Monthly Archives: May 2015

Natural Stone for Patio Use

There are a lot of new materials coming out for patio use, many of which are stamped, colored, and otherwise made to look like natural stone. In most cases, however, real stone is a perfectly suitable material to use on your patio, and in fact it may even be cheaper than the synthetic alternatives. The key is to make sure that you’re using stones thick enough to survive freeze-thaw conditions, as well as those stones that can take the wear and tear of patio use.

One of the most popular types of stone used on patios is slate. Chinese and Brazilian slates come in a wide range of brilliant colors, most with a naturally cleft texture that makes them an excellent, non-skid option for patios. They come in sizes up to 24-inches, and can be laid in a variety of different patterns.

Bluestone is another popular stone that has been used on patios for decades. Bluestone has a deep blue/gray color, a light texture, and can come in a variety of edging styles from chiseled to honed. Available in multiple sizes, bluestone is also suitable for designing patterns and walkways through your patio and garden.

Flamed granite is becoming an increasingly popular choice in some areas well. Flaming the stone removes the weakest particles from its surface, giving it a deep, rough texture. After flaming, the granite is impervious to many issues such as etching and staining, which makes it excellent in areas that get a lot of rain and snow. It may not always be available in as many sizes as the other stones, which can make creating patterns slightly more difficult.

If you live in a dry or hot climate that doesn’t see any freeze/thaw, you may also want to consider limestone for your patio. Limestone’s soft color and appearance make it a beautiful choice to complement gardens and lanais. Unfortunately this stone doesn’t hold up as well in harsher climates without cracking or wearing unevenly.

Natural stone is a very beautiful and viable option for patios everywhere. Consider it as your material of choice the next time you decide to repave.

Stones to Use on a Mudroom Floor

More and more homeowners are beginning to install mudrooms in their homes, using them as the main entryway. As the name implies, the mudroom is the area outdoor clothes and muddy shoes are typically left. Combined with storage and some home organizing materials, the mudroom can get a lot of use.

There are a lot of different floor coverings that people consider for this area, but because it’s one room that links directly to the outdoors, many people want to use a natural product there, such as stone. Not all stone floors are going to be appropriate to handle the type of water, salt, mud, and other debris that gets tracked in year round, however. There are a few stones that do hold up well in the mudroom that you may want to consider for this area.

Slate, particularly ungauged slate, makes a great addition to many mudrooms. The fact that the color and surface texture of the stone changes frequently across the floor means that it hides a lot of dirt and wear. Any scratches in the surface can be easily removed with mineral oil so you don’t have to worry about a lot of wear and tear.

Flamed granite is also a nice choice for the mudroom. Flaming removes the weaker surface particles from the stone, leaving only the strongest particles behind. This makes the stone nearly indestructible underfoot, with a gritty texture that means it’s non-skid even with wet shoes.

Bluestone is a very popular material for walkways and stairs that is beginning to make its way indoors. These large pavers may be slightly uneven in texture and color which, like slate, helps to hide a lot of abuse. The cool blue color also helps to accentuate the visual size of the room by making it appear larger than it is.

By focusing on stones meant for heavy duty and outdoor use, you can include natural stone in the mudroom without worrying about its upkeep.

Finding Stone under another Name

There are seemingly countless numbers of different granites, marbles, and other natural stones on the market today. This wide variety gives homeowners a lot of choices for what to use in their homes, but it can also bring some confusion, particularly surrounding the names of the stones. This is especially true when looking at what appears to be two very similar looking stones that have different names.

There are many times when a single granite or marble may have as many as three or four different names. Sometimes this is due to translation – Azul Celeste, for example, can sometimes be found as Blue Celeste, Celeste Blue, and Blue Sky. This is all the same stone, taken from the same quarry, but the various vendors may relabel the stone by translating or partially translating its name.

