When working with designers and architects, the thing we hear most often is that nothing feels more authentic and permanent than stone.  Even when it is used in small ways like a mantle, a threshold or foyer, stone means quality and suggests longevity.  Stone is a statement building material that provides color and grain to space. Stone not only adds vibrancy and a rich beauty to a property but adds value.

There several popular stone choices, including go-to materials like marble and granite, but then there are more exotic stone varieties such as onyx and travertine.  Regardless of the stone you choose, a few rules apply to its upkeep: Wipe up spills immediately, keep grit off your stone and with proper care, stone surfaces will last many generations.

Before You Choose a Stone

Showrooms and home design centers have lots of samples, get some, put them in the space, look at them at different times of the day. But if you go to a stone yard, you’ll have your choice of native materials, which can add character. Plus, you can pick out the pieces that will actually be used in your home, which is an advantage since no two slabs are the same.

Ask an expert if the stone you’re interested in is right for your needs. First consideration should be how it performs in your application, followed by how it looks and its price point. An inexpensive or expensive stone choice in the wrong place can be a headache.

Carefully selected stone will last a lifetime, so it’s worth the investment. Plus, it will likely add to the value of your home.

STONE TYPES

Marble
Most people are familiar with marble. From Greek statues to Roman baths, it has been used for centuries in just about every possible interior and exterior application. Marble is relatively hard, but not as hard as granite. Marble basically classifies into four groups which include: Groups A, B, C, and D. These merely indicate fabrication ability, which is based on the materialís level of hardness. It is very popular for fireplaces, bar-tops, and bathrooms, and comes in a wide range of colors.

Marble has the same general properties of limestone and can stain, etch or scratch, but only becomes more beautiful over time and use. Most marble has veining mineral deposits throughout. It is generally thought to be from Italy, but in actuality it is quarried all over the world. Tumbled marble has become extremely popular in the United States in the last few years for backsplash, flooring and shower areas.

Granite
The only natural stones harder than granite are diamonds, rubies, and sapphires. Therefore, choose granite when permanence, enduring color and texture, and complete freedom from deterioration and maintenance are prime requirements. Granite is highly heat, scratch and stain resistant, and is commonly used to face commercial and institutional buildings and monuments. It is unequaled as a material for fireplaces, steps, road and driveway curbing, terraces, and to pave plazas and public spaces. Granite is the traditional favorite of countertop materials for its unique colors and patterns, proven durability and lasting value.
Granite comes in hundreds of different colors.

Limestone
This grain stone has a very uniform texture and grade, and has gained worldwide acceptance as a premier dimension stone. Limestone weathers naturally over time and its color mellows and blends into a pleasing natural patina. With no artificial coloring agents to fade and no reinforcement rods to rust, the appearance of limestone actually improves with age.

Limestone has proven its use from simple treads and pavers to landscaping structures and bridges, to soaring cathedrals over and over again. While subtle color and grain differences are present, limestone is extremely consistent in its look from quarry to quarry. This is important, not only for the current project being built, but particularly when future expansions are contemplated.

Onyx

Onyx is similar to travertine in the way it is formed, resulting from water dissolving existing limestone and re-depositing it as a new type of stone known as sinter. In limestone caves, onyx is formed by drip water, in the formation of stalagmites and stalactites. It is quartz crystals fused together into thin layers of stone.

Onyx is a brittle stone and is best suited for areas without hard wear. This beautiful stone is characterized by its translucence, and can be backlit for dramatic effects. Onyx is a calcareous stone and prone to engraving and discoloration from acids such as ketchup, citrus, alcohol, and some cleaning products. Similar to limestone, onyx is a softer stone best placed where it won’t be used or ill-treated on a day to day basis. It is porous and requires sealing.

Slate
Slate is a metamorphic rock that is dense, strong, acid resistant and non-absorptive. It is impervious to freeze/thaw cycles and has been used in construction for thousands of years. It is the material of choice for discerning architects, designers, contractors and builders.

Slate produced in North America comes in a variety of colors, including black, gray, green, purple and red. Many of these slates are available with mottling of more than one color and some of these slates include a color weathering characteristic which adds warm earth tone hues.

Most commonly used for interior floor surfaces or exterior landscaping, slate also serves as a durable and stain resistant counter top, beautiful pool coping, shower enclosure, pavers, building cladding, and spectacular, fireproof roof covering that can last the life of the building.

Travertine
Travertine is a natural stone like Marble & Granite, the key difference between Travertine and other natural stones is in the formation of the rock, the hardness of the stone and the appearance. Travertine is formed in hot springs or limestone caves. Travertine is not the same as Marble or Limestone which falls in the metamorphic rock category. Key characteristics of Travertine stone are the holes within the stone which are caused by carbon dioxide evasion.

Sandstone
Comprised mainly of sand-size mineral or rock grains, most sandstone is composed of quartz and feldspar – two of the most common minerals in the earth’s crust. Like sand, it can be any color, but most commonly comes in tan, brown, yellow, red, gray and white. The stone generally has a uniform texture and it is somewhat soft, making it user-friendly for a variety of applications. It is favored for wall claddings and flooring because of its low absorption rate, high compression strength, and aesthetically pleasing appearance.

Other stone types
There are a number of stones that are not used often or in large quantities. Some semiprecious stones such as jade are cut and used as a contrast or accent. These stones include alabaster, greenstone, schist, serpentine, soapstone, and sometimes travertine.