Granite characteristics include strength and durability. This unique and elegant natural stone is one of the oldest, hardest, and strongest stones available. A truly beautiful natural stone with hundreds of colors and patterns to choose from. Granite symbolizes strength and longevity. The looks obtained from using this stone are versatile. From an unassuming elegance to a bold “look at me” statement. There are hundreds of different granites available.
The term granite is derived from the Latin word granum meaning grain. It is full of small and large grains of crystals. This stone starts out as a molten mass of magma and then forms into the rock granite as this magma cools… usually over millions of years.
Marble is simply beautiful and elegant. Nothing matches its stunning allure. Marble is stone that has been transformed from limestone. As marble ages, it picks up fossils such as corals and incorporates them into its final makeup.
Marble is quarried in large chunks, cut from the surrounding rock and brought to mills where the stone product can be further processed. The largest slabs possible are sawn first, then smaller slabs, and finally marble tiles, which are cut in several sizes, most often 12 inches square and about a half inch thick.
Many varieties of marble tiles contain weaknesses called “faults.” Faults run through the stone in random directions and at times appear to be veining. Often, these imperfections are filled with tinted resins before the tiles receive their final polishing at the factory.
Some marble tiles are so inherently weak that fiberglass mesh is attached to their backs to strengthen them.
Marble tile is soft and it will scratch easily. It should not be used in areas of high traffic in the home. What starts out as a very elegant floor can become a dismal eyesore in very short order. Marble floors will also oxidize if not regularly cleaned and polished. Marble installed in practical spaces delivers a beautiful natural stone appearance.
Travertines are chalky, limestone-like rocks. Found in the earth’s crust, its unique look and qualities are derived from thermal springs of water which are forced up and through it by geologic pressures. This water washes out any weaker materials, leaving the bubbly, miniature swiss cheese look behind. Sometimes silica will collect and grow in the holes, which creates a crystal formation.
These stones are usually found with a honed finish in slabs or a tumbled finish in small tiles. In larger travertine tiles, they may be tumbled or square cut. Sometimes the voids are filled and then the tile is honed, but it is much more common to find the cavities left open to add texture and visual interest.
Travertine tile works very well for backsplashes and bathroom countertops, as well as tub decks or shower interiors. It’s not recommended for kitchen countertops, because it is slightly more fragile than granite and tends to stain more easily. Travertines get sealed, just like any other natural stone, and require re-sealing occasionally throughout their lifetimes.
Usually found in colors ranging from light cream to dark cocoa browns to yellow golds and light greens, travertine tiles usually (but not always) tend towards the neutral color zone.
The use of slate tiles in interior design has become very popular in recent years. They’re frequently used in kitchens for floors and backsplashes, and in bathrooms for floors, walls, and shower stalls. They’re also commonly used in foyers. One of the great things about slate is that it’s a natural material and can be used either indoors or out.
Slate Tile Characteristics
Slate tiles come in many sizes, shades, and textures. They’re usually square and measure anywhere from 12 to 24 inches square.
There are other sizes as well but these are the most common.
The thickness of slate varies but tiles are typically a quarter of an inch thick. They can however be larger and can get as big as three
quarters of an inch thick.
Slate is a fine grained metamorphic stone formed from clay mud; composed of sediments of decomposed stone and organic matter
that has been hardened by heat and pressure. Since the geological process varies greatly, slates range quite a bit in hardness and porosity.
Slate characteristics vary with source. It may be black, green or mottled and is relatively dense. Many imported slates are available today with
wide ranging physical characteristics and overall suitability. The stone differs in density, tensile strength, absorbency and abrasion resistance.
Glass tile has become more than trend in the world of tile and design and is now a significant percentage of the tile market. With this growth has come the need for a better understanding of how to select and install glass tile. Glass tile formats include a full range of mosaic, large format, liners, trim and decors. The variety of sizes, thicknesses, backings, surface finishes, manufacturing methods and performance characteristics allow glass tile to be specified for many different tile applications.
Glass tile can be categorized into three basic types: Cast, Fused, and Cold. These categories refer to the temperature at which the glass tile is produced and will help the design professional, installer and consumer begin to understand some of the basic performance characteristics of glass tile.
- Cast: pressed in a liquid state, at 1600 °F or higher.
- Fused: sheet & sintered glass altered with heat at temperature range from 1200 °F to 1599 °F.
- Cold: sheet glass altered between room temperature and 1199 °F.
Cast glass tile manufacturing, through the use of molds and presses, forms the liquefied raw materials into the tile format. Casting a homogeneous mix of molten raw materials produces through body color which is an integral part of the glass tile. The cast glass manufacturing process provides an almost limitless range of color, size and shape options and the front and back surfaces of the glass tile can be altered with secondary processes to further enhance the glass tile’s appearance, scratch and slip resistance. Cast glass tile has high breaking strength, chemical and freeze-thaw resistance, is impervious and has some scratch resistance. Successfully installed in wet locations, exterior applications, pools and domes for many years, cast glass tile is generally the most durable and versatile glass tile type.
Fused glass tile manufacturing bonds pre-manufactured sheet glass with paints, foils, frits and/or additional layers of glass with enough heat to permanently fuse the products together. Fused glass tile also has high breaking strength, chemical resistance and freeze-thaw resistance and is impervious, but generally does not resist scratching. Low scratch and slip resistance generally excludes fused glass tile from being recommended for floor applications.
Sintered glass tile is also considered a fused glass tile, which utilizes various pre-colored fines, mixed with organic mediums that are pressed into molds and fired. The firing reaches a temperature, which promotes binding, yet does not liquefy the entire mass. This usually produces a glass tile with a lower breaking strength and higher absorption rate yet allows for a simpler method of manufacturing.
Cold glass tile manufacturing generally employs the same sheet glass as fused glass tile, but the cold process uses little or no heat to bond or laminate the decorative finishes to the glass tile. This type of glass tile manufacturing often produces glass tile too sensitive to be installed in exterior applications, intermittent moisture areas (showers & tubs with shower heads) and submerged applications (pools, spas and fountains).
The lack of durability and low bond strengths of the decorative finishes generally limits cold glass tile installation to dry, wall applications unless recommended for wet areas by the glass tile manufacturer. The American National Standard for manufacturing ceramic tile is ANSI A137.1. Currently there is no standard for manufacturing glass tile. While certain ASTM tests such as C1026 Freeze-Thaw Resistance, C373 Water Absorption or C650 Chemical Resistance can be applied to glass tile, a more comprehensive manufacturing standard to address the unique qualities and performance characteristics of glass tile is needed.
ANSI A137.2 is the proposed designation for a glass tile manufacturing standard and is being developed.