Stone Counters

Our use of stone as the ideal countertop surface dates back as early as cooking itself when the rocks surrounding an open flame were the only work surface needed. And while granite has been the most popular choice for stone counters for about the last decade or so, there are other stone choices that should be considered for kitchens and bathrooms as well.

For your kitchen countertop, some consider quartz to be the ideal choice. While some quartz countertops are made of quarried stone, most is made of an engineered material comprising approximately 95 per cent ground natural quartz with 5 per cent polymer resins.

Easier to install than granite because it is more flexible, quartz does not require any sealing, making it a no-maintenance option that’s more durable than granite and is non-porous so won’t stain the way granite might. But it doesn’t have the natural veining that granite does, which is such an appealing design factor for many.

Marble, while a beautiful material for countertops, should not be used in the kitchen. Better suited for bathrooms, marble is porous and light in colour, which means it can stain very easily with as little as a spilled glass of red wine. Marble, like granite, needs to be sealed, but even a sealant can’t guarantee stain-resistance and while there are some cleaning solutions and recipes that claim to help lift stains, it’s better to just avoid using marble in the kitchen altogether and instead use it in the bathroom.

No matter what stone surface you use for countertops in your home, cleaning them remains the same. Do not use any chemical on any type of stone counter surface. It’s best to simply wash with hot water and soap. Chemicals will break down the sealant on marble and granite surfaces and the polymer resin in quartz counters. Don’t be fooled by products that claim to be safe to use. There is no guarantee and you may regret it.

Stone Floors

Stone flooring offers a timeless elegance in any room in any home. Long chosen for it’s beauty, not to mention it’s durability, stone floors, like stone countertops, have been used for that durability factor since floors were first constructed.

Today, stone flooring, including marble, slate and travertine, comes in the form of stone tiles that are easy to lay and while not as durable as an actual stone, are more attractive.

Beauty is definitely the reason most people install marble tiles. While marble tiling is not a do-it-yourself job and better left to the professionals, once installed the effect on your floors is certainly unparalleled in beauty. That beauty, however, is reflected in the stone’s price tag, which is quite high. And, because marble isn’t the strongest stone, the tiles can crack. Add to that the fact that the porous stone stains and etches easily and you may want to consider using marble in smaller spaces to reduce the cost and places where things are unlikely to be dropped or where shoes are worn, making a bathroom the best place to use marble flooring. Marble tiles must be sealed regularly and should only be cleaned with a mild detergent and hot water to prevent corroding the sealant and staining the stone. A steam mop is a great option.

Slate tiles, like marble, also come with a higher price tag than other flooring options. But the durability of slate and the fact that it can potentially last as long as the home does, makes it a popular choice. Slate flooring tiles have a rugged and porous appearance that is actually quite stain resistant, provided the tiles are sealed properly upon installation. Much like marble, slate tiles should only be cleaned with a mild detergent and water – a steam mop is also a good option for slate. Keep in mind that while slate is very durable, it can be cracked or more likely chipped, due to the nature of the stone. However, it’s a great option for just about any room in your home, including front entrances, hallways, kitchens and bathrooms. But since slate isn’t available in a wide assortment of colours, and has that rugged look, the design aesthetic may not appeal to all homeowners.

The most economically effective stone flooring option is travertine tile. This type of limestone is available in a wide assortment of colours so it appeals to both homeowners’ aesthetic and budget. Heavier than other stone flooring tiles, travertine is extremely durable, which is another reason why they are so popular for a variety of rooms, including kitchens, baths, hallways and entrances. Easy to install, travertine tiles are a DIY-ers’ dream and should a tile chip or crack, can easily be replaced. The downfalls to travertine, however, are that they are extremely porous and highly reactive to acidic substances. So like the other stone flooring options they’ll need to be sealed regularly and should only be cleaned with mild detergents and hot water, or again a steam mop. However, should a tile be stained, it can, as mentioned, be easily replaced.

Stone Walls

Think back to the days when houses were first built and you’re likely to conjure up images of rustic stone or log walls that looked as if they’d last forever. They usually did and it’s that durability that long made stone and log walls so popular. However, for some, a stone walls are simply about aesthetic appeal that I totally understand.

A variety of stone can be used in an assortment of applications on walls around your home, from backsplashes to shower walls. And thanks to technology, you can even install a stone veneer wall on top of your existing drywall without adding weight that could damage your home’s structure.

Let’s start with kitchen backsplashes, where stone is amongst the hottest trends. Not only used to protect your walls from splashes and spills, backsplashes can be a major focal point in a kitchen. As such, marble, travertine and slate are the most popular backsplash options today. However, as mentioned, stone veneer can also be used. It’s essential that stone tile backsplashes are properly sealed to avoid staining and must be cleaned using a mild detergent to prevent corrosion of that sealant. Likewise, stone veneer should be sealed, but keep in mind that the extreme texture on this surface may make it difficult to keep clean in a well used kitchen.

In the bathroom, stone showers were once a luxury that’s now a hot commodity due to the affordability of stone tiles. In many cases the same stone tiles used in flooring can be used in showers, provided the right sealant is used to provide a water barrier. Keep in mind, however, that since only mild detergents should be used to clean such surfaces, you’ll need to keep your shower very clean. You don’t want a layer of soap scum to form that will then be very difficult to get rid of. I recommend using a squeegee to wipe down the stone tiles after each use, as well as a thorough weekly cleaning.

And if you’re looking to do a focal wall, stone veneer is really the best option. Lightweight and easy to install, it also comes with an affordable price tag so that you can maximize the impact without impacting your budget too much. Keep in mind, however, that stone veneer has a rough texture and a variety of ledges that may be difficult to keep clean. Regular dusting is a necessity, and some vacuuming wouldn’t hurt either.

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