and marble and they are all carved out of rock that has been quarried. Quarrying and then carving the stone is a labourintensive process that for thousands of years was done by hand. More recently technological advances have meant that the process can be mechanised with the use of advanced tools and the consequence of that is that natural stone tiles have become substantially more affordable. Although there are still traditional craftsmen who cut and polish the stone by hand. Natural stone quarries, both ancient and modern, exist in many parts of the world from Europe to India, Asia and North America. How are Natural Stone Tiles Made? Large sections of rock are first cut from the earth using either explosives or diamond cutting equipment, depending on the type and hardness of the rock and its physical location. These large blocks of rock are then cut into smaller slabs of varying thickness using high-speed saws and the slabs are polished by machines to give different textural surfaces from rustic to ultra-smooth. Each slab is then cut into a range of smaller sizes suitable for wall and floor tiles using special water-cooled saws and given a final polish before being ready for the consumer. Why Choose Natural Stone? Natural stone tiles come in a huge range of styles, colours and finishes from sleek, contemporary limestone to classic marble or rustic slate so can suit any type of interior. They are both beautiful and unique because, as a natural material, no two tiles will be identical so your room can have an identity all of its own. The finish is particularly important because it can create a very different look even with the same stone from the same quarry. Typical Natural Stone Types Used For Tiles

Travertine is a type of limestone with a honeycomb structure and a lot of surface indentations. These dents can be filled with resin for a smooth surface or left unfilled for a textured surface. Colours range from pale creams to dark reddish browns. Limestone is formed when seashells settle in sediment, which over time hardens to sedimentary rock so fossilised shells are a typical feature. Colours range from cream to golden brown. Granite is an igneous rock so is a very hard stone making it extremely durable; it comes in an enormous range of rich colours and is commonly used in the home for kitchen worktops as well as flooring. Marble is familiar to all of us from the ancient classical buildings of Rome and Greece and the many famous Italian sculptures. It comes in a variety of different colours typically with contrasting veining but the darker marbles are not suitable for wet areas because of their porosity. Slate is composed of clay, quartz and shale and has a rustic appearance due to its natural layered look. Because it is water-resistant it is frequently used for floor tiles but is also used for roof tiles and patio tiles. Natural Stone Finishes Polished for a glossy shine which may need regular maintenance to preserve the shine. Honed for a matt or satin finish which is more resistant to scratching and needs little maintenance. Acid-washed for an antique look which reveals the crystal structure within the stone and is highly scratch-resistant.. Flamed for a rough texture which is perfect where a non-slip surface is required – created by using a blowtorch on the stone until the surface crystals explode. Tumbled for a smooth but slightly pitted surface with uneven edges for a raw, natural finish typically used for small tiles and decorative border tiles. Brushed for a naturally worn look suitable for restoration work in old buildings– created by brushing the tile surface wil metal brushes.

A Short History of Carrara Marble
By Michelle Symonds

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Approximately three-hundred marble quarries of various sizes are present in the region of Carrara in Italy and constitute the largest of all the marble quarries across the globe. These quarries produce a wide range of different qualities of the marble. Historically, all of the marble was extracted using hand tools but as technology advanced, dynamite started to be used to obtain this highly sought-after product and now sophisticated cutting equipment enables extraction with relative ease and safety. For millions of years in this region the shells of sea creatures had been accumulating on the sea-bed and started to form into limestone. The limestone eventually became buried and during the Jurassic period the heat and pressure generated by the movement of the Earth's tectonic plates caused the limestone rock to metamorphose into marble. In some instances, crystalline minerals, such as quartz, calcite or dolomite, formed in the cavities within the marble. They are typically perfectly shaped crystals with stunning clarity and a variety of colours such as green, red and yellow. Their shape and colour is further enhanced by the pure white marble surrounding them. Quartz crystals tend to always be colourless and very shiny due to the perfectly flat faces of the crystals. Whilst beautiful to look at, the presence of a large proportion of crystals is, unfortunately, detrimental to the quality of the marble. One of the reasons that Carrara marble is so famous is that it was used by some of the most famous sculptors in the world, such as Michelangelo, to create exquisite statues. It was used for Michelangelo's famous masterpiece "David", which was created in the early 1500s but was also used for many other works of art by Giotto, Bernini and others. It is possible to visit to the quarries of Carrara with those in the area around the ancient village of Colonnata being the most impressive. Colonnata was said to have been founded by the Romans to house the slaves they employed in the quarries. There are spectacular views over the town of Carrara and the vast quarries themselves from Fantiscritti where there is also an exhibition of quarrying methods from the ancient times to the present day, with examples of the implements used for excavating and cutting the marble from the mother rock, sawing the blocks into slabs and transporting them. Carrara marble is usually white in colour but often contains greyish veining. With the purest white being the highest quality and most desirable for creating statues and sculptures. It is the most expensive marble in the world and once the marble blocks have been extracted from the quarry, they are cut and polished and made into many different types of desirable objects such as fireplaces, ornaments, statues, gravestones, floor tiles and wall tiles.

