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Stone Finishes - Honed, Flamed...

Treatments are applied to a surface that bring out the aesthetic qualities of stone materials. The function the stone is to serve once finished is generally what determines which finish is to be applied to the surface. Differing finishes offer varying qualaties; weather conditions, environment, slippyness underfoot etc. These treatment variables can be allocated to different surface finish headings; mechanical finishing, impact finishing and chemical finishing. Please see below several images to highlight the differing appearances of stone finish options. All of the images below use Absolute Black Granite to help highlight how each finish option alters the appearance of the same stone.
Not all of these finishes can be applied to all stone types, this page simply acts as an overview to some differing terminology you may be aware of in relation to finishing options. Please also note that there are ongoing variations on these themes, which are constantly changing. For example some quartz manufacturers are creating textures to their surfaces to appear alike slate that would fall into the finishing categories below.

Mechanical Finishing

Polished Finish Honed Finish RivenFinish Satin Finish
Mechicanical finishing is a varied range of processes that change the surface finish of a fabricated item to achieve desired alternative properties
Rough Stone Finish
Seldomly, sawn stone can sometimes be ready for installation with no mechanical surface finishing processes. The pieces simply need to be cut to the size required for the consumers specification. This surface is called a rough finish which in the main is used for external applications as part of the properties inherent in a rough finish are non-slip. Frequently rough finish stone is used in landscaping applications with additional stone materials such as sandstone and slate.
Polished Stone Finish
A polished finish is the surface finish most commonly used for desorative stone. Abrasives are used on the surface with varying degrees of abrasive finish to achieve a mirror/glass like finish to the surface. Although this finish is the most popular it has certain limitations where singular colour stone, like absolute black granite, can appear streaky when a wet cloth is wiped over the surface. Whereas a mottled effect stone greatly masks this visability.
Honed Stone Finish
As per the polished finish above, a honed finish is achieved by using varying grades of abrasive polishing pads until a matt flat surface finish is achieved. This finish is not glass or reflective as per polished but does not take away the materials natural despth and beauty as per some of the additional finishes available here.
Riven Stone Finish
A natural finish to stone, usually only carried out on slate, which is achieved by splitting the stone along the bed giving a textured finish. Quite often with a riven finish the thickness of the material is not calibrated. This often means the material thickness is given with a plus or minus percentage of around 50%. Using this percentage as an example it is not uncommon in tiles to find some options that are listed as 15mm having tiles within the same batch up to 25%. This variation in size is not so much of a factor with slate used as worktops; tiles butted up against each other with a varying thickness can cause a trip hazard.
Satin Stone Finish
Satin or Satinato surface finish is a middle of the road finish. This is a relatively new surface finish which offers a light or a faint gloss to the finished stone. It does not have the same level of sheen as a polished finish but the finish is not as matte as per a honed stone finish. It is the middle ground between the two options.

Impact Finishing

Brushed (Bush) Finish Brushed (Bush) Hammered Finish Tooled Finish Sandblasted Finsh
Flamed Finish Water Finish Antique (Leather) Finish  River Wash Finish

In impact finishing a strong external force is applied to the stone surface in order to alter and enhance the original surface roughness. Because they produce surface unevenness, these finishes are usually not slippery, but they do get dirty easily.

