Monthly Archives: December 2013

All About Travertine

Formed deep inside a hot spring, travertine has a naturally rustic appearance that complements many different decors. Travertine is available in several finishes, which depend upon the way the stone was cut and treated. These finishes not only affect how the stone looks, they also affect how you install it.

Travertine is a type of limestone, made of calcite with a similar structure to other limestones. Instead of forming in shell beds, however, it formed beneath a hot spring. Escaping water vapor left behind trails, tunnels, and holes in the cooling stone, which are still seen after the stone has been cut.

Travertine tiles and slabs can be cut in two ways: one way displays the holes across the surface of the tile or counter, the other way – called cross cutting – displays the holes as long lines or veins in the stone. Cross-cut travertine is usually honed or polished in appearance, and requires no additional steps during installation than any other natural stone.

Travertine cut in the standard direction – displaying the holes – can be finished in a couple of different ways. The factory may polish or hone the stone, grinding down its surface. To give the stone a completely flat, finished look, the holes are usually filled in with colored epoxy, known as “fill”. The fill is usually selected to match the color of the stone, but some very large holes may have areas of obvious fill showing.

Many types of tumbled, chiseled, and rustic travertine are sold with the holes intact and unfilled. Unfilled travertine has a rougher, more unfinished appearance that can be appealing in many settings.

Travertine is a beautiful natural stone that brings character and interest to any installation. Install the right type for your application to capture its beauty and its strength.
If you choose to use unfilled travertine, be prepared to fill up at least the largest holes with grout during installation. The same holes that give travertine its characteristic appearance also weaken its integrity. By skimming the top of the stone with sanded grout the stone gains strength; to keep the rustic appearance of the stone don’t fill the smaller holes or don’t fill the holes to the top.


Limestone Elegance

Studded with fossils on an often matte background, limestone has an elegant, old world look and feel that enhances any setting. While limestone is made of the same materials that later become the stone known as marble, it has a marked difference in its looks, use, and care.


Limestone is a sedimentary stone, usually formed in a shell bed. Like marble, it’s made up mostly of calcite. Unlike marble, it has not been subjected to heat and pressure, so it remains softer than marble, often with fewer minerals present in its makeup.

What limestone does have is the presence of the many different shells and fossils that were present in the beds it formed in. Some stones, like Café Pinta, are extremely studded with fossils, while other stones may only have the occasional fossil or shell showing.


Unlike marble, limestone rarely contains any veins, nor does it come in a wide range of colors. Typically, limestone comes in shades of cream, tan, gray, and brown although some variation may occur. While the stone will vary from piece to piece, the variation is often less extreme than some other stones.

Most limestone is given either a honed or a tumbled finish, simply because it is often too soft to take a high polish. Those limestones that can take a high polish are often a little harder and more durable than limestones that are unable to be polished.

Because limestone is so much softer than marble, it stains, scratches, and etches more easily. This means limestone does not do as well in very wet or high traffic areas.

The exception to this is often French limestone. French limestone is formed slightly differently than limestones found in other parts of the world. It has a visibly textured surface that can be honed smooth to the touch, and usually holds up to traffic much better than other limestone types.


With its subtle color palette and beautiful finish, limestone brings a lot of character to any design. Use it on the floors or walls of your home to instantly infuse them with charm.

All About Slate

Made of compressed sandstone, slate has a texture and color unique among other metamorphic stones. It’s also unique in several other ways, which may confuse and worry homeowners and installers when they begin to work with it for the first time.

Slate tile comes in essentially two types: gauged and ungauged. Most slates coming from Vermont, and some from Brazil, are gauged. They are also fairly uniform in color ranging from blue/grays to greens.


Slates coming from China and India, however, are frequently ungauged and extremely variegated. This means they may vary in thickness from piece to piece –and within one piece – by as much as 1/2-inch. The tiles will frequently range in color as well, with the surface of the tiles containing several peaks, valleys, and crevices.


While this means that the installation may be time consuming, with the installer leveling each piece, it also produces a few positives for those who choose to use it.

Ungauged slate tiles don’t have a top and bottom like most tiles; they can be installed with either side facing up. This is a major advantage in a stone tile that varies so dramatically in color; if you don’t like the color of a tile, just turn it over.

Using an ungauged, variegated slate also means that your installation is filled with character and movement. This helps disguise things like scratches, stains, and dirt, making slate ideal for high traffic areas like mudrooms and kitchens.

Slate does has a tendency to spall for about three months after installation. During this time, the stone may be dusty, flakey, or have small pieces break off. This is normal and will resolve once the slate adapts to its new home.

Despite its unusual qualities, slate makes a beautiful addition to any space. Install it to bring character, life, and a unique substance to any home.




The Many Uses of Marble

Slick and smooth, or tumbled and rustic, marble comes in many different forms. While traditionally marble has long been used in formal or classic settings, this versatile stone makes a statement no matter where it’s installed, from contemporary entryways to elegant master bathrooms.


Marble in its purest form is made of mostly calcite. It’s formed from limestone that has been compressed and heated to the point that it changed composition. During this process, the stone also randomly took on other minerals, which gives marble its beautiful color and veining. There are so many different colors and vein styles for marble, in fact that it’s nearly impossible to find two pieces that look exactly alike.

It’s this variation that lets marble work in so many different settings. Marble with dramatic, varied veining might look out of place in an elegant, formal setting, but that same marble cut into oversized tiles makes a dramatic statement in a contemporary home.


In addition to the thought that marble can only be used in traditional or classic settings, there are several other myths that surround the stone. For example, polished marble is not all slippery; the sealers that protect it also make it slip resistant, while its porous surface grabs wet feet in bathrooms and holds them better than polished porcelain or glazed ceramic.


Marble is also heat resistant, which makes it ideal for some kitchen settings. It can stain and scratch, however, developing a patina over time. Homeowners need to be accepting of this if they plan on using the marble in settings where it will get exposure to acids, alkalines, and sharp instruments such as kitchens. Sealing your marble and washing it with a PH neutral cleanser will help to protect it and keep it looking its best.

No matter where it’s found, marble’s natural appearance and variation make it the centerpiece of the room. Plan its use carefully and take the time to protect it; in return it will light up your home.

Soapstone: The Countertop of Choice

Most stone counters are made of granite or marble, both of which require a lot of maintenance to keep the counter looking its best. Using soapstone, however, eliminates this problem, leaving you with a counter that is soft to the touch, full of personality and beauty, and which grows better looking over time.

Like marble and some forms of commercial granite, soapstone is metamorphic. It’s quarried from huge blocks of talc – the mineral that gives soapstone a slippery feel.


What you might not know about talc is that it is completely heat resistant, stain resistant, and isn’t affected by acids and alkalines – including those commonly found in the kitchen like tomato sauce and wine.

This puts soapstone head and shoulders above other stones, which require sealing to impede stains and special cleaners to prevent dulling and etching.

Because soapstone is so soft, however, it can’t be brought to a high polish like marble and granite counters. Polishing these other stones brightens and deepens the colors of the stone, showing off their natural variation and veining.

soapstone1Soapstone that is used for counters often contains minerals other than talc that gives it beautiful color variation and swirling veins. So how do you bring out the beauty and color of the stone if you can’t polish it? It’s very simple; you oil it.

Applying mineral oil to the counter monthly will gradually deepen the color of the stone, giving it a soft sheen. It will also help to hide any scratches that may occur in the surface.

soapstone2 Using natural stone slabs as kitchen counters adds beauty, texture, and interest to the space. If you’re looking for a stone counter that is as durable and low-maintenance as it is beautiful, skip the everyday granites and look for a slab of soapstone instead.