Know your stone types
The classic stone for interiors. Often light in colour, but with colours that can range from grey to black, limestone always has interesting shell and fossil patterns. Limestone is versatile and durable. It ages beautifully and only requires a little cleaning and treatment to ensure that it lasts for generations.
Sandstone is a little less hard than limestone and other stones, but it has been used historically for major buildings such as cathedrals, as well as for ornamental stone such as fountains and statues because it is easy to carve. It is a sedimentary rock, and like sand may be any colour, but is usually tan, brown, pale pink or red, or even white or black.
Slate makes wonderful, characterful floors – with metallic colouring and natural undulations. It is very hardwearing and, because of its darker colouring, less demanding in terms of maintenance than many stones.
The natural surface-pits in travertine stone are usually filled with grout, leaving the stone with an aged look of instant character, or with special resins for a more sleek appearance. One feature of travertine is that small holes will appear in the surface from time to time – this is nothing to be unduly concerned about as these holes can simply be filled with a little grout.
Travertine is easy to care for but is a better choice of product for areas which are not so heavily used. Travertine is closely associated with Italian architecture and design.
Marble is an exceptionally hard stone, though it is essentially a limestone, characterised by swirls and veins (which result from mineral impurities such as iron oxides, clay or sand) and by a wide variety of colours – white through to black, including pink, gold, green and grey.
From the Italian meaning ‘baked earth’, terracotta is made from clay. It is generally a deep crimson colour with a rustic, glazed finish and is reminiscent of Mediterranean floors and roofs.
ENCAUSTIC CEMENT TILES
Cement tiles differ from ceramic tiles in that the pattern or figure on the surface is a product of different colours of clay, rather than a glazed application – this is called the encaustic technique where pattern is inlaid into the body of the tile, so that the design and colour remain, even as the tile wears. Cement tiles will age naturally and develop their own patina with time, like natural stones. Cement tiles are suitable for domestic and commercial use floors and walls.
TERRAZZO CEMENT TILES
The same technique is used as encaustic tiles (see above), but ground marble chips are added to the top layer to add extra durability and visual effect.
Ceramic tiles are generally made from a clay mixture that is fired at a high temperature. These tiles are then glazed with a base colour then over-printed or hand painted with a pattern. Glazed ceramic is suitable for domestic floors (where specified) and walls.
Full-bodied porcelain is consistent in composition. There is no glazing – so any pattern or colour runs through the entire thickness of the tile, and therefore the colour and pattern do not diminish with use. These tiles are less susceptible to scratching (unless they are supplied in a ‘polished’ finish) and are ideal for very heavy commercial use floors and walls.
Glazed porcelain has a glass layer. This is usually a high-definition image of a stone, cement, marble or pattern applied to the surface of a high-tech engineered porcelain tile. The colour and pattern are only surface-deep but still very strong and resistant to wear. Glazed porcelain is suitable for domestic and, where specified, commercial use floors and walls.