Natural stone flooring options
Natural stone floors are both elegant and functional, and will literally stand the test of time. Lars Nielsen, marketing manager of Natural Stone Warehouse, explores what is available and advises on maintenance.
By Roelof Strydom
Natural stone types
“Travertine is a form of limestone deposited by mineral springs,” says Nielsen. This stone is characterised by pitted holes and troughs in its surface.
Left as is with the holes and subjected to a brushing process, travertine has an antique and rustic look. Another finish that also has an antique feel is when the tiles are tumbled. The tumbling process leaves the edges of the tiles rounded.
For those not keen on this look, there is travertine available that has gone through a filling and honing process. In this process the holes are filled with a calcite substance during manufacturing. Thereafter the whole tile is honed to a satin smooth finish.
The calcite filler is very durable, but after prolonged use there is a slight chance that it can dislodge. According to Nielsen, this should not be seen as a flaw in the stone as it can easily be replaced.
Brushed and tumbled travertine can be used indoors, but is ideal for outdoors because of its improved anti-slip texture. The filled and honed variant is best suited to indoor use.
Available colours range from grey to deep red and everything in-between. The most popular colours range from light cream to slightly darker coffee tones. Travertine also comes in a variety of sizes to suit your needs.
Price depends on colour consistency, finish and size and starts from R255 per square metre.
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock composed mainly of sand-sized minerals or rock grains.
According to Nielsen, most sandstone is composed of quartz and/or feldspar as these are the most common minerals in the earth's crust.
Like sand, sandstone can be any colour, but the most common colours are tan, brown, yellow, red, grey, pink as well as other pastel colours.
Often beautiful fossils will appear on the surface of the tiles.
Sandstone is perfect for outdoor areas like the swimming pool or patio area as its natural quarry face finish has a rough texture, which has excellent non-slip properties.
Like travertine, it is also available in a honed finish, giving it a smooth, but still slightly grained texture - suitable for indoor use.
Price depends on colour, finish and size and starts from R165 per square metre.
Marble is a metamorphic rock composed of re-crystallised carbonate minerals, most commonly calcite or dolomite,” says Nielsen.
This is a popular choice for residential and commercial floors. It is available in a wide spectrum of colours, from white to black, and also comes in several finishes to suit your style as well as the environment where it will be laid.
Polished marble has a smooth surface and a satin sheen, while brushed marble gives the stone an aged patina with a slight lustre. Many different sizes are available with large formats up to 800mm x 800mm and 1200mm x 600mm.
Price depends on colour, type of marble, finish and size and starts from R318 and can go up to R548 per square metre.
Limestone is actually a ‘young’ marble. It is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate.
Many limestones are composed from skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral. Colours range from ivory to golden brown and black.
It is available in a quarry face, which is slightly rough and perfect for outdoor use, as well as brushed, polished and honed finishes.
Price depends on the colour, type, finish and size of the limestone and starts from R230 per square metre.
Slate is a fine-grained metamorphic rock. It is generally available in a natural cleft or quarry face finish, but can also be honed.
A vast range of colours are available, with dark grey, black and autumn tones being the most popular.
Perfect for indoor and outdoor use, it is a popular option for patio areas. If used around swimming pools it can be slightly slippery due to its fine grain consistency.
Prices start from R186 per square metre, depending on the size, finish and colour.
Granite is a common type of igneous rock with a granular texture and consists mainly of quartz, mica and feldspar.
Nielsen notes that apart from being one of the most common stones, it is one of the hardest natural stones available as it is extremely impervious to acids, thus making it a great choice for flooring.
It is available in a vast array of colours including black, white, brown, yellow, pink and blue.
Granite has an attractive grained appearance and some varieties have larger crystals as well.
It is available in various finishes including polished, honed and flamed (the stone is exposed to a high heat source, which then alters the surface texture to rough, making it ideal for outdoor use).
Prices start from R290 per square metre, depending on the colour, origin, finish and size.
Quartzite is a hard, non-foliated metamorphic rock that was originally sandstone.
Sandstone is converted into quartzite through heat and pressure usually related to tectonic compression.
“Pure quartzite is usually white to grey, but can also often be found in various shades of pink and red due to varying amounts of iron oxide. Other colours, such as yellow and orange, are due to other mineral impurities,” says Nielsen.
It is available in a natural quarry face (rough) finish perfect for outdoor use as well as a honed finish for indoors. It is great for use around swimming pools and has an attractive metallic lustre due to the quartz crystals in it.
Prices depend on colour, finish and size and start from R380 per square metre.
All natural stone is extremely strong and durable, but some stones are better suited to certain areas.
“We do not recommend polished marble for kitchens or outdoor areas as substances like vinegar and lemon juice can etch the polished finish, making it dull. Marble is also slippery when wet,” says Nielsen.
He does recommend honed marble for the kitchen and possibly brushed marble for outdoors, although there are other types of stone more suited to outdoors like sandstone, slate, quartzite and granite.
Quarry face products are also generally not recommended for indoor use because daily cleaning will be more difficult than cleaning a smooth surface.
Best value for money?
This really depends on the client’s specific needs, but Nielsen notes that all natural stone offer very good value for money due to its durability.
He says it is very unlikely that a person will ever have think about replacing a natural stone floor in their lifetime.