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Marble and Other Natural Stone

Posted: 01 JUL 2002

There are several different types of natural stone used in residential and commercial applications. Their uses vary widely and include flooring, countertops, wall covering, fireplaces and exterior facades. It is common for people to refer to any polished stone finish as “marble.” However, there is a strong possibility that they are looking at a different type of stone since marble is not suitable for certain applications.

For example, since marble is not the hardest natural stone, it would not do well as a floor covering in extremely high traffic areas. Though under typical residential and light commercial applications, it would hold up fine. The one application that marble is not well suited for is kitchen countertops. This is because marble’s composition deteriorates when exposed to acidic foods.

The most common residential uses of marble are for window sills, fireplaces hearths, decorative foyers and bathroom floors. Other bathroom applications include wall covering, backsplashes, tub decks and showers.

Some marble tiles are processed for a finished look known as tumbled marble. The process actually involves tumbling the tiles with sand inside a large drum. After a period of time, the corners of the tiles become rounded and the edges slightly chipped, resulting in a well-worn, antiqued appearance.

The popularity of tumbled marble has increased dramatically in recent times. This is especially true regarding its use for bathroom countertops and backsplashes. With such a wide variety of shapes, colors, sizes and designs, tumbled marble can be used exclusively or to accent other types of tile. The number of stylish touches that can be created with its sculptured trim, mosaic borders or decorative medallions is virtually limitless.

Other types of natural stone include granite, travertine, limestone, slate and sandstone. Of this group, granite is by far the most versatile. Because of its density it is not absorbent and thus highly resistive to bacteria and stains. This makes it ideally suited for kitchen countertops. Granite’s density and strength also make it suitable for exterior applications.

Travertine is a very popular natural stone that is used in residential and commercial applications. Residentially, travertine’s most common uses include interior and exterior wall and flooring covering. Commercially, it has been used in several major building constructions. Two of the world’s most recognizable structures constructed mostly of travertine are the modern Getty Center in Los Angeles and the ancient Coliseum in Rome.

Limestone is most often used in building construction since it is relatively softer and thus easier to work with. It is also one of the more abundant natural stones. Some of its uses include countertops, wall tiles and flooring. However, because it is softer than some of the other stones, limestone would not perform well as a floor covering in very high traffic areas.

Slate is a durable stone that forms naturally in layers. Because of this, it is capable of being split into thin sheets. Among its most common uses are floor tiles, countertops and roofing tiles.

Sandstone is a popular stone used for fireplace facades, chimneys, retaining walls and walkway stones.