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the general facts about natural stone tiles

Natural stone has seen a significant shift in popularity over recent years. Travertine was the forerunner about 8 years ago but tumbled limestone and marble is the material of choice these days. New production methods and lower prices have brought what was once for the select few to a whole new market.

20 May

There has been a real surge in the popularity of natural stone tiles over the past decade with travertine tiles leading the way in popularity. In the past, marble was seen as something only the wealthy could afford, and limestone was relatively unknown as the only limestone tiles available were generally domestic and very expensive. Now it's a different story, with some good quality marble tiles available for less than £30/sqm and many beautiful limestones have appeared from around the world. New stones are appearing all the time when they are discovered often quite randomly by shepherds and the likes on the sides of Turkish mountains.

It all really started when Travertine tiles became popular with interior designers and architects using them in their designs and recommending to their clients. The completed projects were often featured in lifestyle magazines and on the TV, with many a Travertine bathroom popping up on Grand Designs back in the day. As well as a good amount of media exposure, Travertine's continued popularity has been generated through a significant reduction in price over a fairly short period of time. This was mainly due to the exporters and factory owners setting up in business in the UK and cutting prices.

Choosing quality tiles

Most Travertine comes from Turkey (as does most natural stone these days) and many of the main UK suppliers are now Turkish. Unfortunately, with lower prices has come lower quality. The notion of getting something for nothing from any supplier in any industry is nonsense and the generic nature of travertine (there are many quarries and hundreds of factories producing this) has led to some very shabby tiles being sold as Premium Grade when they are nothing more than basic lower grades or commercial grade.

Unfortunately, as a buyer, if you don't have any real basis for comparison or experience with travertine then you can be letting yourself in for a world of trouble if you end up with sub-standard tiles. There is a more in-depth article to come on the site called “the truth about travertine” which talks more in detail about the ins and outs of travertine and the real facts you should know if you are considering this stone.

Stone tile colours and finishes

Natural stone tiles are a personal style choice. Generally people looking for natural stone in their house understand that every piece will be unique, as it's a natural material and that is the look they want – something organic and beautiful. Occasionally we come across people who don't grasp the concept that natural stone is a natural product and expect every tile will look practically the same. If this is your outlook then natural stone probably isn't for you - we'd recommend you consider porcelain tiles instead. We have a beautiful range of fine Italian porcelain tiles as well as natural stone tiles.

While every piece of stone is different from each other, there is generally a uniformity known as the base colour. This is the main colour of the tiles and what the overall appearance will look like. Some stone tiles have a wide variation of colours in them that give a really dramatic look, like silver travertine, and others, like our white limestone, are very uniform in colour. Typically people base their buying decisions on base colours, amount of pattern and surface finish.

Natural stone tiles come in three main finishes that are:

Polished – the surface has a high shine and is reflective. The tile edges are straight cut aka rectified.

Honed – the surface is matte and usually has a silk like appearance. The tile edges are straight cut and sharp.

Tumbled – the surface is given a worn, aged appearance. The tile edges are rounded off and look worn.

There are other finishes like brushed and chiseled edge that give an aged appearance.

Generally, natural stone is a dynamic material that exhibits a huge variance of natural characteristics. There are soft stones like the Mediterranean white limestone and extremely hard stones like black granite or the Jura Limestones. The density of these stones usually dictates where they are suitable for use. You can install all of our natural stone tiles in a bathroom, but we don't recommend the use of softer stones in kitchens - although many people still choose to install them!

Stone tile re-sealing

One of the main considerations when choosing natural stone is the fact it requires protecting with sealers post-installation, and will require an amount of ongoing maintenance, including re-sealing, over the years.  When choosing stone tiles it depends on what your overall outlook is. While the maintenance required is basic and on the whole anybody can do it, some people don't want to have to spend any time post-installation bothering with it.

On the other hand, one of the main benefits of stone over manmade products is that there are specialist companies that can come in and refinish your floor or wall tiles with specialist equipment and products making them look like the day they were installed. It's generally not that expensive and only really necessary on floors every 5 years or so if you want to keep them looking perfect. These companies are also useful to refinish areas that have been damaged due to abuse or accidents – you can't refinish or repair ceramic tiles!

Re-sealing is really easy and only generally required every two years. This is a simple process of applying sealer in a thin coat with a cloth onto the surface of the tile, so that it absorbs the liquid and a barrier is formed. It should be noted that this barrier is not 100% impervious - for instance, if you dropped a glass of wine on a sealed floor and left it to clean up until the next morning (not that you would!), it would probably find its way past the sealer and mark the floor.

Cleaning your natural stone tiles

Natural stone doesn't require a special cleaning regime. Avoid bleach and coarse products like Vim - these will damage the tiles. You can use standard cleaning products like Flash etc. but they tend to take the sealer out of the tile over a period of time. The best cleaning products are specific products for natural stone that can be found in supermarkets as well as tile shops.

At StoneSuperStore, there is a team of expert advisers who can guide you through everything to do with natural stone from choosing to installation to maintenance. Feel free to give us a call to discuss any requirements.