Monthly Archives: May 2014

Blending Natural Stone for Installation

Natural stone comes in a very wide variety of different colors, styles, and veining patterns. Most pure calcium based stones like marble and limestone are white when they contain no other minerals to give them color. Because the minerals that produce color show up randomly within a stone quarry, no two pieces are ever exactly the same. Some stones may have slight to moderate amounts of variation between them, meaning that there may be some pieces that are a little lighter or darker than the rest. Other stones, however, can have extreme amounts of variation. Some pieces may have colors that don’t match up with the surrounding tiles. Others may be dramatically lighter or darker than the others. When a lot of stone has produced a very varied color pattern, the stones need to be blended during installation to get the most pleasing effect.

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Blending the stones means two things: taking the tiles from all of the boxes at once, and conducting a dry layout. During a dry layout, the tiles are placed on the area where they will be installed without any mortar. This allows the installer to move them around so that the colors can be evenly spread throughout the installation. In the event that there is a tile or tiles that are so different than the others that to use them would draw attention to them, these can be set aside for waste or cuts on the perimeter of the room.

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By taking the tiles from all boxes at the time of the dry layout, colors will have less chance to clump up together in the installation. This makes it easier for the installer to blend the tiles successfully into an installation that is visually appealing.

fireplacesHomeowners who are cautious about the color variation in natural stone should always take the time to approve a dry layout before installation takes place. This will ensure that changes can be made easily, before the mortaring takes place.

Selecting the Stone for Your Countertop

Marble, slate, granite, or soapstone – there are numerous types of natural stone that work beautifully on a kitchen or bathroom counter. Whether you’re choosing an exotic stone, or something more commonplace, it’s important to remember that a stone slab should not be selected from a sample, or from a showroom floor.

Natural stone countertops are made from 100% natural rock material that has been cut and polished or honed to your specifications. This means that they their colors or vein patterns have not been manipulated or created in a lab.

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While this is where the beauty of natural stone comes from, it also means that no two slabs of stone are ever exactly the same, and that stone slabs coming from different lots may appear widely different in color or vein pattern. Therefore, the sample seen in a showroom may appear darker or lighter, and may have more or less veining than the slab you will ultimately install.

For some stones that have little to no variation, such as Absolute Black granite, this is less of a concern than stones that can have extreme amounts of color variation ranging from yellows to blue, such as Costa Smerelda. For stones that have large amounts of color variation, the showrooms samples should only be used as a guide to narrow down the selection of stone to a few basic color groups, or by size, durability, and price.

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Once a few stones have been selected as possibilities, it’s important to visit the stone yard to see the actual pieces or slabs of stone in stock. This gives you the opportunity to see the color and veining pattern for yourself and determine if the true color of the stone matches tile and cabinet choices as well. If necessary, a section of the stone can be tagged for use, or a small sample may be obtained to use in further material selection.

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Don’t fall for a bait and switch of using a showroom sample as your final color and vein predictor of a natural stone counter. Always visit the stone yard for an accurate portrayal of what you will be receiving.

The Beauty of Mosaic Stone Blends

Most types of stone have a natural variation in color from piece to piece and within one piece. This is what helps to enhance the beauty of the stone, and part of what makes it so sought after. And while a mosaic of a single color of stone is beautiful on its own, a blend of several different colors of stone within one installation creates an entirely different look.

Stone mosaic blends can be put together out of nearly any combination of stone. This can include gradients that use several stones in different shades of one color, such as a blend of Verde Mare, Verde Sultan, Cipolini, Verde Luna, and Ming Green, or it can be a blend of several different colors that work well together such as Bianco Carrara, Calacatta, Botticino, and Thassos. Both types of mosaic stone blend are beautiful, and can help enhance various designs.

realstoneandgranite25Using a mosaic stone blend has several advantages. When installed as a backsplash in a kitchen, a stone blend allows you to pick up several shades from within a countertop, and combine it with other tones in the kitchen, such as the walls, or floors, to help create one cohesive element that brings the entire room together. The same blend installed on a wall in a bathroom, becomes an eye-catching focal point that lets the viewer see and appreciate the various colors of the stones up close. And while it may be difficult to create a similar blend of colors in large tiles, mosaics are well suited to this type of use, allowing for more variation within a small area.

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Because no two mosaic pieces will be the same, even amongst one type of stone, these types of mosaics have even more variation and interest than glass mosaics of the same scale. This brings additional depth and richness to the space.

Consider the use of natural stone mosaics as an accent anywhere in the home to bring interest, depth, and beauty to the space.

Creating A Stone Topped Table

In addition to making the ideal material for topping cabinets as a countertop and work surface area, natural stone also makes an excellent material as a tabletop. Many types of stone have long been used to top small end and coffee tables. These pieces of stone may be whole, or composites, but the size of the table rarely lets the stone’s natural beauty show through.

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Using the same stone on a larger, kitchen or dining room table opens up the possibility of creating a one-of-a-kind work of art that becomes the focal point in the room. And just like the way that natural stone holds up to daily use on a kitchen counter, it holds up equally well in this application. In fact, stone may need less care over its lifetime than the same table made with a wooden top. That’s because stone is harder and more durable, so it’s less likely to show scratches, dents, or divots.

Because natural stone comes in such a wide variety of different colors and patterns, the possibilities of how it can be used as a table – and as a focal point in the room – are nearly endless. Many granite slabs are even large enough to be used as a single piece on a family-sized dining room table. By using the whole slab this way, it allows all the richness of the color and grain to show through, enhancing its surroundings.

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Natural stone-topped tables can be created using either a reinforced wood frame, or by using a set of metal legs for a contemporary look. Stone legs can also be created for the table using the same polishing and edging techniques, or by using a chiseled look to enhance the effect of the stone.

Instead of opting for a generic table that was mass-produced, make a real statement by choosing to make one out of stone, and capture the eye of everyone who sees it.

Installing Serpentine Marble

The term green marble can be a bit misleading, particularly to DIY homeowners hoping to install their tile themselves. While it’s called marble, and it does have a high calcium content that makes it similar in many ways to other marbles, green marble is radically different in both makeup and installation methods.
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Green marble gets its color from a mineral called serpentine. Serpentine gets its name because it spalls – or splits and flakes – in a pattern that resembles the look of a snake’s scales. This spalling becomes extremely apparent when the stone has been subjected to large amounts of water or moisture.
When most marble tiles are installed, they are put in using a Portland cement based mortar, or thinset. This thinset can be mixed with latex, but is usually mixed up with water just before setting the tile. Normal marble absorbs some of this moisture while the thinset cures, which may make the marble look darker or deeper in color for a few days to a few weeks as it dries. In the case of a serpentine marble, however, the absorption of the water or moisture from the thinset could cause the marble to begin to spall or flake, peel, and pit on its surface, even if it has been sealed against moisture after installation.
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To avoid this, serpentine marbles should always be installed using an epoxy-based mortar, rather than a traditional Portland cement-based mortar. This will ensure that the marble does not absorb any moisture from the setting material, causing an installation failure before it’s even finished.
Before grouting any serpentine marbles, the surface should always be protected with an impregnating sealer to both prevent the grout from staining the marble and to prevent any moisture from the grout from causing the serpentine to spall.

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Serpentine marbles are often much hardier and more durable than other marbles, making them an excellent choice for many applications. Be sure to install them with the correct materials and procedure to ensure they live up to their potential.