Natural Stone Floor Tiles – The Ultimate Buyers Guide

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Before buying natural stone tiles, it is important to know the basic buying guidelines.

Complete Guide to Stone Tile Flooring

Granite, Marble, Limestone and Sandstone tiles are natural stone floors with awesome highlights in a wide range of styled homes and interiors. We will cover each type of stone, while also providing a basic understanding of key characteristics of natural stone tiles. Here’s everything you should know before searching for a tile installer.

Absorption Rating

Materials with low porosity (low absorbent rating) tend to stain less while materials with high absorption rating are prone to staining.tile absorbing water

1. Minimally absorbent (Impervious)

A material that is minimally absorbent means that it is virtually non-porous. It doesn’t require any sealer, easier to maintain, and less likely to stain. This material is resistant to liquid absorption.

This is the best type of flooring material to use for high traffic locations.

2. Moderately absorbent (Vitreous)

This material has low to moderate absorption rate which is the standard absorption rate for flooring materials. Oil and highly pigmented liquids can stain the stone that’s why it is best to always seal this material prior to use. Also, wiping spills immediately can prevent and reduce staining.

This type of flooring is best for moderately traffic locations and outdoor applications.

3. Highly absorbent (Non-Vitreous)

This material has medium to high absorption rate. Sealing is highly recommended for this material prior to use and grouting. Also, it is recommended to use grouting that is very similar to the color of the stone to prevent bleeding or staining from the grout.

Usually, it is not recommended to for use in damp environment.

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Acid Sensitivity

These are materials that react to acidic foods and acidic liquids. Texture changes and dulling of surface sheen called acid etching also occurs.

1. Minimally Sensitive

This type of material will not react with acids when exposed. Acid etching and loss of surface sheen will not be a problem.

2. Moderately sensitive

This type of material will react with acids. Usually, the finish will patina in time. Acid etching will be minimally visible especially on lighter stones.

3. Highly sensitive

This material will easily react with acids. Acid etching will be very visible on this surface. This type is not recommended for use on kitchen countertops.

Freeze-Thaw

When water seeps into the surface of a material then freezes, it expands. This expansion will cause the material to crack and a repeated cycle causes the material to break.

1. Suitable for all exterior applications

Absorption rating for this material is very minimal, abrasion resistance which is the ability to resist surface wear is also very good, color fastness and elasticity, this material is appropriate for outside applications where freeze-thaw conditions occur.

Absorption rating for this material is very minimal, abrasion resistance which is the ability to resist surface wear is also very good, color fastness and elasticity, this material is appropriate for outside applications where freeze-thaw conditions occur.

2. Suitable for Vertical Exterior Applications

This material has moderate absorption ratings, excellent abrasion resistance, color fastness and rigidity, this material is reasonable for vertical outside applications where freeze-thaw occurrence is regular. It is not recommended to use this for pavement applications because it is prone to staining.

3. Not recommended for Exterior Applications

This material has high absorption rating, low abrasion resistance, and is not colorfast, therefore isn’t suitable for exterior applications.

Foot Traffic

Materials are rated according to their ability to withstand foot traffic.

1. Heavy Commercial Traffic

This material can be expected to last for a long time with minimal maintenance. Since this is heavy duty, it can be used on areas expected to have high foot traffic.

2. Moderate Commercial traffic

This material can be expected to tolerate moderate foot traffic but will take more care and maintenance. It is recommended for use on areas with moderate foot traffic.

3. Light Commercial Traffic

This material is high maintenance and is very prone to patina. This is recommended for use in areas such as office spaces and reception areas.

4. Residential Traffic

This material cannot tolerate moderate to high foot traffic. This is recommended for use in homes and personal spaces. This material is not as durable and elastic as the ones with commercial traffic ratings.

Slip Resistance

Slip resistance is an important characteristic of a flooring surface that measures the resistance of an object as it is dragged through a surface. A high coefficient of friction means that a surface has better slip resistance. Textured surfaces tend to be more slip resistant than polished surfaces.

Strength

This is an important characteristic of a material that describes the amount of force it can stand per cross-section of an area which is thickness by width. It is important to know the compressive strength of a material to determine the amount of force needed to break it.

Flexural strength is relevant for use of dimension stones which are irregular slabs of stones used for pavement applications.

Compressive Strength Range in Mega Pascal (MPa)

stone compressive chart

Compressive Strength Range in Mega Pascal (MPa)

stone flexural chart

Types of Stone Tiles

Marble

Marble originated from a metamorphic rock. This stone is characterized by crystal-like texture. Being hard and compact combined with its marbling appearance, it makes for a very elegant décor. It’s quickly noticeable for its soft graining and creamy colors.  Most often, this material is polished so its beauty will show.

marble sample tile

PROS of Marble Stone Tile

Marble comes from limestone that is exposed to high temperatures. This results to recrystallisation of mineral. Recrystallisation allows marble to have a different set of properties. It has a lower porosity that enables it to be highly polished. It is suitable for use on external wall cladding and other floor and wall applications. Since marble has low hardness, it is highly suitable for carving applications.