Natural Stone Floor Tiles – Buying Tips
Natural stone floor tiles, by their very nature, are each formed from unique pieces of natural rock. It is important, therefore, to be fully aware of their characteristics when choosing such tiles in order to know what to expect and not be disappointed with your choice. Natural stone floor tiles, by their very nature, are formed from unique pieces of rock. So it is important to be fully aware of their characteristics so that you are not disappointed with your choice.

Natural stone floor tiles, without a doubt, will bring a touch of unique beauty to your home but it is important when buying natural stone tiles to fully understand their advantages and disadvantages so that you know exactly what to expect once your floor is laid. Perhaps the most important point to understand is that the unique element natural stone brings to your home means that each tile and every piece of stone is different. Even tiles from the same quarry, same manufacturer and same batch will not be identical to each other. If you are looking for perfectly matched tiles then stone is probably not the ideal choice for you but if you are looking for a natural uniqueness then read on. So you have seen a display of tiles you like in a showroom but it is important that you view the actual batch from which your tiles will be coming before your make your final choice. Any samples available will not be exactly like the delivered tiles – the colour and veining will be similar, but different. What this means is that you have to expect to get a certain overall look with natural stone not an exact colour match. The next most important point to be aware of is the surface texture. Rarely will a tile have a perfectly flat surface so there are likely to be dents on the face of the tile and chips at the edges of some tiles, although this is more likely on the softer materials like limestone and marble. Then you have to be aware of the thickness, hardness and porosity of your chosen tile in relation to where the tiles will be laid. Obviously, soft stone would be unsuitable for a hallway and a porous stone would be unsuitable for a bathroom. So make sure you choose a tile that is appropriate – with natural stone there is more to consider than just looks. Which grout? Grout is available in such a wide choice of colours and textures that the choice of grout is just as important as the choice of tiles. Whether you choose it to match or contrast with your tiles it is a key factor in the success of the finished look. You also need to think about the maintenance of the grout- a pale coloured grout in a heavy traffic floor is likely to get dirty very quickly – and also the fact that temperature and humidity can affect the colour of the grout.

Do the tiles need sealing? The necessity to seal a natural stone floor depends very much on the type of stone used and the location in which it has been laid, such as a heavy traffic hallway or a shower room. But the simple answer to the question of whether natural stone tiles need sealing is yes. A good sealant will protect the floor from stains, make it less porous and preserve the stone’s unique beauty.

Whilst natural stone is considerably more affordable now than it has been in the past it is still not a budget option. The cost of installation is higher than for ceramic tiles or porcelain tiles because professional equipment is usually required and it is a harder job for a DIY enthusiast. But if you are convinced by the natural look then ceramic tiles or porcelain floor tiles will be no match for their unique beauty.

Transform Your Garden with a Natural Stone Patio One of the best ways of transforming any type of outside space whether it's a courtyard, family garden, country garden or rolling acres is to install a natural stone patio or terrace. Its unique beauty is always a delight to see and there are styles of natural stone to complement all types of house from ultra-contemporary right through to traditional and rustic. There is such a wide range of natural stone now available that whatever type of garden you have there is sure to be something suitable that will transform your outside space whether it is a small courtyard garden or has acres of space. But knowing that there are suitable natural stone tiles out there is the easy part – choosing which tiles are right for your patio is harder. And it is not just the colour that you need to get right – the surface finish is even more important – does it need to be slip-resistant, will there be young children playing on it, does it need to be hard-wearing? These are some of the questions you will have to ask yourself before you even begin to look at the choices available. In addition, natural stone will have unique characteristics depending on which quarry it came from and may also have a special finish depending on the manufacturer. So one type of slate, for example, may not be the same if it has come from different quarries or was cut and finished by a different manufacturer. Most natural stone has an indefinite life-span (think of all the ancient buildings made of natural stone that are still standing across the world) but if it has a special finish then another consideration is the longevity of the finish – will it be hard-wearing and last many years or will the special character of the finish disappear under the effects of harsh weather?

Clearly the choice of finish is not simply about its beauty at the time of laying the natural stone but also how it will look in a few years' time since a patio is not the type of structure to be frequently changed although one of the advantages of natural stone is that there is an active second-hand market for pre-used tiles if you do ever decide to replace them. Depending on their size and thickness, most natural stone tiles can be laid as a patio onto a bed of sand although some slate tiles may require a bed of mortar. But any areas that will be used as a driveway or parking for vehicles will need a concrete base. Natural stone tiles are available in a huge range of shapes and sizes from widths of 300mm and this range of sizes can allow you to design a unique layout for your patio. This might be a regular pattern or many people choose a random layout which can look equally attractive, particularly for a large area in a rustic setting. But even with just a single shape and size you can achieve a stunning patio, for example, rectangular tiles laid out in an offset pattern like brickwork can look particularly effective in a small area. Although natural stone tiles can be expensive, the advantages of a natural stone patio are that it will look beautiful from the day it is laid for a lifetime and is available in such a variety of colours and styles that it will suit any type of home; rustic, traditional or contemporary. Its colour might weather but will not fade as coloured concrete alternatives do. It is resistant to harsh weather conditions and is relatively low maintenance, with only the possibility of the pointing needing replacing at some stage. Whilst there are cheaper alternatives to natural stone on the market, and you can use porcelain tiles for a patio and even some ceramic tiles providing their water absorbency level is low enough, nothing quite beats the organic look of natural stone tiles on a patio.

