Are you considering using natural stone in bathroom or kitchen renovations or new construction? It’s important to choose the right product for the job. You may not realize it, but while stone does share some characteristics, there can be great variations, too. Educating yourself before you start planning or shopping can save you time and money down the road.
To help, we asked an industry expert to share his top tips for setting your stone project up for success. Vincent Carramusa is Project Manager & Estimator for Stone Source has years of experience in the field, and knows the nuances of stone and its construction applications.
What makes some marble/stone cost more than others?
There are several factors that can affect the cost of stone, especially how rare or prevalent the particular marble or stone is.
There are many types of stone – as in the travertine family – that are available from many countries with abundant quarries. But certain marbles that are in high demand, with distinct colors and vein patterns, maybe only available in a small portion of one quarry in the world. That will drive up prices.
Other factors that suppliers take into consideration are accessibility to the quarry; the time and steps a stone needs for cutting into manageable slabs or tile; and processing and what’s involved in preparation for customer use.
And of course, stone is extremely heavy, so shipping costs, (which can fluctuate), can also affect the overall cost of stone slabs and tile.
Are there types of marble/stone that are best to avoid when planning a bathroom project? Any that hold up better than most?
With the technological advancements in stone mining, there are more types of stone available today for a customer’s selection. However, a customer should be aware of the characteristics of the type of stone and finishes they are considering.
For wet areas, the principal information would be stone density and water absorption rate. Stones in the Igneous category (e.g., granite) will have low absorption rates, while Sedimentary, calcareous stone (as many limestones are), will have a higher absorption rate. It would be wise to be careful with sandstones, quarzitic sandstones, slate, and soft limestone.
Most types of marble will have moderate absorption rates and can be suitable for bathrooms. With proper installation methods, and proper maintenance, most marble will hold up for decades.
The stone finishes are also part of the long-term maintenance. Polished marbles are the most attractive, but surfaces may patina (change color) in time, especially on floors.
Marble is resilient also. Unlike all other man-made surfaces for a home, most marble floors can be refinished and refurbished decades later for a new look. Stone is timeless and has always had a long-term appeal!
Are there design details that make the stone in bathroom showers, sinks, or floors harder to maintain?
The marble finish itself is always part of the design. There are more coarse surface finishes available today – such as sandblasted, thermal finishes, brushed, etc. While these may make the stone look unique, and help them be less slippery if used on floors, remember that routine maintenance will require more steps to keep these surfaces clean.
Small marble tile or mosaics will have a greater area of grout joints and may also need additional steps to keep clean. However, when properly grouted and protected, this can be less of a concern.
Another design issue may stem from using a combination of different types of stone in bathroom wet areas. It’s quite possible that they may wear differently based on their density, so keeping an eye out for signs of wear or deterioration is a good idea.
Do all types of marble/stone require sealing? And if so, how often is re-sealing typically required?
With today’s expectations, almost all types of stone would come with a recommendation of sealing.
Sealing helps not only with minimizing liquid absorption, but also facilitates routine cleaning. The frequency of re-sealing depends primarily on the type of sealer and the manufacturer’s recommendations.
Aggressive cleaning methods may wear the sealer faster. A good indication that it’s time for re-sealing would be when it is noticed that water quickly absorbs into the stone and darkens the wet spot.
It is important to note that with all types of sealer, a proper application system should be used to achieve the manufacturer’s protection intent.
What project-related questions should homeowners expect to answer when they visit their stone supplier?
The stone supplier typically first asks what the scope of the project is. For example, is it for a kitchen, bathroom, wet area, interior, exterior, etc. This way the representative can guide the homeowner towards the most suitable types of stone for the intended application.
Once the representative has narrowed down the types of stone, he/she may also ask what aesthetics or color pallet is within the design intent.
In showing the available materials, a further question could be if the customer prefers stone with distinct vein patterns or more subtle veining or pattern for more of continuous color hue.
These points will be a big help in getting you started on your plans for using stone in bathroom, kitchen, or other areas, but we highly recommend speaking with Stone Source, or another reputable expert, when the time comes to buy!