By Steve Cooper
Though some homes are similar to one another, no one’s is exactly like yours. A lot of the homes in our neighborhood have open, one-room second floors, for instance, but I doubt that any of those rooms are painted in the same lavender color as ours. It’s the same with floors made from natural materials, particularly stone.
Floors made from quarried materials are distinctive, singular, always original. Spend a half hour wandering through the offerings at a stone outlet. You’ll likely see slabs from Egypt, China, Brazil, the United States and other parts of the world. And no two pieces will be exactly alike, even if quarried from the same spot on the same day. The pressures that formed the stone will invest each cut with slightly different shadings, fissures, blemishes and even fossil remnants. The exotic is the ordinary in natural stone.
To give you an idea of what’s possible, consider what one family did a decade ago when they built a house on Lake Minnatonka, near Minneapolis. They chose large-format Italian limestone tiles as flooring, and one of the tiles was a prize. This special one contained a magnificent spiral sea shell. It had apparently become trapped in sand eons ago and had long since become fossilized in the stone. The 8-inch shell became a bragging point for the home—the element that made their home unique in all the world.
So, for a one-of-a-kind look, stone is an excellent pick. With all the colors, tones, shadings, flecks, veins, pock marks, fusions and other oddities, it’s the pick for individuality. But back to those fissures for a moment: They may pose a problem. Stone can break along one of those miniature fault lines. Also, the thickness of slabs and tiles varies, sometimes making installation a challenge. These are qualities and characteristics to think through before deciding quarried stone is your choice.
Should you want the look along with the dependability that comes with uniformity, an option is an engineered stone. These products are still stone, but typically the raw material is broken up and then reconstituted in a tile, brick or stone form. Engineered pieces can be ordered in an array of colors, sizes and thicknesses. When working on a new bathroom or kitchen design, this allows a builders and contractors to chart a predictable course between the initial architectural drawing and the completed project.
Either material will get you what you want. If a unique look is your highest goal, natural stone may be what you want. If you want a more predictable installation and service, particularly for a remodeling project, engineered stone will get you there.
For more information on flooring visit the World Floor Covering Association’s Consumer Carpet & Flooring Guide.