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Tips From a Stone Care PRO for Selecting and Buying Stone and Tile

Are you building a new home? Restoring or re-decorating your old home? Are you an architect or interior designer in need of some direction with which tile to specify? The selection of tile and stone can be difficult, confusing even overwhelming. There are hundreds and hundreds of choices to make and if you have done any shopping I’m sure you have received an endless flow of advice, maybe even conflicting advice. I hope that you find the following information will arm you with the essential information you need to make the selection process easier, less confusing and even enjoyable.

THE BEAUTY OF IT ALL

Of course your first consideration is how it will look. With today’s options there is no reason to settle for anything less than stunning. Start with what is the overall feel you are aiming for. What type of decor will you be using in the room? A Southwestern style may require a Mexican tile floor. If the room is very elegant, marble or granite may work best. Be sure when selecting your tile that you take into consideration the decor of the room and that the tile compliments the mood.

Choose design, colors and styles that you will not tire of easily. Tile will often last as long as the house, so be sure you are happy with your selection. If in doubt, consult with an interior designer. Many tile and stone stores have designers on staff that will be more than happy to assist you with the proper selection. For inspiration and ideas, refer to tile and stone inspiration galleries such as the one on stoneandtilepros.com.

TRAFFIC AND WEAR

One of the biggest mistakes made in tile selection is choosing a stone or tile that is not suited for the traffic or usage it will be subjected to. Some marbles are very soft and should not be used in any area that will have to endure high traffic. A softer marble in a busy hotel lobby is a poor choice but may work well in a residential foyer. How easily does the material scratch?

TIP An easy test to perform is to take a pocket knife blade and run it lightly across the tile. If the blade leaves a scratch it will probably wear poorly in high traffic areas.

For the Architect or Designer refer to ASTM C241- Abrasive Resistance

STAIN AND ACID RESISTANCE

I will never forget a customer of mine who was a gourmet cook and installed beautiful white marble on her kitchen countertops. The marble was highly polished, very soft and not sealed. Needless to say in less than a month the marble was stained with every color of the rainbow and had lost its deep shine. Look carefully at the use the tile is to receive and determine how easy it will stain or etch. If you must use marble on a well-used kitchen countertop, be sure to seal it properly to inhibit staining agents from being able to seep in. The more absorbent the tile or stone, the more likely it will stain if not sealed. Etching, on the other hand is caused from acidic liquids coming in contact with acid-sensitive stones. Marble is rarely recommended for a kitchen because of its acid sensitivity.

For the Architect and Designer refer to ASTM C97-Absorption and Specific Gravity.

COST

Unfortunately cost is usually the deciding factor when selecting tile or stone. Cost can also be very misleading.

An inexpensive stone or tile may fit into your budget, but if it wears easily the cost of restoration, repair or replacement often will ultimately be more costly than not. Thoroughly investigate the maintenance requirements of the selected tile. Shop around and ask a lot of questions. The tile and stone market is very competitive so bargains can be found.

Warning: Tile and stone are available in different grades. The poorer grades may be cheaper but will have imperfections and flaws. Examine each tile carefully before it is installed.

TIP It is also a good idea to spend a little extra and buy spare tile in case tiles need to be replaced later. This is especially important with marble and ceramic since colors and patterns can be impossible to match later on.

Whatever your budget, do your homework and buy the best quality you can afford.

SAFETY

It is astonishing how many injuries occur each year due to slipping and falling. When choosing tile or stone, be sure it is not slippery. A highly polished granite tile on a shower floor may be a poor choice and a slip hazard, for example.

Honed, textured or flamed finishes may be less slippery. Ask us about treatments that can be applied to the surface of tile and stone to make it slip resistant.

For the Architect or Designer refer to ASTM test methods for coefficient of friction.

INSTALLATION

Who will do the installation? Many simple tiling projects can be performed by the do-it-yourselfer but more intricate projects and certain tiles, such as marble, should be left to the professional installer. Be sure to choose an installer familiar with installation of the tile type you select. Installation of ceramic tile differs from installation of stone.

SUB-FLOORING

What is the condition of the sub-floor (the floor the tile is to be installed on)? Is there an existing floor material or tile? Many times the sub-floor will have to be properly prepared before installation can begin. If you are tiling over an existing vinyl or tile floor, different setting materials will be needed so that proper bonding of the new tile will occur. If in doubt ask us for advice.

