Monthly Archives: September 2014

Using Stone Sinks

One trend that continues to appear in both kitchen and bathroom designs is the use of stone sinks. There are several different stones that can be transformed into vessel, undermount, drop-in, and farmhouse style sinks. As with any time that natural stone is used in a wet area, some considerations need to be made to ensure that it lasts as long as possible.

Much of the time, the stone that is being used in kitchens and bathrooms is fairly hardy, such as granite or soapstone. These sinks require little sealing, and generally only need to be dried after use to prevent water spots. Depending on the manufacturer, some sinks may come presealed, and will need yearly or regular ongoing maintenance to prevent them from becoming stained or etched over time.

Unfortunately, sometimes softer stones are used in the same situations. Onyx, Rosso Asiago, Bianco Carrara, and Verde Mare can all be found as vessel and drop in sinks. These softer stones may require more diligence and maintenance to prevent them from losing their shine and color over time. In the case of serpentines such as Verde Mare, regular sealing and drying is crucial to the stone. Serpentine left to absorb water over a period of time could begin to spall or peel and flake in a snake skin-like pattern.

Most stone sinks used in either bathrooms or kitchens cannot be fitted with an overflow valve. This means that they should be installed with a grid drain to help prevent overflowing, particularly in states and areas that require overflows or grid drains present in the sink to pass inspection. In states that require overflow valves, it should also be considered that sinks without them – like stone sinks – cannot be installed beneath the counter line, so stone sinks can only be used as vessels and not as undermount or drop in installations.

A stone sink can add a lot of interest and character to any room that it is installed in. Take care to ensure it gets proper maintenance to ensure it lasts as long as possible.

Do you know the difference between travertine and limestone?

Chemically, travertine and limestone are extremely similar. Both are sedimentary stones formed mostly of calcite. A quick glance, however, shows radical differences between the two stones. Anyone considering one or the other should understand these differences to make a more informed decision.

While both stones are similar in composition, and travertine is actually even classified as a type of limestone, the two stones formed in very different ways. Limestone typically formed in shell reefs, while travertine formed inside cooling hot springs.

The shell reefs left their imprints behind on the limestone in the form of many small fossils appearing as shells and small sea creatures in the surface of the stone. Some limestones, such as Café Pinta or Seagrass are extremely studded with fossils, while stones like Jerusalem Gold have relatively few.

Travertine on the other hand has almost no fossils present in its makeup. Instead, it’s characterized by the many holes of varying sizes left behind by the hot springs. When the cooling water vapor escaped the rock, it left behind channels as it cooled. These channels show up as holes that go right through a counter or tile. Because these holes make travertine structurally weaker than other stones, they need to be filled with either epoxy or grout.

The different appearance between travertine and limestone may lead some people to believe that travertine is the stronger stone. This is because of its naturally rustic appearance, which makes a good choice for Farmhouse and Country-style homes.

Because travertine is in the limestone family, however, it should be treated exactly like limestone. Both need to be sealed with an impregnating sealer designed for porous stones and washed with PH neutral cleansers. Neither should be used in wet areas without a lot of maintenance.

Regardless of which one is chosen for the application, both travertine and limestone are beautiful natural stones that will enhance many different applications.

The Use of Sealers on Stone

When purchasing stone counters or tiles for your home, you may hear conflicting advice about how to care for it. This advice more than likely involves sealing the stone in some way. Sealing is a means of either protecting the stone, or of deepening and enhancing its color and appearance. Not all stone needs to be sealed, however, while can lead to some confusion on the part of the homeowner.

Many types of natural stone are porous, including marble, limestone, travertine, and some granites. These stones need an impregnating sealer to fill the pores and help impede staining. Quartzites, gabbros, and some serpentines do not require sealing, because they are not porous; the sealer would merely sit on top of the stone, rather than soaking in.

To determine if a stone requires sealing, a small amount of lemon juice and a small amount of water should be placed on the surface for up to an hour. If there is a change in the surface of the stone when the two liquids are wiped away, the stone requires sealing. If there is no change, then the stone would not benefit.

Granite Drain Board

Many stones, even those that don’t need an impregnating sealer, can benefit from a topical, enhancing sealer. This includes tumbled stones and honed stones that get darker when wet; applying the topical sealer gives the stone that darker appearance all the time, even when dry. Because polishing deepens the color of the stone, color enhancing sealers don’t have much if any effect on these stones.

Topical enhancers are also available that can add shine to the surface of a stone. These sealers will not make a honed or tumbled stone shiny, but they can add some shine to a polished stone that has had an edge bullnosed during installation or to a stone that has gotten dull from use. Most sealers need to be reapplied on a regular basis, so beginning the process does require upkeep to help maintain the appearance and the protection of the stone.

Installing Ungauged Slate Tiles

There are few types of stone more puzzling to homeowners and new installers alike than ungauged slate. While most stone tiles have a definite top and bottom that are easily distinguishable from one another, ungauged slate tiles can be installed with either side facing up. In addition to this, the thickness of these tiles can range from 1/8-inch to 1/2-inch between tiles or within one tile, making the installation more difficult and time consuming. There are several things that can help make the installation go more smoothly, however, ensuring that the finished installation looks exactly how it is meant to.

Most types of ungauged slate are not only highly variable in thickness and texture, they are also highly variable in color. It is not uncommon for some pieces of stone to be one color on each of the two sides, however. Therefore, a dry layout is important to mix and blend the colors of the stone evenly over the entire area. If a piece of tile has a color that is truly out of place or unacceptable to the homeowner, it can often be turned over and installed with the other side facing up.

During the dry layout, care should also be taken to spread out the tiles according to thickness as well. Tiles that are very thin on one side and very thick on the other should be used as cut pieces on the edges of the installation to help make the final results smoother.

The tiles should be lifted from the dry layout in the order they will be put back down. This will help ensure that the thickness differences can be dealt with correctly. After the thinset has been spread onto the substrate, additional thinset should be backbuttered onto each piece of slate with more thinset being put on the thin areas of the tiles and less being put onto the thick pieces. When the tiles are beaten in, this backbuttering smoothes out the installation and levels it.

Ungauged slate may be a little startling when it is first encountered, but when care is taken, beautiful installations can result.