Monthly Archives: April 2015

Limestone in Wet Areas

Limestone is a popular natural stone material for a lot of areas in and around the home. This sedimentary stone is made primarily of calcite, and may be studded with small fossils from the shell beds where it was formed. Limestone does vary tremendously in density and porosity, which can make it difficult to determine if it’s right for use in wet areas where it may be prone to both staining and etching.

A lot of the concern surrounding limestone in wet areas comes from a published study several years ago that found some stones like Lagos Azul actually began to dissolve when used on the floors of showers. This made many designers back off from using limestone in wet areas.

Not all limestones are created equally, however. Lagos Azul is a very soft stone that is unable to take a high polish, while Crema Luna can. When properly sealed, harder, denser limestones such as Crema Luna can be used in wet areas, although some care should be taken to use a sealer made for porous stone and to apply it on a regular basis. A well-sealed stone should bead the water up off of its surface; when the limestone is no longer beading, it needs to be resealed.

To help impede staining and prevent any kind of etching of the stone, try conducting the lemon and water test on the limestone to see how porous it is even when sealed. Very reactive stones may not do as well in a shower, but may be fine on a bathroom floor. After using a shower lined with limestone, consider using a squeegee to remove excess water from the walls after each use as well.

Limestone may be one of the softer types of natural stone, but not all varieties need to be avoided in wet areas. Choose harder stones able to handle a polish, seal them regularly, and remove excess water on a daily basis and enjoy the look of limestone anywhere in your home.


Conducting the Lemon and Water Test on Stone

There are a lot of natural stone products available today for use on floors, walls, and countertops. Not every stone is the same, however, and not every stone is suitable for its intended use. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to tell if a stone will work in a proposed area just by looking at it. It can also be difficult to tell how it will work, because lifestyles and tolerances for things like sealing or using special cleaners can also vary. One way that homeowners can find out more about a stone for themselves is with the lemon and water test.


The lemon and water test is frequently done after a stone is installed so that homeowners can determine the frequency that the stone needs to be sealed. It can also be done on a sample of stone, before the product is bought or installed, however. By conducting the test this early on, you can help figure out if the stone will work for you.

To conduct the test, find a 12-inch or larger sample tile of the stone in question. Divide the stone into four sections and apply a sealer to two of them.

Now put a small amount of water onto one sealed and on unsealed section and a small amount of lemon juice onto the two remaining sections. Allow all four areas to remain undisturbed for about an hour, then wipe them away.

Examine the stone where the liquid was sitting on it. If the stone is extremely porous or reactive, you may see it getting darker where the water sat and duller where the lemon juice was. You’ll also see that the sealing may have impeded these reactions, but in some cases may not have done so entirely.

Once you can see how the stone reacts to moisture and acids, you can get a better sense of how it will hold up in the area you intend for it, which can help you make a more informed decision for your home.


Granite Tile versus Slab Granite Counters

Granite remains one of the most popular countertop surfaces for kitchens around the United States. For some homeowners, however, the cost of the stone that they want may put it out of reach. Those homeowners that still want granite in their kitchens, but don’t want to save or wait for a slab sometimes turn to granite tile as an alternative.


Granite tiles are made from the same natural stone that the slab counters are made from. The differences is that while a slab is 2cm to 3cm in thickness, the tiles will run roughly 1/8-inch in thicknesses. This means that while a granite slab counter may sit directly on a run of cabinets without an underlayment, a granite tile counter will need a plywood or MDF underlayment to make up the thickness and give the tiles something to adhere to.

Once install, granite tiles perform on a counter exactly like a granite slab. Both counters need to be sealed on a regular basis, and both need to be washed with a PH neutral cleanser.

The biggest difference between a slab counter and a tile counter is the grout lines. Tile counters by necessity will have numerous grout lines that must be maintained so they do not stain, crack, or collect debris in them.

The other biggest difference is in the installation. Granite tiles will need to be cut on site, and any edges will have to be bullnosed specifically to help give a finished look to the counter. A granite slab is made off site to your exact measurements, and numerous edges and shapes are available for use.

For many people, nothing beats the beauty and durability of a whole granite slab for the kitchen counter. For some, however, granite tiles can make a cost effective alternative to get the look of granite with only a few drawbacks.

Stone Counters and Radon

One of the biggest concerns that many homeowner’s have when they consider adding stone counters to the homes is the potential for radon. This colorless, odorless gas can cause a number of health problems, including cancer if it’s found in your home, which has led to radon detection tests and radon elimination systems being common in many areas and homes. Because radon can often be found in areas of decomposing and crushed granite, there is a misconception that granite counters may be a source for the gas as well. Fortunately for homeowners who love the look of stone, granite counters give off little to no radon at all, and do not present a health concern for those that have them installed.


Most stones sold as granite on the market today are not actually granite. Known as “commercial granite” these stones may be dolomites, gabbros, and quartzites, as well as some types of marble and other metamorphic stones. Many of these do not give off any radon, whether they are left in the ground or cut and installed in your kitchen. Therefore if you are buying a home with a “granite” counter installed, this does not necessarily mean that the stone will be a potential problem, because it may not be granite at all.

For the stones and granites that do give off radon gas, the amount that the stones release into the air is far below the levels that the EPA has determined to be harmful. The levels found in true granite countertops are negligible and the EPA has issued statements to the effect that having granite counters in your kitchen or home are not harmful and are unlikely to cause health problems such as cancer.

So if you love the look of real stone in your kitchen, go ahead and have it installed and enjoy it; there is little to no worry that your stone will be the cause of potential problems even if you live with it for years.