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Choosing The Right Stone


Choosing the right stone means understanding many issues which are dependent on:
        1.     Where the stone is to be used, indoor or outdoor, walls or paving, cold or hot climates
        2.    Which type of stone is suitable for your project:  granite, quartzite, marble, slate, limestone, sandstone, basalt, soapstone, field stone, and many others
        3.    Size of stone pieces, thickness, and the quantity required and the time frame for delivery
        4.    Color and texture or finish of the stone
        5.    What price is in your budget will be a factor and equally important is the cost of installation
        6.    Variation of the stone affects selection of the stone as some stone has a lot more variation then others
        7.   Maintenance is a factor in that some buyers want a stone that is almost maintenance free or very little work to take care of.


The big question is by most buyers is how do I choose the right stone for my project whether it be a large commercial project or something more easy like picking a paver for the patio or a granite kitchen countertop.  Each has its own method of selection.  Most buyers do the obvious, they go to a retailer like Home Depot or Lowes or some granite kitchen top fabricator and pick a color.  The question is, is this the right way to select a stone?  The first thing to think about is what exactly is the project and use of the stone that you wish to buy?  The reason for this is to better understand which stone type you want to use.  There are many choices of stones for a project but first pick the right stone type that is durable for the project use.  Don’t for example pick an interior stone that is soft for an exterior paving job which means know the stone types available in the market.  For example, there are for the kitchen granite, quartzite’s, marbles, soap stones, slates and some have even gone to the lesser used stones such as sandstone, basalt, and other natural stone.  Each stone has a durability and a specific maintenance issue related to it.  Researching the right stone to use is most important.  Study by going online and asking questions at each place you visit, reading magazines and other related publications, getting a stone consultant.
    The second thing you want to ask is what are the various finishes you can have  for your project as each stone may have a variety of finishes and sometimes it depends on who is the fabricator.  Picking the right fabricator or supplier and finish is most important as not all suppliers are equal, nor is the right installer.  The finishes may have further maintenance issues but the texture of the stone can really affect the look of the job.  Knowing the size of the stone pieces and the thickness you want to have is also important.  Returning to the example of the kitchen top some have reduced costs by using tiles in 3/8″ thickness, while the standards in some states is 2 cm or 3/4″ and in other states is now 3 cm or 1-3/16″ thick.  Today buyers are seeing more and more thicker stone like 4 cm to 6 cm (1-1/2″ to 2.5″ thick) which really gives an added dimension and look to the stone as will selecting the right edge finishing to show the depth of the stone and change the overall appearance of the stone.  Further putting the right corner details and radius corners or other treatments are as important as to where you make the joint on corner L-shaped stone areas.  The finish then changes the look entirely and many are going away from the traditional polished finish to textured finishes, antiqued, leather, sandblasted, bush hammered, brushed and many others with newer ones coming out yearly.
    Then the issue of how much stone variation there is in the stone for seeing the stone in small samples is never like seeing the stones in multiple slabs.  The stone may have veining or movement and may have very little at one end of the slab to the other.  Slabs can vary according to quarries or shipments or which year it is and where they are in the quarry as some stones have much more variation then other stones do.  If you have seen a stone try going to various warehouses who stock the slabs for example and compare and you will find this to be a true education.  Never pick a stone solely on a small sample or only on its color.  Getting the right color is tricky and even among designers is a gamble and no two people will always agree on selecting the right color or even stone.
    A key factor in choosing the right stone is the technical data on the stone which means its absorption and hardness and durability and this is definable by ASTM standards.  Each stone has a series of testing and standards that make that stone a good stone to use for its specific application.  Most stone applications for buyers is cosmetic like picking a wall paper and not structural, however they want a thicker material to look massive and sometimes for example on the kitchen top issue will select a stone to have a glued up laminated thicker edge.  Stone is versatile.  Going back to the size issue affects in many cases the thickness of the stone.  Tiles for example if they are small can be 1 cm thick (3/8″) but the larger the tile the thicker the stone.  If the tiles or pavers are 48″ x 48″ you might need a stone that is 3 cm or even 4 cm thick.   Some buyers want wall panels of 5 feet x 9 feet but the  stone does not come in that size or they require 50,000 square feet in a short period of time yet the stone is not available in that large a quantity in the selection required.  All these are factors in why choosing the right stone is important.  Why select a stone to find out you can’t get it?  Some architects have specified a stone and had this problem and then at the last moment when the stone is required at the job, a change in the stone is required in order to have stone at all.
    All these issues are just as important as the color and knowing where you are going to use the stone and which stone type and finish to use.  It is important to spend a good amount of time researching the stone and or using a good stone consultant who can help you get through this tedious project in a large scale more quickly.   Stone issue of picking a stone for interior versus exterior vertical or horizontal surfaces, around wet areas or dry, in cold or very hot climates, near the ocean or even if is just around a urinal in a public restroom, are all factors in choosing the correct type of stone.  What is the price or cost of that stone and is it affordable or in the budget is a key factor?  Many a job has selected this beautiful stone only to find out it is unaffordable.  Another issue is to know the cost of installation as this is just as important as knowing the cost of the stones.
    Finally the maintenance is an issue as some stones are more costly to maintain than other stones are and everyone needs to know how much it costs or how much work it will take to care for the stone.  Some buyers never think about this.  Most stones will require a good sealer to protect the stone from the elements which there are always elements even if it is just soap or lemons and tomatoes with their acidic contents.   Some sealers depending on the type require periodic re-application to keep the protection up.  Knowing specifically how to maintain that stone after it is installed is every ones job to educate the end user so everyone will keep using stone.

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