Marble is the product of limestone subjected to extreme heat and pressure. During the process mineral impurities are fused into the stone giving marble its characteristic veined look. Marble is capable of accepting a variety of finishes, but is most commonly available in a shinny, polished finish or matte, honed finish. Although, the finish selected is often based on preference, a polished finish may be slightly less susceptible to staining and more prone to scratching; a honed finish may help to hide scratches and is less slippery when wet, but may be more quick to absorb liquids. Marble is very vulnerable to acids and consistent care should be taken to protect it from acidic products like citrus, wine and vinegar.
Limestone is made up of accumulating sediment of marine organisms collected over time. Because of the gentler process through which limestone is formed, the look tends to be a bit less “active” than marble, but may have actual identifiable fossils within the material. Limestone can be found in some of the oldest manmade structures on earth, including the Great Pyramids. Unlike marble or granite, limestone has not been exposed to the same level of extreme heat and pressure and is a softer stone. Thus, limestone is not always able to take a polish and more prone to scratching and weathering over time. Being comprised of calcium materials, like marble, extra caution should be taken to protect limestone from all acids to avoid damage.
Travertine is a type of limestone formed under water or in geothermic areas and hot springs. The presence of water and CO2 during formation creates air pockets in the stone, giving limestone its distinguishing “Swiss cheese” look. Travertine was the preferred building material of the ancient Romans and continues to be one of the most used stones in modern architecture. Travertine tile can come Cross Cut or Vein Cut. Cross Cut appearing to be more uniformly mottled while Vein Cut gives the tile a more linear pattern. The holes in travertine are typically filled with a color blended epoxy or resin, but the tile is also available unfilled. Travertine is not a stone that can be polished well and usually is only available in a honed or tumbled finish. The unfilled option for travertine is a lovely rustic look but cannot be used in wet areas.
Slate is formed in a similar process to marble, but is made of what used to be much finer grains such as clay and ash. Slate is a very hard stone but is quite brittle. Its hardness makes it more resistant to scratching and fading, but slate’s characteristic “clefts” may flake. As a stone that is considered freeze/thaw, water and fire resistant it became a common roofing material that can last for hundreds of years with very little maintenance. Slate tile can be very forgiving, making it ideal for heavy traffic areas. Its natural texture and variation helps to camouflage dirt and wear while also providing excellent slip resistance. Tile thickness can vary greatly an takes a certain level of finesse to install.
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