Some useful facts about marble
Marble is a natural rock that is extracted from quarries around the world in the same way as many other rocks, including granite. It is formed from limestone that has been altered (metamorphosed) due to the effects of the high temperatures and pressures caused by movements of the Earth's crust. Marble is readily available from a range of quarries around the world but varies considerably in quality with the very best quality being quite rare. In recent years it has also been produced synthetically but like most reproductions of natural products it lacks the uniqueness of each individual piece of natural marble. In many ways the reproductions are too perfect. Marble has long been the favoured material for both prominent buildings such as the famous Taj Mahal and for artworks such as Michelangelo's "David" – marble sculptures can be extremely realistic because of its translucent qualities and the ease with which they can be carved. But it is also highly valued in our homes because of its beauty and durability – there's nothing more impressive than a marble tiled entrance hall or a marble bathroom. Ceramic tiles or porcelain tiles simply don't have the same impact.

The quality of marble tends to be determined by the location of the quarry from which it was extracted. For example, the most highly valued of all white marbles is known by the name of the area from which it comes – Carrara in Italy. But there are also regions in Greece, Turkey and Spain from which high-quality marble is obtained. One of these is the Crema Valencia marble extracted near Barcheta, in Valencia, Spain. Crema Valencia marble is extracted from only a single quarry – which is substantial in size and currently manages to satisfy market demand for this type of marble but there are questions about its future ability to do so. Crema Valencia is a unique type of marble because of its appearance, and the fact that it is suitable for a broad range of applications. There are many cream, beige and honey coloured marbles extracted and refined in Turkey but Turkey also produces some stunning dark green marbles such as Verde Laguna marble quarried near Banaz in the Usak region of Turkey. Verde Laguna marble, whilst very beautiful, has a wide variation in colour and veining so large samples should be viewed and approved to ensure that any floor or wall tiles are all extracted from the same quarry face and are a good match. Although part of the beauty of natural stone tiles lies in their individuality it is still important that there is some cohesion between the tiles.

Cleaning & Maintaining Natural Stone Floor Tiles
Without a doubt natural stone is the most beautifully unique flooring anyone could wish for in their home but it is not without its disadvantages. Find out more about how to care for your natural stone floor so it never loses its original beauty and lustre.
Natural stone floor tiles can be used in almost any room in the house; they are hard-wearing and have a beautiful, unique quality that cannot be matched by ceramic or porcelain tiles. There is no denying that they are expensive, even though technological advances in the processes required to transform the natural rock slabs into tiles have made them more cost-effective, but they are an investment. The quality of natural stone is instantly recognisable and will almost certainly add to the value of your home but perhaps the one disadvantage of this beautiful, natural product is that it requires regular maintenance to preserve its beauty. It is not difficult to care for natural stone tiling but it is important to know how to do this and to avoid using some of the modern cleaning products that might damage or stain your floor and to protect it from physical damage caused by carelessness. Serious damage can be caused to a stone surface by the dirt and grit carried into the house on people's shoes and boots so if you have a stone tiled hallway then ensure you have a mat both inside and outside the external door so that the worst of the dirt is removed before it reaches the stone floor. If the floor has become dirty then use a vacuum cleaner to remove the dirt particles, taking care to use a vacuum attachment that will not scratch the stone. Then simply use a wet mop to remove any marks that are left.

Avoid using harsh cleaning fluids (particularly ammonia-based ones) that might stain the tiles or leave a residue that will build up over time and dull the beauty of the natural stone. Also avoid harsh scourer cloths that will scratch the surface of the tiles. There will be times when water alone will not remove sticky residue or spillages but when your floor needs something more than water and elbow-grease use a special natural stone floor cleaner. Tile manufacturers and suppliers will often recommend a particular cleaning product for certain types of stone tiles. But remember that not all natural stone tiles are the same – some are more porous than others and some (such as marble) are far more prone to stains so be certain to use the correct product for the type of stone tiles you have. But prevention is always better than a cure: protect the floor tiles in areas of particularly heavy traffic with the use of mats or rugs and use stick-on felt pads for the legs of chairs and tables that might be dragged across the floor and scratch the surface. Wipe up any spillages as soon as you notice them – even something as innocuous as lemon juice can stain marble or limestone tiles, for example. Even though almost colourless, the acid in lemon juice (and also lime juice) reacts with the marble or limestone to create calcium citrate, which dissolves the surface of the stone leaving a permanent mark. If the damage is not too great there are professional renovation cream products that can help to remove the marks from tiles. And last but not least, always ensure your natural stone floor tiles are sealed when first laid and that the sealant is reapplied at intervals as recommended by the tile manufacturer.

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