After you have selected and installed your beautiful new stone, floors, counters and showers you need to know how to avoid problems in order to keep them looking gorgeous!
All stone is durable and will last a long time (think Europe) if properly installed, sealed and cared for. Different types of stone such as marble, limestone, granite and slate require different care and products for maintenance.
The most common problems with stone
- Scratches/Dullness of shine
This is seen in polished marble and is caused because it is softer than granite and shows wear more easily. This can be minimized by keeping the floor clean and providing areas for wiping the feet before entering onto the stone. Some people provide places for guest to remove their shoes before entering or mats at the doorways. Once surface scratches have developed the only solution is to professionally re polish the floor. Deep scratches will require the entire floor to be honed and re polished professionally to achieve the original look. If shiny marble is not the look you prefer, the entire floor can be honed before or after installation to give a much softer look and a more forgiving surface.
Marble and limestone are subject to etching from acids but granite is much harder and is not, which is one reason it is preferred for kitchens. Many household cleaners contain acids and harsh alkaline and should be avoided. Using a soap stone or other neutral cleaner is the proper way to clean these stones. Once etching has occurred it can only be repaired by re polishing.
Marble and limestone stain easily if not properly sealed with a penetrating sealer. If a stain is blotted up quickly with a clean paper towel the problem may be avoided but if not a "poultice" will have to be applied to absorb the stain out of the stone. It may have to be repeated multiple times.
A common problem with new stone installations is efflorescence, which is an unattractive white powdery substance on the surface of the stone. Excess water is the culprit which can be coming from the substrate or from the installation. Do not use water to clean the stone but use #0000 steel wool to buff the surface and remove the residue. It may takes months for the water to fully evaporate and the efflorescence to stop.
Granite may develop small pits where tiny crystals have popped out. This can happen on other stones as well. The holes are caused by pressure inside the stone and in the case of softer stones by surface abrasion in weaker areas of the stone. The holes can often be filled and restored without any visible repair and re polished if desired.
Dirt and wax can make your stone look yellow and dingy. Some stones, like some white marbles, yellow as they age because of the iron content in the stone. Dirt and wax can be removed with an alkaline wax stripper and cleaner but iron oxide will not come out so if the marble is unacceptable the only solution is to replace it.
If not properly installed, the edges of adjoining tiles will not be the same height and it is called lippage. Less proficient installers will leave wider grout joints because they are more forgiving. The higher corners and edges will wear more than the adjoining edges when there is lippage present but the entire floor can be sanded down to level the surface. It can be re polished afterwards, if desired.
There are many reasons for cracks to develop in stone. Settling of the house and substructure is the most common cause and most professional installers will use a crack isolation membrane on floors to minimize the chances of this happening. Earthquakes are a more severe form of vibration and depending on the severity, cracks may not be avoidable. Many small cracks can be filled with a color matching epoxy and be unnoticeable but it is essential to determine what caused the cracks to avoid it happening again.
Certain marbles are subject to "stun marks" caused by tiny explosions inside the stone where extreme pressure is applied to the surface of the stone. Women's high heels are the most common culprit. The floor can be ground down to minimize these marks but often the marks will not disappear totally because they go all the way through the stone.
These are often seen on polished marble and are the result of mineral deposits left on the surface when water evaporates. A marble polishing powder may remove some marks if they are minor or honing the surface and re polishing may be necessary in more serious areas. A stone paste wax will help avoid this by isolating the water from the stone and still allowing the stone to breathe.
Keeping Stone Beautiful
The best way to keep your stone looking beautiful is to always be sure it is properly sealed with the appropriate penetrating sealer, to keep it cleaned with the proper cleaning products and be sure to is kept free of grit. If you have problems with your stone always call a professional who will know the proper professional products and procedures to solve your problems and restore your stone to it's original beauty!