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Learning Center

Types of Natural Stone

Limestone is a layered sedimentary stone, and may include seashells and fossils. It is usually the more uniform in color and pattern than marble and travertine. Limestone also tends to be softer than marble and travertine.

Travertine is a banded variety of limestone that forms over time near waterfalls, hot or cold springs as it is formed by the minerals dissolved in ground water and deposited on to the earth’s surface by streams. Travertine is harder than limestone, and is more porous as the gas bubbles create a pitted structure in the stone. The pores can be filled with color matching putty to give the stone a smoother texture.

Marble is another form of limestone that is formed by the recrystallization of limestone through the heat and pressure in the earth’s crust.

Natural Stone Finishes

LimestoneTravertine and Marble may come in different finishes. The most common finishes are Polished, Honed, Tumbled and Brushed.

Polished finish results in a shiny, smooth surface. This is the most common finish for marble, and somewhat has become popular for travertine recently. Both filled and unfilled travertine can be polished, although the filled and polished finish is more popular than unfilled and polished.

Honed finish results in a matte, satin-like and smooth finish. This is the most popular finish for travertine and limestone, and can be applied to marble as well.  

Tumbled or antique finish is obtained by making the unfilled tiles go through an additional tumbling process. During this process, tiles are placed into a chamber with small rocks to obtain a smooth antique look with cushion edges. This process results in the stone looking more weathered and scuffed. If desired, the pores can be filed with epoxy or grout during installation.

Brushed finish is a result of a slight honing process that leaves the stone with an aged but still smoother, more structured look. The tiles are usually unfilled, and most commonly come with a “chiseled edge” finish. In this edge finish, the edges of the tiles are hammered or broken to enhance the antique look.

Other Materials

Ceramic is made from natural clay, sand and water. These materials are molded to form square or rectangular tiles and then baked in a kiln to remove most of the moisture.

Porcelain is also made from clay but tends to be made using denser types of clay than ceramic. Porcelain tiles are baked at very high temperatures for long periods of time so that almost all the water is removed. This longer drying time makes porcelain tile much harder and denser than ceramic.