Brushed (Bush) Finish
Plastic or metal brushes (hence the term brushed) are placed in contact with the surface. A certain force is used with this process which takes away the softest stone parts giving the surface a work look. It has certain similarities to that of a leather/antique finish.
Brush (Bush) Hammered Finish
This finish was the precedent to flaming and water finishing. It has been replaced as the alternatives have proven most cost effective. This finish offers a non-slip surface. It is obtained by the mechanical impact with a multiple pointed tool. The surface becomes undulated with indentations at the points of impact with the bushes then removing the softer stone around the impact points. The surface finish renders the finish lighter in colour than its polished form would take.
Tooled Finish
This is similar to brush hammered but is achieved with a steel tool of a singular point. This finished surface offers non-slip qualities with the appearance of ancient times. Sometimes it is utilised on part of a surface rather than the whole.
Sandblasted Finish
To achieve a sandblasted finish the surface is blasted with a sand jet that can be powered by steam or compressed air. The colour of the material is dull in comparison to its polished form and removes the depth of body of the surface. The material appears to have an almost scratched surface which are not harsh to the touch.
Flamed Finish
A blowtorch is used on the surface of the stone with gives off a flame of high temperature. Materials with a high mineral content such as granite experience heat shock which causing the crystals to shatter. This surface is then rough to the touch and offers the quality of being non-slippery. This impacts on the colour of the material owing to oxidation. In the case of gold or yellow stones they will often become red or orange for this process.
Water Finish
In simple terms this finish is the opposite of flaming. In flaming the hardest stone parts shatter and be removed, water finishing removes the softer stone parts. A high pressured jet of water is passed over the surface to achieve the desired finish. The appearance looks similar to that of flaming and equally rough to the touch. The material colours are not affected by water finishing and the appearance can be compared to those achieved by polishing. The end resulting material possess the non-slip qualities as per flaming but this avoids the oxidation process thus not affecting the stone colour. This makes this surface finish option preferable to flaming.
Antique (Leather) Finish
Machines that have the appearance of large commercial washing machines are utilised in achieving an antique/leather finish. This is more rotational around smaller items as you cannot place large stone pieces within revolving machinery. In this case brushing (bush) finishing along with acid wash are the methods utilised to achieve the desired surface finish.
River Wash Finish
River wash is quite a new stone finish. River wash is a brushed face of stone that maintains its actual shade and colour. River Wash also provides a slip-resistant surface. Unlike flamed or honed surfaces where the thickness of the material can be varied or the colour can become muted, this look allows for a consistent surface ensuring the thickness will be maintained without compromising the original stones appearance.

Chemical Finishing

Acid Wash

Chemicals are put onto the surface of the material that alter the finish of the stone material. Chemicals can also be applied with other surface treatments to alter the properties and appearance of the material. Chemical finishes can be applied to surfaces retrospectively after fabrication and installation.

Acid Wash

Acid washing has a caustic action on the surface of the stone. The length of time the surface is exposed to the acid and the strength of the acid will affect the finish of the stone surface. The application of the acid can be used for simple cleaning of the surface to a more undulated pitted finish. Similar to the effect achieved by water finishing. Acid wash is an alternative route to achieve an antique finish instead of the impact finishing method described above. Acid wash can be retrospectively undertaken. The variation of the chemicals used to achieve an acid wash will not alter the texture of the surface but the characteristics of its appearance. As you would expect the utilisation of different chemicals offers different results. Some are simply used to remove oil that has been absorbed into the surface whilst others can alter the physical colours of the stone material.

Epoxy Treated

This method consists of several steps:

One face is honed to create a smooth surface on which the resin is applied.

The slab is dried in a special oven to allow the resin to penetrate into the material and set;

Resin is poured and spread on the slab.

The slab is put in the oven again to dry the resin.

When the slab comes out from the oven it is ready for polishing.

This complex process has two main goals: the improvement of the material's esthetic characteristics and its mechanical resistance. The high fluidity of the resin allows it to penetrate the smallest interstices and to fill defects in the material. Unlike resin treatment, cement filling, usually applied to travertine, is employed for purely aesthetic reasons.


In addition to resin treatment, in order to strengthen material it is common to apply a thin net made of fiberglass or plastic on the back side of the most defective marble or stone slabs.

Protective Treatment

This category includes all those treatments that are used to protect the material surface from external elements. Among them are hydro- and oil-repellent treatments used to seal kitchen countertops, anti-graffiti treatments to avoid damage caused by vandalism, and products that give a wet appearance to flamed stone. These products are often the final protection given to finished and installed stone.

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