When it comes to home finishes, stone tile has a unique way of creating a custom look of understated elegance that is effortlessly natural. Distinct characteristics, especially of natural stone tile, ensure that your home will be truly one of a kind. Yet stone tiles, ranging from granite and marble to limestone and slate, blend expertly with a wide range of other finishing details in a professionally designed home.
Stone tile offers many options for creating the perfect, personalized look for your home - each type of stone has a range of appearances within its characteristic look. In addition to the minor variations that make every single natural stone tile unique, different types of stone finishes can also enhance the look and texture of the materials. Seeing as stone is a natural product it does require special care to maintain its appearance.
Overview of Stone Tile
The distinctive beauty of stone tile is a result of the natural processes that form each stone slab. The types of stones that are specifically used for tile are formed in three different ways, each of which provides several natural stone tile options for your home.
Natural sedimentary stone, which includes limestone and travertine, are the result of tiny pieces of glaciers, plants and other organic elements accumulating over time to create a rock bed. Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is mostly composed of calcite formed from shell, coral and algae; it is usually found in shallow marine waters. Travertine is actually a specific type of limestone that forms from precipitation and is what makes up stalactites and stalagmites in a cave.
Metamorphic stone, by contrast, comes from a transformation by either heat, pressure or a chemical process. Slate is a foliated metamorphic rock, meaning it has a layered appearance caused by exposure to heat and pressure. Before its metamorphosis, slate is shale. Non-foliated metamorphic rock marble is actually transformed limestone or dolostone.
The final type of natural stone typically used for tile is igneous rock, which is the group to which the popular rock type granite belongs. Granite is the result of magma crystallizing beneath the earth’s surface, and its unique mineral composition is what gives the stone its distinctive veins.
Because they are made from organic, naturally-forming materials, stone tiles require special care compared to synthetic finishes. General cleaners will not only be inadequate to bring out the natural beauty of the stone, but could potentially ruin the tiles. Many cleaning supply brands offer cleaners that are specifically designed for different types of natural stone, which is a much better solution. You can learn more about the proper way to maintain your natural stone tile in our Stone Care Guide.
Stone Tile and Quarries
Nearly all of these various types of natural stone that are used to create unique and elegant tiles for your home come from a quarry. These mines are specifically used to extract stone for building materials and have been used in this fashion as far back as ancient Egypt.
The process of extracting natural stone from the earth begins with locating a good site, then finding the best place to mine by collecting core samples with diamond-tipped drill bits. From there, the long process of preparing the site begins. Dirt may need to be removed from the stone and pathways created to transport stone from the quarry.
A “bench wall” is then cut from the quarry, which is processed and cut into individual blocks that can weigh up to 25,000 pounds. After extraction, the stone blocks are further processed based on how they will be used. For tiles, the stone will be cut into stone billets and polished to a perfect finish.
Because these stones are naturally occurring and unique, specific designs and “patterns” of stone are generally specific to a quarry or region. Once the stone in a quarry is used up, the tile designs based on stones from that quarry will be phased out and eventually discontinued. Use of a particular stone design can be continued by blending it with similar patterns of the same stone type in a tile layout.
Designing with Stone Tile in Your Home
Natural stone tile is not only unique but also extremely versatile when it comes to adding an elegant finishing touch to your home. While many types of stone tile have a variety of uses in home design, some are best suited for specific areas.
The smooth polish and tough nature of marble makes marble tile perfect for backsplashes, floors, tub surrounds and vanities. Granite’s unique durability makes it ideal for applications that see rougher use, such as kitchen countertops and the area around fireplaces.
Limestone is a good choice for bathroom surfaces, kitchen floors and even entryways; slate’s distinct charm is best suited for floors. Similarly, travertine works well as shower tile and floor tile.
The key is to select the natural stone tile that is right for your needs and your design style, as each type provides a wholly different look. You can learn more about the many creative uses of natural stone tile, including marble, as part of our Tile Spotlight series onour blog.