CONS of Marble Stone Tile

Calcium carbonate and calcite minerals present in marble are prone to acid etching. The use of impregnating sealer will not prevent the acid from etching. As soluble iron is present naturally in the site where the stones were quarried, this results to pale yellow-brown stains.

Marble was popularly known to be sensitive to thermal hysteresis. This is the delay in the expansion of minerals that can cause marble to crack and bow.

Marble is also known to have low abrasion resistance and poor slip resistance. These are things buyers must consider when deciding on the proper application.

Pricing for Marble

Marble pricing varies widely depending on the type of marble and the location from where it is quarried. The price ranges from $5 to $50 per square foot.

Cost for Natural Tile Installation in Arizona

Average Cost 1806$
Low End 450$
High End 5000$

Installation costs of natural stone flooring in Phoenix is about $7 per square foot.

Travertine

A sedimentary rock composed of calcium carbonate and originated from limestone deposits. It is light in color ranging from light cream to tan in color. It is considered a soft variety of flooring material that will develop a patina over time.

PROS of Travertine Stone

The material is versatile as it can be polished, honed, sawn, tumbled and grit blasted. It is recommended for use on flooring, cladding and paving applications. Vein cut finish exposes elongated cavities natural to the stone giving it more texture. However, this is finish presents the stone in its weakest form. Crosscut finish exposes fewer cavities.

CONS of Travertine Stone

This material easily reacts with acid which makes it prone to staining. It is very porous and highly absorbent.  Naturally, this travertine has holes and cavities. When used on floorings and pavement applications, it is prone to punch-throughs made by shoe heels or hard wheels. That’s why it is important to use appropriate fillers and sealers to avoid these.

Pricing for Travertine

With a wide range of pricing, you can expect to pay somewhere between $4 to $30 per square foot depending on quality and supply. The average cost comes in around $15 per square foot for travertine.

Granite

Known to be an igneous rock, is one of the hardest flooring materials. It is formed from magma deep within the earth’s crust.
Granite is varied in different hues including white, green, red, dark colored and even blue. The appearance is generally an outcome of the presence of feldspar and other minerals. Yellowish granite pick-up their shading from a fine dusting of iron oxide along grain boundaries.

granite floor sample

PROS of Granite Stone

Since granite is available in a wide range of finishes, it can be polished, honed, sawn, flamed and wire-brushed. This material is also considered to be the most durable type. It is composed of hard minerals giving it high abrasion resistance. Due to its low porosity, this material is acid resistant thus it is suitable for most kitchen applications.

Granite is also recommended for use in cladding applications as it is high strength. Granite has been tried and tested for wet-dry environments. Unlike other stones, granite increases in strength when wet.

This material is recommended for areas with high foot traffic because it has high abrasion resistance and can be further improved with textured finishes to improve slip resistance.

CONS of Granite Stone

The only downside with granite countertops is that they are porous. Meaning they can stain and absorb the liquid. It is important to use appropriate sealer prior to installation to protect the surfaces.

Pricing for Travertine

Granite, like travertine, can fluctuate from $6 to $20 per square foot.

Limestone

This is a sedimentary type of stone made from calcium carbonate, deposits of marine organisms along with sand grains and clay. Through time, pressure is applied to the sediments and undergoes compaction and cementation. The pressure will also convert some of the minerals and shell fragments into calcite. Color varies from white to tan.

PROS of Limestone

Limestone can be considered as the most versatile as it also varies widely. Soft and fine-grained varieties are very suitable for carving applications. Other varieties are highly durable and can be used for flooring and façade applications.

Limestone is known to have cheap processing costs making it a favorable material for homeowners.

CONS of Limestone

Limestone easily reacts with acid. The use of impregnating sealers will do no good in protecting this type of surface. Limestone is also weak against wet environments. Compared to granite, it has lower abrasion resistance which can result to flattening of the surface when pressure is applied.

When limestone has a textured finish to increase slip resistance, due to its weak abrasion resistance, the textured surface is liable to polishing due to frequent pressure application.

Pricing for Limestone

Limestone costs around $2.50 to $10 per square foot.

Sandstone

This type of rock is composed of rock fragments mostly granite and quartz particles bound together by natural cement in groundwater. It undergoes compaction over the course of time. Its color ranges from medium whites and multicolored swirls to charcoal black. Its color emanates natural and earthly tones.

sandstone

PROS of Sandstone

It is hard and durable and is suitable for flooring applications on high traffic areas. Despite to this, it is still popular for indoor and outdoor home use. Its good abrasion resistance makes it a hard durable surface and gives a good slip resistance ratio.

CONS of Sandstone

Sandstone is quite porous making it prone to staining and has poor absorbent resistance. It is recommended to use an appropriate sealant. Being a soft rock, it is also prone to scratching and dents. This material is prone to aging and weathering.

Pricing for Sandstone

Costs may range from $4 to $10 per square foot.

All in all

Natural stone floors give any room elegance and sophistication. Each piece of stone is naturally formed by nature for thousands of years. This makes each one unique and beautiful that no artificial tile can rival. Nowadays, application can vary from wall exteriors, carvings, statues, wall exteriors and pavements. That’s why it is important that the unique properties of each stone be evaluated according to purpose.

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