Other times a stone may have two completely different names that have seemingly little in common. An example of this would be Giallo Ornamentale, which can also be found under the names Antico, Napoleon, Veneziano, and Vicenza, with or without the word Giallo or Gold attached. This kind of relabeling is frequently done so that stone yards can discourage competition and show off seemingly unique stones that can’t be found at other nearby sources.

The one exception to this rule is the more popular stones; the more well known a stone becomes, the less likely it is to have a lot of different names. Uba Tuba, Absolute Black, or Bianco Carrara are all examples of well-known stones that people are likely to ask for by name.

If you have found a particular stone that you like, either in a showroom or in a friend’s kitchen, and you are unable to locate this stone at your local stone yard, consider whether this stone may be found under a different name. In some cases this may mean looking for the original Italian, Portuguese, or French spelling – Costa Esmerelda instead of Coast Green, for example – and in others it may mean searching for alternative names in a stone data base. With a little effort you can usually find the stone you’re looking for, even if at first glance it doesn’t seem to be readily available.

Installing Stone Mosaic Patterns

Among the many ways that natural stone can be used as a floor or wall covering, decorative mosaic patterns are one of the most intricate. Made up of hundreds of tiny pieces of stone arranged to make a picture, pattern, or large field, these patterns are typically put together and installed differently than other types of mosaics or stone field tiles, making installation a little more difficult.

When a stone mosaic pattern is made, particularly large ones, it’s typically laid out in its entirety on a piece of contact paper. This is done to ensure that each piece of the pattern lays perfectly with the rest.

A second piece of contact paper is placed on top of the design to hold the pieces together until installation. The entire mosaic, including both sheets of contact paper will now be cut up into smaller pieces. The mosaics will have to be put back together again like a puzzle during installation until the mural is complete. To make this easier, most of the sheets will be numbered with arrows for the installer to follow.

At the time of installation, the bottom sheet of contact paper is removed before the mosaics are set in the mortar. Most sheets are labeled on the top to avoid confusion, but if there is any question about which sheet to remove, the corner of both sheets can be lifted to take a look at the stones in the middle.

If any pieces of mosaic come loose from the top sheet when the bottom sheet is removed, they can usually be pressed back into place temporarily until the sheets are ready to be pressed into the mortar.

After this time, the sheets can be installed like any stone mosaics; all key marks should be smoothed out and the sheets beaten into the mortar before the top contact paper is removed.

Stone mosaic patterns and murals make a beautiful addition to any home, taking care when installing them can ensure that they make the transition from factory to home in perfect condition.

Removing Grout Haze From Natural Stone

Like all tiles, natural stone tiles are typically grouted after installation. Because natural stone is porous, however, the surface of the stones needs to be sealed to help prevent it from absorbing some of the grout during the installation. If this step is overlooked, a filmy “haze” may be present on the stone after the grout dries. This is commonly referred to as grout haze, and while it can occur on any type of tile, it is the most difficult to remove on natural stone.

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The most common way to get rid of grout haze is using an acid solution, but most natural stones are reactive to acids, which means using the acid solution to remove the grout haze may also remove some of the stone’s surface as well. Therefore the grout has to be dealt with using less invasive techniques.

Start by brushing any loose grout off of the surface of the stone with a dry cloth. Some grout haze is due to the way the grout dried on the stone’s surface; this haze may be able to be brushed away. If there is still haze remaining, you can usually remove it with a sugar solution.

Dissolve one cup of white sugar into one gallon of hot water. Soak some paper towels in the sugar solution and apply them to the stones affected by the haze. Let the sugar-soaked towels sit on the stone for about an hour, then clean the surface of the stones gently with clean water and a soft bristled brush. The grout haze should wash easily from the surface of the stone without harming the finish.

This technique works best if you can do it within 24 hours of noticing the haze, but can still be effective at removing haze for up to two weeks after the initial grouting job. So if you miss a step and forget to seal your stone before grouting, take care of any haze safely with a sugar solution.