MAINTENANCE

Maintenance is the most overlooked factor when choosing stone or tile. Just because a stone or tile cost more doesn’t mean its maintenance requirements are less. There is no such thing as maintenance free! A twenty-cents-per-square-foot vinyl requires maintenance just as much as a thirty dollar per square foot stone. Be sure to understand the maintenance requirement of the tile or stone you select before you buy. Ask to see the maintenance guide for the tile type. It may also be a good idea to check with a friend or neighbor that has the same type of tile and ask them how easy or difficult it is to maintain.

Marble Cleaning?

We get many calls from homeowners asking for Marble Cleaning services. While we do offer marble cleaning, we rarely find that what the customer is actually looking for is in fact ‘cleaning’ of their marble.

More often than not, what customers are looking for is that beautiful shine their marble floors had when they were new.

Marble is a relatively soft stone. When it becomes dull and scratched, it loses its shine and luster. Many people see this and think their stone is dirty and needs professional cleaning. In actuality, the stone needs to be refinished and polished to restore the shine it had originally.

Why Marble Shines

Marble CleaningWhy Marble Shines

In diagram A above, we see an illustration representing a rough or scratched piece of stone. When light is reflected from the stone the light rays become scattered producing a dull, flat appearance to our eyes.

In diagram B, a very smooth stone, the light is reflected on the surface and the light rays return in a parallel pattern producing a deep reflective appearance. This same optical property can be observed on a pond. When the wind is blowing and the surface of the pond is wavy, it becomes difficult to see a reflection; when the air is still and the pond is calm, a deep reflection can be observed acheter viagra a montreal. So in order to achieve a deep shine on stone all that really needs to be done is to smooth it until it shines.

How Shine is Restored

The deep shine we see on polished stone is achieved by rubbing the stone with a series of abrasive materials. The process is very similar to sanding a piece of wood. The stone is rubbed with a coarse abrasive grit, followed by finer and finer grits until the stone becomes smooth. The scratches left behind from one grit are removed by the next, creating finer and finer scratches. The process continues until the scratches are microscopic. The shine on the stone is achieved by abrading the surface to the point at which it becomes extremely smooth and starts to develop some reflectivity. The shine on the stone is thus a product of optics.

Stone Restoration and Refinishing

This process is commonly referred to as stone restoration or stone refinishing and is something that should only be done by a qualified professional stone restoration company.

Do’s And Don’ts For Routine Care Of Your Kitchen Counters And Vanity Tops

First rule for proper care of your countertops, table tops, vanities, etc.: make sure they are properly sealed efficace le viagra. To check, spill a little bit of water onto them and give it a few minutes, then wipe up the water. If there is a darker area where the water was, this is an indication that the water absorbed into the stone and it’s time for a re-seal. Be sure to check in the most used areas.

Now, for routine cleaning and maintenance… this firm rule applies to all stone surfaces—counter tops, floors, walls, etc.—using a “glass cleaner” or “water with a little dish soap” are common but erroneous recommendations that you may hear. Glass cleaners may turn out to be too harsh to both the stone and the sealer (if one has been applied). Water and dish soap can leave an unsanitary and unsightly film that will build up and become problematic to remove. (Wash your hands with dish soap and then rinse them under running water; observe how long and how much water it will take to rinse properly. To get the same rinsing result—which is the only one acceptable—for your counter tops, you would have to rinse them with a garden hose!)

Generic household cleaners off the shelves of the supermarket are out, and specialty cleaners specifically formulated to deal with the delicate chemistry of stone are, very definitely, in order.

DO’S & DON’TS – KITCHEN COUNTER TOPS

DO clean your kitchen counter top regularly with an appropriate stone-safe cleaner. Use a higher concentration near cooking and eating areas, and diluted water for less demanding situations such as vanity tops—areas of the counter top far from cooking and eating areas.

DON’T let any spills sit too long on the surface of your counter top. Clean spills up (by blotting only) as soon as you can. But, if you do have dried-on spills . . .

DON’T use any green or brown scouring pads for dried-on spills. The presence of silicon carbide grits in them may scratch even the toughest granite. You can safely use the sponges lined with a silvery net, or other plastic scouring pads. REMEMBER: it’s very important to spray the cleaner and let it sit for a while to moisten and soften the soil, before scrubbing. LET THE CLEANING AGENT DO THE WORK! It will make your job much easier and will be more effective.

DO treat your counter tops to a conditioning stone polish occasionally. It can do a terrific job at brightening up your polished stone surface. Be sure that the ingredients are classified as “food-grade.” As with all the products, be sure to follow the label instructions.

DO’S AND DON’TS FOR VANITY TOPS

DO clean your vanity tops regularly with a stone-safe, soap-free neutral cleaner appropriate for your natural stone type.

