Monthly Archives: March 2015

Granite and Marble Counters and the Environment

Green building has been the watch world in the home improvement and building industries for several years now. Many homeowners have begun to question the materials they put into their homes, focusing on those that have a minimal impact on the environment. This can lead to the question of whether or not granite and marble counters can be considered environmentally friendly. They are, after all, a natural material pulled from the earth. There are choices in stone counters, just as there are in many different materials that can let you get the look and durability of stone while still remaining green friendly in your home.

The first thing to consider is the stone’s source. Because granite and marble are cut from the ground, not produced in a factory, there are little to no manufacturing fumes or chemicals being released into the environment from its production. Some granites and marbles do have to travel quite a distance from the quarry to the market, however, which can have an impact on the environment. You can do your part by researching your stone and choosing one that comes a little closer to home, like Vermont Danby, Alabama White, or Dakota Mahogany. The less distance your stone needs to travel, the less of an impact it will have on the environment.

You can further help make your granite or marble counter more environmentally friendly by taking a look at the sealer you use. Sealers help protect your stone and allow you to avoid chemicals in washing it every day. However, many sealers contain VOCs that can give off harmful fumes. By choosing a water-based sealer free of VOCs you can protect your stone and the environment at the same time.

Finally, consider sourcing a recycled slab for your home, or recycling your old counters if you make the switch to a new stone. Many stone yards are willing to take an old slab and rework it for a new home to make a more environmentally sound choice for you.

 

Mixing Materials with Stone Tiles

Natural stone has a lot of depth and beauty to it when used on its own. It also comes in a wide range of different colors, finishes, and styles to complement a number of different homes. Even so, many people like to mix stone with other materials including glass, ceramic, and metal, to help enhance the look they’re after.

In mosaics to large format tiles, natural stone can be mixed in a number of different ways with other materials. The key to doing this successfully lies in ensuring that that the surfaces are level once the installation is complete.

Most natural stone tiles measure roughly 3/8-inch in thickness. Other materials may be this thick, but frequently things like glass, metal, and some machine made ceramics are thinner. So when mixed with or laid next to the stone, the other material appears to be depressed into the installation. This may allow the edges of the stone to show up at an unnatural angle and can potentially ruin the look of the installation.

To solve this problem, a dry layout should always be performed prior to installation. During this dry layout, you can easily see where the stone tiles may be thicker than the surrounding materials. Installation can now proceed in one of two ways; you can install the stone tile and leave a gap for the thinner materials to be installed later once the first layer of thinset has dried, or you can back butter the thinner tiles as you go.

If you choose to use a gap, you’ll still need to back butter the thinner tiles, but the first layer of thinset helps add a degree of control so there is less chance of the tiles sinking too deep or causing lippage. Back buttering as you go can be faster, but calls for additional control to ensure that the right amount of mortar is used and the tiles beaten in properly.

When done right, mixing your stone with a material like glass or metal can bring out the beauty and the depth of the stone to enhance the whole room. Pay close attention to tile thicknesses to ensure you get the look you’re after.

 

Stone Window Sills

Natural stone has long been used for multiple purposes in and around the home. The majority of homeowners today like to use stone on countertops, walls, and floors in and around their homes. And while these are beautiful applications, there are other areas that stone would be beneficial in as well.

One of these areas is on the window sill. Windows that have deep sills of 6-inches or more can benefit from a more substantial looking sill than a simple wood slab. Stone slabs of 3cm or more in thickness can add a lot of depth, dimension, and interest to the area that would otherwise be lacking.

This is particularly a good look in kitchens that have deep window sills directly above or adjacent to the countertop. By using a slab of the same stone on the sill as on the counter gives the entire area a more polished and finished appearance, while drawing extra attention to the room as a whole.

Nearly any stone can be used as a decorative window sill. While you may want to choose the same stone that is already in the room in the case of a kitchen or bathroom, you can also choose to use more bold or decorative stones as well. Installing a bold red onyx or marble in the window of a living room, for example could become a focal point for the space, particularly when the sun hits it. You can also choose to use a coordinating stone to other materials already in the room if you can’t get an exact match. For example, if you have a fireplace surround made of Bianco Carrara, and a large window seat across the room, you could install a slab of Bardigllio marble in this area to coordinate and add extra richness to the room.

Because window sills aren’t large, it’s often possible to find slabs of stone that are 2- or 3-inches thick for this area as well. By adding some thick stone slabs to window sills in any room, you can instantly increase the beauty and appeal of the whole home.

White Stones to Consider

White stones for countertops, flooring, and walls are among the more popular options that homeowners are turning to. White has been a popular stone color for years, but recent trends have been turning away from the beige tones of the past 10 years and moving more toward the longer lasting tones of white.

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There are several different white stones that you may want to consider adding to your various areas of your home.

Piracema white is a white and gray granite with swirling veins that move through it. It makes a nice option for kitchen counters as well as for heavy use bathroom vanity counters.

Bianco Carrara is one of the most popular types of white marble. Mined in Carrara Italy, this white and gray stone can range from bright white with defined gray veins to more of a softer overall gray with deeper veins.

Calacatta is a whiter marble than Carrara with a gray vein on a very bright background. It may sometimes also have a gold vein along with the gray, lending it a little more dimension.

Ajax is considered a white marble, but is actually a form of quartzite. This white and gray stone resembles Bianco Carrara, but has a crystalline understructure that is distinctive to quartzites and some granites. Like most quartzites, Ajax is less likely to stain or etch than Carrara and other marbles, making it a nice choice for those that like the classic gray and white look, but with a better durability.

Thassos is also considered a white marble but is actually another form of quartzite. Thassos is a Greek stone that is pure white in color with a sugary, crystalline appearance to it. Despite its bright white appearance, Thassos holds up better to staining and etching than true marbles, making it a nicer choice for homeowners that want a white marble in places like the kitchen.

White stones can make a beautiful addition to many areas of the home. Look for these classic marbles, quartzites, and granites to help make the statement that you’re looking for.

Stone Counter Finishes

When most people consider finishes on stone, they think of what’s available for stone tiles. When it comes to countertops, the vast majority of homeowners tend to choose polished slabs, with a few also looking for honed material. There are other looks available as well, and understanding what each finish is can help you find the right look for your home.

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Polishing is the most popular finish for most stones often because of the flaws it hides. Things like fissures and pits are often less obvious in softer stones or stones that are prone to them, simply because the high polish reflects the light off of them and hides them. Polishing also makes the colors of the stone brighter and richer, making it more desirable for bold colored stones or stones with wild grain patterns.

Honing is the second most popular finish, particularly for very dense stones like Absolute Black. Honing gives the stone a smooth, matte finish with a duller color. Because the surface isn’t reflective, some stones don’t hone well because of the numerous tiny surface pits and fissures they contain, which may not have been visible until honing.

Leathering is a newer finish that is a nice blend between honing and polishing, but with a lot of extra depth and texture to the stone. Leathering starts by honing the stone, then adds extra texture by working with the natural surface of the stone. The finish is finally filled or sealed to close the natural pores and holes in the stone, resulting in a finish that is matte like a honed stone, but with a deeper, richer color like the polished stones. This is a nice choice for homeowners that want a matte finish, but still want the rich color and “closed” surface of the stone.

Not every stone will look its best in every finish. Learn the differences so you can find the perfect complement to the stone you love.