Nothing in a home says “class” like stonework. Whether it’s a stone tile backsplash or a marble medallion, a well-placed stone piece always seems to impress. And while we often associate stone with the grandiosity of a cathedral or palace, recent trends in home design and advances in stonecutting technology have put intricate stonework well within the reach of the modern homeowner.
Humans have been using stone as a building material for thousands of years. As it is among the most durable of construction materials, it suggests strength and permanence. There’s a reason it’s so often used in churches, courthouses, and capitol buildings. It’s as though stone gives us the feeling of being connected to something bigger than ourselves.
In more practical terms, stone is a great building and decorating material owing to its strength and durability. As such, it is very easy to maintain and the day-to-day upkeep is minimal.
Stonework is very easy to clean. Sweeping, dry-mopping, and wiping or mopping with plain water should be sufficient to remove most dirt and debris. A commercial cleaner may be used occasionally, though be sure the label indicates that it is safe for use on stone.
Never use acidic cleaners, including natural acids like lemon juice or vinegar. These can eat into calcium-based rock, which will mar the finish and potentially cause cracking over time. You should also avoid powdered cleaners, especially on softer varieties of stone, as they are abrasive.
When choosing which stone piece is right for your home or office, it is a good idea to familiarize yourself with some of the common types of stone, their characteristics, and their associated terms. For more information, be sure to consult with the professionals at Oshkosh Designs.
Types of Finish
Stone pieces come in a variety of finishes. You will often see stonework designated as either “polished” or “honed.”
Polishing is easy enough to understand. In this process, the stone is buffed to a mirror-like sheen. This is most often performed on naturally lustrous stone varieties such as marble and granite. This sheen may be dulled by friction and abrasives, so you may wish to avoid installing polished stone in high-traffic areas such as entryways and staircases.
By contrast, honing is the process of grinding away the surface of a stone to create a smooth, even, matte finish. This process exposes some of the rock’s pores and removes some of its natural sheen. Honing does not dull the appearance, however. On the contrary, honing can bring out the natural color and character of stone. You might think of it as the difference between a gloss print and matte print photograph. Honed rock is often a good choice for high traffic areas like staircases and entryways, as it doesn’t show dirt the way polished stone does.
Common Stone Varieties
One of the most prized of all building materials, marble is a metamorphic rock mostly composed of calcium. It is dense but soft, making it easy to shape yet resistant to shattering. Marble has a low refraction index, which means that light can penetrate its outermost layer before being refracted. This gives the rock an almost lifelike appearance. Sculptors have prized marble for its natural glow and workability since ancient times.
Marble naturally occurs in a wide variety of colors, including white, black, green, brown, red, cream, brown, pink, and yellow. Mineral streaks in various varieties can add additional character and color.
The word “granite” derives from the Latin word for grain. One look at granite and it is easy to understand why. Granite has an attractive speckled or granular appearance. It is an igneous rock composed primarily of quartz and orthoclase or microcline and is extremely strong and hard. It has thus been favored by builders for millennia.
Granite is quite lustrous and can be polished to an almost mirror-like sheen. Pure granite is white, pink, or gray in color. It is generally more resistant to scratching than softer materials such as marble or limestone.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock, and so is composed of layers of sediment – often fossil remains. Limestone is made up primarily of calcium and magnesium carbonate. It is usually light in color, often white, gray, or tan, and will sometimes contain grains or streaks. As stone goes, it is fairly soft, and so may be prone to scratching.
Slate is a metamorphic rock usually derived from shale. It is strong and durable, with many construction applications. It tends to cleave in relatively flat slabs, making it ideal to use for shingles and tiles. Slate is grainy in appearance and occurs in a variety of colors, from green to red to gray, or even black.
Travertine is actually a form of limestone, composed primarily of calcite and formed by underground streams. It is porous and, while often honed, also polishes well. It has a variety of construction applications and is commonly used for tiles. Travertine is usually light in color, ranging cream to brown, containing veins or bands of contrasting color.
If you’re wondering where you should place a stone piece in your space, the short answer is: anywhere! It’s true that a stone inlay can look great in just about any room in the house. There are several places, however, where it can be functional as well as attractive.
The kitchen is one place where stone works particularly well. Because it is easy to clean and (to a point) water resistant, polished stone makes for a natural choice of material for kitchen backsplashes. Oshkosh Designs offers a variety of attractive backsplashes to protect the walls behind sinks and stovetops.
Stone features can also add style and class to bathrooms because, again, stone is mostly water resistant. Adding a stone border around a bathtub or a backsplash behind a vanity can leave a charming impression in an otherwise unremarkable space.
Placing stone borders around fireplaces and mantles is a time-tested decorating tradition found in some of the finest homes around the world. Stone, of course, works well in this application as it is non-combustible. Before installing any materials close to heat sources, however, be sure to consult your local fire-safety professionals and building codes.
Another of the great things about using stone in decorating is that it fits well with other materials. With modern advances in technology, such as waterjet cutting, it is relatively easy and cost effective to cut intricate designs that allow the incorporation of metal and glass into a design. These combinations can be downright stunning.
Stone inlays also create an attractive and eye-catching contrast when set in wood floors. Installing decorative stone accents and borders in wood floors is relatively simple and can easily be performed after a floor is already installed.
As should be clear by now, it’s hard to go wrong with a stonework piece in your home or office. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t seek out additional guidance. For more information, or for assistance with choosing a stone inlay, border, backsplash, or decorative accent, don’t hesitate to contact the experts at Oshkosh Designs. Our expert artisans are waiting to help bring you that feeling of permanent satisfaction that only quality stonework can bring.