Guide to Buying Stone
Are you building a new home? Are you restoring or re-decorating your old home? Are you an Architect or Interior Designer confused with which tile to specify? The selection of tile and stone can be difficult, confusing, and frustrating. There are hundreds of choices to make, and, if you have done any shopping, I'm sure there has been an endless flow of advice. The following information and guide have been designed to make the selection process easier, less confusing and enjoyable, and maybe even prevent a few hairs from going gray. Study the information presented to become familiar with the types of tile and stone available.
What type of decor will you be using in the room? A Southwestern style may require a Mexican tile floor. If the room is very elegant, marble or granite may work best. When selecting the tile, take into consideration the decor of the room and whether the tile compliments the mood. Choose colors and styles that you will not tire of easily. Tile will often last as long as the house, so be sure you are happy with your selection. If in doubt, consult with an interior designer. Many tile and stone stores have designers on staff that will be more than happy to assist you with the proper selection.
TRAFFIC AND WEAR
One of the biggest mistakes made in tile selection is choosing a stone or tile that is not suited for the traffic it is to receive. Some marbles are very soft and should not be used in an area that will receive high traffic. A busy hotel lobby is a poor choice for some softer marbles, but may work well in a residential foyer. How easy does the material scratch? Refer to the tile selection guide under scratch resistant. An easy test to perform is to run a pocketknife blade lightly across the tile. If the blade leaves a scratch, it will probably wear poorly in high traffic areas. For the Architect or Designer refer to ASTM C241- Abrasive Resistance.
STAIN AND ACID RESISTANCE
I will never forget one of my clients. She was a gourmet cook, who had installed beautiful, white marble on her kitchen countertops. The marble was highly polished, very soft, and not sealed. In less than a month, the marble was stained with every color of the rainbow, and had lost its deep shine. Look carefully at the use the tile is to receive. Determine how easily it will stain or etch. If you are decided upon using marble in a well-used kitchen countertop, be sure to seal it properly before damage occurs. Refer to the tile selection guide for acid resistance and absorbency. The more absorbent the tile or stone, the more likely it will stain if not properly sealed. For the Architect and Designer refer to ASTM C97-Absorption and Specific Gravity.
Unfortunately, cost is usually the deciding factor when selecting tile or stone. Cost can also be very misleading. An inexpensive stone or tile, may fit into your budget, but if it wears easily, the cost of restoration, repair, or replacement, will often exceed the initial cost. Thoroughly investigate the maintenance requirements of the selected tile. Shop around, and ask lots of questions. The tile and stone market is very competitive, so bargains can be found. Warning: Tile and stone are available in different grades. The poorer grades may be cheaper, but will have imperfections and flaws. Examine each tile carefully before it is installed.
It is also a good idea to buy spare tiles in the event that repairs or replacements or required later. This is especially important with marble and ceramic since colors and patterns can be impossible to match later on. Whatever your budget, do your homework and buy the best quality you can afford.
It is astonishing how many injuries occur each year due to slipping and falling. When choosing tile, or stone, be sure it is not slippery. A highly polished granite tile on a shower floor may be a poor choice and a slip hazard. Honed, textured, or flamed finished tiles may less slippery. There are treatments available that can be applied to the surface of tile and stone to make it slip resistant. These treatments can be expensive ($1.00-3.00 per sq. ft), but will allow the use of ordinarily slippery tiles. Check with your tile and stone dealers for further information. For the Architect or Designer refer to ASTM test methods for coefficient of friction.
INSTALLATION AND SUBFLOOR
Who will do the installation? Many tiling projects can be performed by the Do-It-Yourselfer, but certain tile, such as marble, should be left to the professional installer. Be sure to choose an installer who is familiar with the tile type you have selected. Installation of ceramic tile differs from that of stone. Likewise, a good marble installer may not be familiar with ceramic installation. Refer to our brochure on hiring a professional, or help with selecting a good installer.
What is the condition of the sub floor (the floor the tile is to be installed on)? Is there an existing floor material or tile? Many times the sub floor will have to be prepared before installation can begin. If you are tiling over an existing vinyl or tile floor, different setting materials are required to ensure that proper bonding of the new tile will occur. If in doubt ask a professional for advice.
Maintenance is the most overlooked factor when choosing stone or tile. Just because a stone or tile cost more doesn't mean its maintenance requirements are less. There is no such thing as maintenance free! Twenty cents per square foot vinyl requires maintenance just as much as a thirty dollar per square foot stone. Be sure to investigate the maintenance requirement of the tile or stone you select before you buy. Ask to see the maintenance guide for the tile type. Consulting with a friend, neighbor, or other personal contact with the same type of tile to gather their experiences regarding the ease or difficulty of maintenance, may be helpful, too.
Maintenance is a factor of wear and use, not the cost of the tile. The information presented in this brochure will help in the proper selection and care.
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