Natural stone is a versatile and sustainable material that can be used throughout the home. From kitchen countertops, bathroom vanities and fireplace surrounds to flooring and walls to outdoor kitchens and fire pits, natural stone creates lasting beauty that only gets better with time. And, unlike manmade alternatives, no two stone products are alike. Each possesses unique variations in color, pattern and sheen, offering endless design possibilities that are only limited by the imagination.
When selecting natural stone for your project, it’s important to spend some time considering which type of stone will work best for your particular application. Following are factors to take into account when choosing natural stone for your home along with common applications for the most popular stone choices.
One of the primary benefits of opting for natural stone instead of a manmade product is its one-of-a-kind look. Each slab of natural stone is different, meaning you will never see a stone exactly like it another home. When choosing your stone, it’s important to visit stone yards so that you can select the slab that “speaks” to you, rather than selecting from a sample. You’ll be able to see the color, veining and movement that appear throughout the slab and get a better feel for how it will look in your home. Make sure to bring along samples of other components of your project – for example, paint chips, cabinet doors, fixtures and backsplash tiles – which can help you to narrow your selection.
It’s important to consider the space in which the stone will be used. If the stone will be placed in a high traffic area, such as a busy family kitchen, you may want to choose a harder stone that is more resistant to abrasions. Softer stones require more frequent cleaning and care to prevent etching and scratching. For this reason, they are typically better suited to areas where the stone is not exposed to as much use, such as backsplashes and bathroom vanity tops. The amount of time you are willing to spend cleaning and caring for your stone should be factored into the selection process.
Commonly Used Natural Stone Types
An extremely hard, durable stone, granite is available in a seemingly endless array of colors. It is a popular, high performance kitchen countertop material that requires little maintenance if it is cleaned after use with mild dish soap and water. For added protection, granite should be sealed using a quality sealer. Once properly sealed, it will be even more resistant to everyday dirt and spills. Because of its durable nature, granite is also well suited for applications beyond the kitchen, including bathroom vanities, shower walls, flooring, desks and tables.
Marble is an elegant, classic choice that has been used for thousands of years. While white marble is the most popular color choice, many other color options exist. Since marble is softer than granite, it will stain, etch and scratch more easily. For this reason, it is commonly used for bathroom vanities, backsplashes, fireplace surrounds and bar tops. While it can be used for kitchen countertops, it is important to keep in mind that it will develop a patina (a slight change in color or texture) as it is exposed to various elements over time. As such, marble is not typically recommended for use in high traffic kitchens.
Similar in appearance to marble, but harder than marble and more resistant to abrasions, quartzite is an attractive alternative for kitchen countertops. It is available in a variety of colors and features a subtle sparkling pattern that occurs naturally when quartz pieces recrystallize as they are heated. Other popular applications include walls, flooring and stair steps. Quartzite usually needs to be sealed when installed to help it resist stains. To preserve its beauty, it should be cleaned regularly with a damp cloth and mild soap, and any spills should be wiped up immediately.
Composed primarily of talc, soapstone is a durable stone that is softer than granite. While it is most often seen in light gray hues, it can also be found in green and blue tones. Soapstone is heat resistant, making it ideally suited for fireplace applications. Because it does not stain and is not harmed by hot pots, citrus, wine, acids or chemicals, it has become a more popular choice for kitchen countertops. Scratches can be easily repaired with ordinary sandpaper and mineral oil. Due to its non-porous nature and resistance to extreme temperatures, soapstone is also a good choice for outdoor kitchens.
Onyx is easily identifiable by its striking appearance, which features alternating bands of rich color. It is most commonly used as a statement piece, and is often backlit, such as on bar tops or a statement wall. It can also be used as a backsplash for kitchens and bathrooms, but – due to its delicate nature – is not typically recommended for countertops or high traffic areas. A fragile stone, Onyx needs to be cared for to prevent scratching and etching. If used for countertops, it should be sealed properly and then regularly cleaned with special stone cleaner to help prevent scratching and staining.
A Natural Choice
Natural stone is one of the most beautiful materials available for the home. In contrast to manufactured options, each piece is unique with its own story and character. While, ultimately, the choice of stone comes down to personal preference, the factors discussed above can help to simplify the decision making process and ensure that you enjoy the stone you select for years to come. For more information on natural stone, visit www.usenaturalstone.com.
TIP: Always talk to an experienced stone professional about your vision and your specific project needs. Look for a company that is a member of a professional organization such as MIA+BSI: The Natural Stone Institute, which approves qualified natural stone professionals for membership based on industry skill and commitment to service.
Natural stone fabricators and distributors within 25 miles of Atlanta
AA Marble & Granite – Norcross
AGM Imports – Norcross
Cosentino Center Atlanta – Norcross
Craftmark Solid Surfaces – Norcross
Daltile – Atlanta
Granco – McDonough
International Granite & Marble – Lithia Springs
Levantina USA – Lawrenceville
Marmi Natural Stone – Norcross
Materials Marketing – Atlanta
MSI Atlanta – Austell
Renaissance Tile & Bath, Inc. – Atlanta
Stone Systems of Atlanta – Atlanta
StoneVic-Kedin, USA, Ltd. – Atlanta
Tiede-Zoeller – Roswell
Topco Tile & Stone – Stone Mountain
Top South – Marietta
Walker Zinger – Atlanta
Williams Tile & Marble – Smyrna