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 labour-intensive 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.
Tile manufacturers now produce porcelain tiles with a natural stone effect and also manufactured stone tiles made from natural stone chips suspended in cement or resin but even the best quality porcelain floor tiles can’t quite beat the unique look and feel of natural stone floor tiles.