Natural stone flooring is thing of a beauty — as well as being a highly practical choice. Our complete guide will help you to choose the right products for your needs and budget as well as giving on advice on installation and care.
What’s not to love about natural stone flooring? It has timeless good looks, durability, is easy to clean and maintain and works brilliantly with underfloor heating.
The only real problem with stone flooring is knowing which type of stone to choose, with there being such a wide choice of materials and styles on offer. Our guide will give you the lowdown on the various stones that work best as flooring, their costs and any pros and cons you should be aware of.
There are many different types of stone flooring out there. Your choice should be based on a number of factors, including:
Many natural stone flooring types are suitable for use inside and outside — perfect in situations where you want to create a seamless flow from inside to out.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed of calcium carbonate and organic matter. When is comes to limestone flooring, you should know that there are many different limestones from around the world, including the UK, and they have characteristic colours and markings. It’s important to realise that limestones also have different densities. The bottom line? A higher density generally offers better durability and stain resistance.Limestone flooring should be matched carefully to location, with the densest for high-traffic areas.In terms of colour, limestone flooring comes in anything from near white to the to honey, grey and even darker browns. Textures range from even-grained surface finishes to smooth, as well as coarser, open-textured varieties. When polished, limestone looks very much like marble.
Travertine stone flooring is actually a type of limestone deposited by mineral springs. The way it’s formed means it’s like a honeycomb and these pits and voids are exposed when it’s made into tiles, which gives it a more rustic look than limestone. Travertine comes in many colour variations, including pale creams and warmer honey shades.
Travertine floor tiles are generally filled with resin – which is colour matched – although some can be purchased unfilled. The voids are then filled during grouting. Holes can re-occur over time — and be refilled. Travertine stone flooring isn’t as hard wearing as limestone, or as stain resistant, but it’s still an attractive choice as it tends to be cheaper.
Although most commonly seen as a material for worktops, granite can also make a beautiful choice for those after stone flooring.
Granite comes in a wide choice of colours, often flecked with mineral specks or veining. It is available in different finishes, but a polished finish will be most effective at highlighting its colours and patterns. There is a huge range of colours for granite, from blue and purple to grey, green and even rusty reds.
Bear in mind that although granite is suitable for wet areas, such as bathrooms, highly polished tiles could become slippery. Look out for those with a non-slip surface.
There is no question that marble is beautiful and can make a striking material for flooring. That said, it does tend to require a little more care and maintenance than some other natural stone flooring types.
Marble is very porous and water should not be allowed to stand un-mopped as this can cause discolouration. In addition, if it comes into contact with certain acidic substances including some food and drinks, it can stain — using a sealant and reapplying it as necessary should avoid this. Speak to your supplier and installer for advice.
All that said, marble remains a popular flooring choice because it really is strikingly beautiful when installed well and properly maintained. It comes in a huge array of colours, sizes and finishes and will add style and elegance to your interiors.
Cream or beige neutrals might spring to mind when you picture limestone or travertine stone flooring, and there is definitely a huge choice of these tones. But the range of colours is larger than you might expect. If maximum light reflection is what’s needed, a very pale near-white limestone could be a winner. Stone flooring in darker greys and right through to almost black can look dramatic, but are best used in spaces where there is plenty of natural light. Bear in mind that very light and very dark shades of stone flooring will show up dirt more than those mid-toned tiles.
Consider the finish of the stone flooring as this is key to its character. Polished tiles are the glossiest and have a marble-like appearance. The process brings up the colour and markings of the stone. It’s the least slip-proof of the finishes, so factor this in, especially if the floor will get splashed or those not steady on their feet will be using it.
Honed tiles are also smooth, but less glossy than polished — it’s a finish that’s often used for travertine. Tiles that are riven, brushed or tumbled – the names derive from the process that creates the effect – have a more rustic and aged appearance. The texture makes them more slip-proof, too.
You can lay stone flooring tiles yourself but, given the cost and for optimum results, it’s advisable to call on a natural stone specialist.
It’s vital that natural stone flooring is sealed before grouting. Stone is naturally porous, and it helps them resist staining. Ask your supplier which sealant is appropriate for the floor tile you’ve selected, as this should take into account both the porosity of the individual stone and its finish.
“Opting for contrasting colours can add structure and definition if the tone you pick is complementary. For example, using an ashy grey grout with the lighter, creamier hues of tumbled travertine gives the texture a pop and white grout paired with limestone is great at highlighting each tile’s unique shape and structure.”
Natural stone flooring is hard wearing, but chipping a tile isn’t out of the question.
“Usually, the idea would be to cut around the grout of that specific tile and to chip away at a corner of the tile to break it off. There should then be enough space to get under the tile to lever it up. Any remaining adhesive should then be cleaned away from the subfloor. You need to be very careful not to damage adjoining stone tiles or the pipework of any underfloor heating.”
Sweeping, vacuuming and mopping will keep stone flooring clean, but the right cleaning products are essential.
Sealant will also need to be reapplied from time to time to maintain the floor’s stain resistance. How frequently depends on the wear the floor gets, but count on doing this every few years.
You can’t claim that your floor’s unique, but man-made tiles can reproduce the look of stone flooring highly effectively for less outlay, and they’re simpler to care for.
“If it’s just one or two you will notice heavy repetition that will not look natural, so go for a higher number.”
Ceramic tiles can also pull off the look, although they aren’t as hard wearing as porcelain so are best used away from busy spaces