DON’T take chances with cleaning your mirrors over your marble vanity tops with a regular glass cleaner. The over-spray could spill onto the marble surface and may damage it. Therefore:

DO clean your mirror with a neutral cleaner. Even if you over-spray it, nothing bad is going to happen to your marble.

DON’T use any powder cleanser, or—worse yet—any cream cleanser.

DON’T do your nails on your marble vanity top, or color or perm your hair near it.

DON’T place any wet bottle on it (perfume, after-shave, etc.). Keep your cosmetics and fragrances in one of those pretty mirror trays (be sure that the legs of the tray have felts tips) or other appropriate container.

DO use a stone polish if you want to add extra shine to your polished stone counter top surface and help prevent soiling.

Visit our Caring For It page to see products we recommend and to download our complete Stone and Tile Care Guide. If you need help, call us. We are here for you for all of your natural stone care needs.

Color Sealing your grout… is it all it’s cracked up to be?

It seems as though you are hearing it everywhere these days: Color seal your grout!

But is this merely the newest fad or is there genuine value in having this done? The answer is, it depends. The truth is, whenperformed by a quality contractor using a quality product there is a lot of value and in many circumstances the absolute best option without question. The problem is some are touting this service yet doing nothing more than ‘painting grout’ with what amounts to house paint.

Color sealing your grout may be a recent innovation, but it is certainly not just a fad. Quality color sealers repel oil and water-based liquids, which will prevent food and beverage stains. In addition, they contain constant acting mildewcides and other agents that inhibit the growth of bacteria and mildew. This not only offers health benefits by making your floors more sanitary, but can reduce or eliminate the funky smells you often find with older floors that have had a long time to absorb a variety of odiferous liquids. Color sealed floors are consequently easier to maintain.

There are aesthetic reasons for choosing color sealing as well. When you have areas where only some of the grout needs to be replaced, it is virtually impossible to match the color of the new grout to the older grout that is still intact. Even if you use the identical product and color, aging and wear has already altered the look of your previously installed grout and the difference is usually noticeable. Color sealing, however, will provide a consistent look across the board, making all of your grout look new again. And not just new —color sealing can completely change your grout to virtually any color you choose. The benefit of this is obvious. Are you considering new decor, an updated, fresher look or more contemporary colors? Your existing grout doesn’t need to hold you back or limit your choices. Color sealing is a way to harmonize with and complement remodeling without the expense of regrouting. With color sealing, you can even change from a dark shade to a lighter one.

Sounds great, doesn’t it? Well, it is, but there are a couple of caveats that you need to be aware of. First of all, this is not recommended as a do-it-yourself project! Proper application that ensures complete protection over the entire surface of your floor is an art that requires training and practice to master. It is difficult to do correctly on the first attempt. Secondly, professionals not only have the training, experience and tools to do the job, they have access to a wide variety of professional sealers and so are better equipped to select the one that is right for your circumstances. Finally, not all grout color sealing services are the same. The quality of the product that is used is critical! Some companies —even some that may surprise you —are using products that are tantamount to house paint. It may look great right after they finish, but within a short time, the paint peels. Not only that, but this type of product does not have the properties of a proper color sealer, such as the constant acting mildewcides or true stain prevention. Be sure to do your due diligence, and don’t hesitate to thoroughly question your prospective provider viagra meilleur site.

The Color Seal Process

Color sealer can be applied to the grout lines of interior and exterior ceramic and porcelain tile installations. The grout lines of natural stone tiles can be color sealed as well, provided that the stone itself has already been protectively sealed.

The 4 basic steps of color sealing job are as follows:

  1. The floor is professionally cleaned, neutralized, and allowed to dry completely.
  2. The color sealer is professionally applied and allowed to penetrate into the grout.
  3. Any any excess sealer is removed and the floor’s surface is allowed to dry again.
  4. Lastly, the entire floor is cleaned and buffed to remove any residual haze. While the grout is not ready for regular use until at least thirty minutes after application, it can be walked on immediately.

Sometimes, grout color sealing is the optimal solution. Consider this example:

“We were called to clean the tile floors at an elementary school where many children, in addition to tracking bits of the playground and other grime across the floors in all weather, had also drawn on the floors (and consequently the grout lines) with pencils, crayons, pens and so on. No matter how clean we got the tile, the grout, being much more porous, hung on to the various staining agents and continued to look dirty in spite of our best efforts. Grout color sealing to the rescue! By color sealing the grout, we not only did away with the stains and made the floors look like new, we also prevented future staining, reducing their cost of regular maintenance for years to come.”