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Natural Stone Tiles: Which Tile is Best For Your Project?

natural stone tiles

Natural stone tiles have sophisticated beauty, durability, and allergy-friendly credentials homeowners love. These qualities make natural stone tiles a smart investment for your countertops, staircases, floors, and walls. However, with many natural stone tiles available, which ones are right for your home improvement project?

5 Natural Stone Tile Options

Marble: Luxurious Tiles Ooze Opulence

natural stone tiles
Torino Italian Porcelain Tile – Latitude Marble in Grey / SKU: 15191977

Few tiles elicit the awe of marble. Tiles made from this high-end material have an unrivaled prestige that offsets their drawbacks. Marble is a metamorphic stone formed from limestone subject to intense heat and pressure through the natural movements of the earth’s crust. Its cool polish and unusual veiny look have an austere charm. Marble tiles are also available in a variety of colors and finishes to coordinate easily with your existing decor.

You shouldn’t ignore the drawbacks though. This premium product comes with a premium price tag. While it can add value to a home, marble tiles are more expensive than other natural stone tiles.

Marble is probably more durable than you may think. While any marks will show on its polished surface, it’s surprisingly difficult to scratch and scuff. Since marble is resistant to moisture, it’s also easily cleaned. Simply wipe up any messes, from spilled drinks to crayon, with a damp, soapy cloth. Make sure you attend to spills quickly, because while marble is resistant to moisture, it doesn’t resist stains. It’s also more vulnerable to acidic substances, such as juices and wine, than some other stones such as granite. As with all natural stone tiles, a sealant will keep marble tiles looking their best.

While marble is tough, the popular polished finish can be too slippery for high-traffic areas.

Granite: Durable But Stylish

natural stone tiles granite
Cabot Granite Tile in Black Galaxy / SKU: 10062224

Granite is perhaps marble’s closest competitor in terms of looks, but it’s a very different stone. Granite is an igneous rock made of compressed quartz, mica, feldspar, and other tough materials. This material is much harder than marble, which makes it slightly more durable. Make sure you attend to spills with a damp, soapy cloth quickly, as granite tiles can stain. You should also seal your granite every year to maintain its integrity.

People who love granite tiles are spoiled for choice. Enjoy the sheen of polished granite or the matte finish of honed granite. Polished granite is ideal for countertops, while the extra grip of honed granite works better for floors in high-traffic areas. Flamed granite, which has a rustic surface, and brushed granite, which has a silky finish, are two more unusual options. No matter what finish you choose, you’ll appreciate the distinctive flecks of color in granite tiles.

Granite tiles are on the high end of the price range for natural stone tiles, although they are typically cheaper than marble.

Limestone: Elegant, Earthy Tiles

natural stone tiles
Merrion Limestone Tile – Aegean Collection in Myra White / SKU: 10104308

Limestone tiles have a modern appeal and rich history that’s appealing. Limestone is formed at the bottom of an ocean or lake from shells, bones, and other calcium-rich materials. When these materials crystallize under pressure, they become the limestone we love.

Limestone tiles have an appealing rustic look and smooth finish. They’re softer underfoot than marble and granite, so they feel better to walk on, yet they have great structural integrity. You’ll find matte and polished limestone tile varieties in a range of earthy, muted shades. While they look beautiful and perform well, limestone tiles are also affordable.

Limestone is quite porous, and it needs sealing annually to resist liquid absorption and mold and bacterial growth. Sealant also helps limestone resist scratching and chipping. When properly maintained, limestone tiles suit high-traffic areas and damp places, such as bathrooms and pool areas. Day to day, limestone tiles are easy to care for. Simply sweep them and mop them occasionally with a limestone cleaner to keep them looking their best.

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Travertine: A Unique Showstopper

natural stone tiles
Kesir Travertine Tile – Polished in Silver Premium Vein Cut / SKU: 10080932

While often confused with marble, travertine is actually a special limestone that forms around mineral spring deposits. Its surface isn’t as smooth as regular limestone, with pitted holes and troughs that add character. It comes in a range of earthy hues, from pale beige and tan to darker rust and brown shades.

Travertine is incredibly sophisticated, with an ageless appeal and prestige. It’s eye catching, adding drama to any space with its surface. However, travertine’s soft, earthy palette means it’s not ostentatious.

Travertine tiles are durable, but since they’re softer than regular limestone, they can become brittle. You may notice travertine weathers over time, but this natural aging brings a character many travertine fans love. A stone-sealing agent can prevent the weathering if you’d prefer. While travertine shouldn’t crack indoors, where temperatures are relatively constant, it can suffer outdoors in very cold climates.

Travertine needs more maintenance than many natural stone tiles. Its microscopic pores absorb spills unless it’s treated with penetrating and barrier surface sealants upon installation and every year after.

Slate: Warm and Sophisticated Stone Tiles

natural stone tiles
Cabot Slate Tiles in Montauk Black / SKU: 15270660

Slate is another elegant option. It’s made from tiny fragments of silt and clay compacted under high pressure and heat. You may think of slate tiles as a roofing material, but the properties that help it protect your property from the elements are part of its appeal inside the home.

A hard slate roof can withstand the weather for up to 200 years before it needs replacing. Imagine how long it’ll retain its sophisticated looks indoors. Slate tiles are durable, easy to clean and maintain, and more stain resistant than many other stone tiles. However, as with all stone tiles, you’ll need to seal them regularly for maximum performance. They should also be installed on a solid base with mortar. Otherwise, its layers of metamorphic rock can split.

Slate tiles are also more giving and warmer underfoot than many tiles, somewhat like limestone, and they feel great to walk on.

Slate tiles are available in a range of different finishes. Choose a grippy, natural cleft finish for high-traffic areas or a honed or sandblasted finish for a more polished appearance on walls and countertops.

The variety of natural stone tiles may seem intimidating at first, but it’s actually another benefit of these beautiful floor coverings. Consider all your options and needs carefully to find the best natural stone tiles for your home.

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