On Choosing Natural Stone

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On Choosing Natural Stone

Many historic sites around the world were built with natural stone. Limestone blocks assemble the pyramids in Giza, sandstone cliffs were carved to create Petra, Jordan, and marble covers the city of Acroplis, Greece. Here in the United States and in Boston, natural stone is used in numerous settings. In government buildings, the natural stone interiors signify stability and structure.

Natural stone represents authenticity and durability, which is why homeowners and architects continue to choose marbles, granites and quartzite in their projects. The key is determining which type of stone is right for your needs. At 7 Tide on October 10, Stacey White of Marble and Granite, Inc. was the featured guest at this month’s Learn and Lounge. White had a captive audience as she delivered a presentation about the origins, benefits and characteristics of natural stone. Here are six gems we collected from her talk:

1. Sense of Place

When materials are pulled from different places around the world that place becomes part of a building’s history. “I helped some customers who were working on a Greek restaurant, so they wanted Greek marble,” says White. “It becomes part of a building’s story.”

2. Quartz vs. Quartzite

What you need to remember is that quartzite is natural and quartz is not. Quartz is manmade in a factory out of quartz (natural minerals), resins and pigments. Quartzite is metamorphic rock, which was originally sandstone. Quartzite is becoming more popular because it looks like marble with light gray and white varieties, which is ideal for white kitchen lovers, but the slabs are hard like granite.

3. Etching

Marble etches because it has calcium carbonate, which reacts to acid. (Calcium carbonate is also present in quartzite but not as much as it is in marble.) To avoid etching, homeowners need to take care of their countertops. Acidic substances, such as lemon juice, can strip the stone of its smoothness and leave it rough. To prevent etching or staining, clean any spills with soap and water as soon as possible. Choosing a honed finish over polished can help too since the shine of the latter makes scratches more noticeable. Sealer can help with stains; however, it’s important to remember that etching is natural. Imperfections will appear on the surface over time, but that’s part of the beauty of marble.

4. Calacatta vs. Carrara

Both marble varieties are quarried in the region of Carrara, Italy, however, they derive from different areas of the mountains. Calacatta is rarer than Carrera and therefore tends to be more expensive. White Carrara has subtle gray veining compared to Calacatta which has defined, thick gray and gold veins.

5.  Granite

Granite is an igneous rock, which is formed from volcanic ash, and it has different patterns depending on how long it took to cool. When you see, granite with really tight grains that means the stone cooled relatively quickly, whereas pieces that have more movement—the strands and swirls you see in a countertop—took a little longer.

6. Sizing

Most slabs are cut between 9- and 10-feet-long and 6- and 7-feet-wide. When a customer requests seamless countertops, it really depends on the size they need. “The blocks can only be so big and the machines can only handle certain sizes,” says White. “If the kitchen island is 12 feet long then their stone choices are reduced from 100 options to a limited number because now we will have to work with what we have available in order for there to be no seam.”  Avoiding a seam at that size is a very difficult task.