Care & Maintenance of Natural Stone

Natural stone is a material which time has made strong and man has made beautiful. Because of these qualities, you may use natural stones for floors, countertops, fireplaces, tables, window sills and many other applications.

As durable as it is, like everything else natural stone needs some care to remain at its best. These instructions are a guide to general installation, cleaning and maintenance that will help keep your natural stone beautiful and make it last.

General Installation Directions:

Natural stone tiles must be installed by a qualified tile setter with experience in setting lime stones and marbles. It is recommended that you select your installer with consideration and care. To help ensure a successful installation, please take care of the following issues:

  • Make sure that once the material arrives on the site, it is stored in a clear and secure area to avoid chipping and breaking during the handling process.
  • If stone is to be installed on a concrete slab at ground level, make sure that a proper moisture barrier is in place prior to tile installation.
  • Use white thin set or mortar for laying stone. Never use a dark mortar/thin set for white or light colored stones, as the mortar may bleed through and stain the surface of the tile.
  • Generally, natural stone must be sealed from all sides before installation. Unprotected tiles can be stained by cement in grout. This leaves unsightly shadows and markings, which are difficult, or impossible to remove. More porous tiles require sealing more than once prior to grouting. All tiles should be sealed again after grouting.
  • After tiles are laid, make sure the dry floor area is covered and protected from normal foot traffic up until the time the site is cleaned and prepared for move in.

SPECIAL STONE CHARACTERISTICS THAT HAVE TO BE TAKEN INTO ACCOUNT DURING INSTALLATION:

  • Stone is a product of nature. Each piece is essentially unique with respect to color, veining, structure, etc., any samples submitted during the mock up stage of a project are intended to be merely suggestive of the final product’s color and quality. Variations in the color and structure of the material are due to nature and are thus unavoidable.
  • Most natural stones are either directional (with the grain running in one direction across the tile) such as our Bamboo Screen material, figured (with veins and markings running in swirls or a number of directions) such as Honey Gold material, or multi-colored (with sometimes subtle and sometimes dramatic color variations) such as our Golden Oak material. Directional tiles may be laid end-to-end, in a parquet pattern or random.  Figured and multi-colored stones should be arranged like an abstract painting, with the owner, designer or installer rearranging the individual tiles, in a sample area, until the desired effect is obtained.

Cleaning Natural Stone:

Stone is natural and may have adverse reactions to certain cleaning chemicals and procedures. The way to keep your new or old stone lovely is to keep it clean! Remember the old saying, "An ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure." If natural stone is given the proper care, the stone should sustain its beauty and durability.

Following are our general recommendations for the continuing care and cleaning of your natural stone surfaces:

  • To keep natural stone floors beautiful, it is critically important to keep dirt from settling into the surface, because it acts as an abrasive and can ruin both the look and durability of the stone. To help prevent the capture of dirt from normal foot traffic getting onto the floor:
    • To remove any dirt that makes it onto the floor, sweep frequently with a brush-free vacuum cleaner or a dry dust mop.
    • Use a small rug or welcome mat near all entrances.
    • Don't leave spills, especially orange juice, lemonade, wine, vinegar, liquors, tomato sauce, yogurt, salad dressing, perfume, after shave, etc. Wipe up these types of spills with a cloth or sponge right away, even if the natural stone has been sealed.
  • While it is recommended that the entire floor be dust mopped (daily), the floor should be damp mopped or machine scrubbed with a neutral cleaner or stone soap (two-three times per week). There are a few things to consider prior to mopping:
    • First, all dry soils should be removed from the surface with either a broom, or a vacuum cleaner prior to mopping.
    • When mopping, it is important to use the proper cleaning solution, or you may damage the surface. Don't clean your natural stone using a solution of water with a commercially available cleaner, unless its label specifically indicates that it is safe to use on natural. The cleaning solution should also be properly pH balanced so that it will not damage the surface or compromise the integrity of any protective sealers that may have been applied previously.
    • It is very important to rinse the tile and grout thoroughly to remove any remaining cleaner.
    • Dry with soft cloth or cotton-flannel, and allow to thoroughly air-dry.

Sealing Natural Stone:

Natural stone has been installed for hundreds of years without a sealer and much of it continues to look beautiful. Although new technology has allowed us to minimize staining by using various sealers, one thing should be clear to you regarding the stain ability of stone. Most natural stone is "stainable" given the right amount of time and a strong enough staining agent. However, the rate at which a particular stone absorbs foreign matter, (the "porosity" of the stone) can vary. Some natural stones are less porous and resist staining better than others.

The first step in stone tile maintenance is the sealing of the stone.   Know that the surface preparation (polished, honed, or natural) coupled with the density and porosity of the stone will determine the best type (petroleum or water based) of sealer to be used. The other consideration is that you use the best product your budget will allow.

For best results, it is recommended that all natural stone products be sealed from all six sides prior to installation. Upon customer’s request, it is possible to apply the first coat of sealer to one face of the stone (namely the upper finished face) at the factory, but it is not possible to seal the stone from the other 5 sides during the production process as exposure to water is an inherent part of the process and the stone at the time of production will have absorbed large amounts of it which will result in mal function of the sealer if used while water remains inside the stone with no way out. The sealer is applied to the tiles on site and prior to grouting. Unprotected tiles can be stained by cement in grout. This leaves unsightly shadows and markings, which are difficult, or impossible to remove. More porous tiles require sealing more than once prior to grouting. All tiles should be sealed again with a final coat of sealer after grouting.

  • Sealers are effective, but not infallible. They are designed to minimize stains, but not to entirely prevent them. The purpose of sealers is to prevent as many staining agents as possible from penetrating the pores of the stone.
  • Different types of sealers are recommended for specific uses of stone. Follow the sealer manufacturer’s recommendation with regards to yours. In general however, penetrating Sealers are recommended for all stones and do not alter their natural appearance.  A final coat of color enhancer can be applied to deepen and intensify the natural color of the stone if desired. The stone should be resealed from 1 to 3 years in commercial applications and 2 to 6 years for residential. 
  • First and foremost, use only products specifically made for natural stone care. A number of factors affect how long the sealant will remain effective, so we suggest that you use the “water test” to determine when the process should be repeated. Spray or drizzle some water on the surface. If it forms tight little beads, the sealant is still working. If the water soaks in, it is time to reseal.

FEW FINAL RECOMMENDATIONS:

DON'T be afraid to call your stone dealer for suggestions on maintenance, care, and cleaning.

DON'T worry, if you get a significant stain or scratch, that your entire natural stone investment is ruined. Virtually anything can be fixed with professional help.

And above all, DON'T let the fear of maintenance for natural stone scare you into avoiding it. There is no substitute for natural stone when it comes to beauty, practicality, and value.

Keeping your natural stone beautiful is something you will enjoy, and no one ever regretted having chosen natural stone over its alternatives.