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Things you should know about your choice of stone

Make an informed choice through product education

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Also check out our numerous Frequently Asked Question pages where you can get answers to some of the more common issues.

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What Stone for Commercial Applications


Often architects and designers select natural stone based only on its colour properties. Those who sell and work with natural stone should better know the proper selection to aid the architect and designer. In choosing any stone for a high traffic commercial environment, there are quite a few factors that must be well thought-out.

Abrasive Resistance

This is possibly the most vital requirement for stone in high traffic areas. There is an ASTM C 241-Abrasive Resistance test designed to test the wear ability of a particular stone by insertion of a sample into a testing machine and weighing the loss of material due to abrasion. Do not confuse this test with rigidity. A stone can be very hard, but at the same time wear poorly.


This is the only factor that many architects and designers use when choosing stone for a project. Colour is significant but there are some general rules that apply to colour:

1.  Darker stones tend to show wear patterns more easily than lighter colour stones.

2.  Lighter stones have a tendency to darken due to the iron inside the stone. This is particularly true with white marble. White marble will yellow when open to the elements, so avoid using it in wet areas.

3.  Certain colour stones, like green marble, need particular setting materials. Green marble, known as serpentine, has a tendency to curl at the edges and turn white if set in water-based setting materials. Green marbles should only be set in epoxy setting mortar.


Some stones have many veins. While this can be beautiful, care must be taken. The more veins a stone has, the more brittle it will be. The cause for this is easy geology veins are parts where minerals have flowed and deposited. In many cases the veins are not as hard compared to the surrounding stone and are subject to erosion and wear faster than stone with less veins. Examples of this are Rain Forest brown, green marble, Trani Fiorito and Rosa Perlato. Some natural stones have filler applied at the factory to fill in veins and voids. These fillers are generally cement based and subject to wear. A good example of a filled stone is travertine, of which there are numerous types available. Some have little fill and others have much more. Stones with a great deal of filler should be avoided in high-traffic zones.

Stone Finish

There are several finishes obtainable for stone, ranging from highly polished to very coarse. Please note that some finishes are not obtainable for certain stone types.

Polished – This finish has a highly gloss surface and requires the most up keep. To keep a high gloss, it continuously needs to be re-polished and properly maintained.

Honed – A honed finish is a matte or satin finish with little to no reflection.

Flamed or Thermal-Finished – A thermal finish is often applied to granite and some limestone. It has a coarse texture created by passing a flame across the surface, making parts of the stone pop out. Marble is not obtainable in this finish.

Sandblasted – A sandblasted finish is a coarse, matt finish achieved by blasting the surface with sand. Sandblasted finishes are porous, and require a sealer to keep clean.

Hammered – Striking the surface with a hammer and imprinting it with the pattern of the hammer’s face achieves a hammered finish. Hammered finishes are normally found on granites and limestone.

Natural Cleft – A natural cleft finish, found on the stone as it is taken from the ground, is often left on slate or sandstone.

Sawed – This is the finish made by sawing. It is characterized by circular saw cuts on the surface.

Tumbled – This rough finish, made by tumbling the stone with abrasives, is usually only found on marble and limestone. There are also several new finishes coming out, including wet jet and traditional.

Resin or Fiberglass Back Stone

Many stone tiles and slabs arrive from the factory with fibreglass or resin on the back to prevent breakage during shipping. This is an indication that you are dealing with a brittle stone that breaks easily. Tremendous care must be used when installation takes place. Water based setting materials will not offer the proper bond unless a 100 percent latex additive is used. Make sure you follow the specification in this manual.

Grout Width

When specifying stone tile, think about the width of the grout joint. Marble and limestone are soft and scratch if sanded grout is used. Also, make sure the grout width does not exceed in. Granite can handle sanded grout and larger grout widths. Epoxy grout must be used in any food areas, toilets, steam showers, etc. Epoxy grout is stainless and does not harbour bacteria. It is therefore the grout of choice in these zones.

Substrate Considerations

The top 10 errors with stone installations have to do with the substrate the stone is bonded to. It is extremely vital that the substrate be prepped and designed to handle the type of stone. The following are some general tips:

1.  Perform a vapour test to make sure there is no excess vapour coming from the stone. Excess vapour can root rapid worsening of the stone as well as create efflorescence struggle. Make sure That the slab does not exceed 3 to 5 lbs. of vapour over a 1,000-sq.-ft. area in a 24-hour period. The test to specify is ASTM F-1869.

2.  Hairline cracks and joints should not be bridged or enclosed. A fracture membrane should be specified if the slab exhibits any cracks.

3.  It is recommended that an expansion joint be installed directly over any control joints or cold joint separations. If not, the stone installation will crack.

4.  Many curing agents and accelerators prevent the proper bonding of stone and tile installations. It is important that all curing agents, accelerators or other topical coating be removed before the installation.

5.  It is highly recommended that an independent expert be hired to monitor the installation to make sure it is being installed as specified.

6.  A mock-up showing the installation technique and the range of colour should be displayed before proceeding with the overall installation.

7.  Wood subfloors should be reinforced. Deflection should be greater than L/360.

8.  Stone tile shouldn’t be set directly to a wood substrate. Use a mortar bed or concrete backer board.

9.  Wood subflooring should be at least 30mm thick.


If a stone installation meets another material such as wood or carpet, a proper changeover strip should be used. This changeover should be at the same height as the floor coving it is coming from.

Setting Material

Unlike ceramic tile, set stone with white mortar or thin set, particularly light colour stone. Grey mortar may stain. Use epoxy setting mortar on all green serpentine based marbles.


Lippage is the height affiliation from one tile to the other. Lippage shall be specified not to exceed 0.8mm.

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