Natural Stone Types and Granite Countertops

There are many different types of natural stones in the world and each has their own unique beauty, characteristics and applications for use. We have been able to identify some of the more popular stone types along with their properties, advantages and disadvantages and the most suitable usage in your home.

There are three different types of stones; Igneous, Metamorphic and Sedimentary. The Igneous stone is formed by cooling, or solid-state transformation of molten or semi-molten material in the Earth’s upper mantle or crust. Because it is formed under extreme pressure and high heat, this type of stone or rock tends to be very strong and dense. The Metamorphic stone is formed from any preexisting rock type in the Earth’s crust under variable conditions of high pressures, high temperatures, chemistry, and time. This process produces mechanically deformed stone and chemically altered the mineral assemblages of the parent stone. Metamorphic stones tend to be some of the most beautiful, colorful, and highly figured of any of the dimensional stones. Note that many of the metamorphic stones are up to 3.8 billion years old.

The last being the sedimentary stone which falls into one of two categories: Detrital sedimentary stone and chemical sedimentary stone. Detrital stone is the naturally cemented accumulation of solid granular particles or materials derived from both mechanical and chemical weathering of any existing rock. Examples include limestone and sandstone.

Limestone and Sandstone can both be used for fireplaces, vanities, flooring and furniture. They are very soft, porous, scratch and require maintenance. Sandstone has a very rustic look with fossils while Limestone has a very unique look & feel, and is also available in multiple finishes. Limestone has actually become quite popular for kitchens.

Chemical sedimentary stone is formed from the precipitates of chemicals like salt that are the dissolved weathering products of any existing stone. Chemical weathering yields soluble salts that in turn are deposited into pools and springs. This process yields stone such as onyx and certain Travertine. Onyx has a translucent and stunning appearance, scratches very easily and is quite soft. Onyx can be used for furniture, architectural & design elements, fireplaces and for powder rooms. Travertine has a cloudy formation when cross cut it gives it a more unique look, it is softer than marble and limestone, and it has many larger voids and stains. Travertine is suitable for vanities, floors, fireplaces and dryer locations.

Granite is an example of an igneous rock; it has a very high concentration of quartz, making it very hard and difficult to scratch. It is heat resistant (under 1,500 Fahrenheit), stain resistant and impervious to acids. There are extraordinary selections and finishes of granites available. It can be used anywhere; kitchens, floors, wet/dry, and for indoor and outdoor applications.

Quartzite is another example of an extremely hard stone yet classified as a metamorphic stone; it is one of the hardest stones used in commercial applications.It was originally formed from sandstone, quartzite generally is found in muted earth tones: grays, whites, browns, and yellows. It is very hard, dense and acid resistant. It is harder than granite and has exceptionally low moisture absorption; it is suitable in any application, though cost may be a consideration.

Another example of a metamorphic stone is Soapstone. It is one of the most unusual stones used in the commercial market today. Soapstone is soft and carveable and is resistant to acid. It is also one of the most popular stones used in kitchens today. Soapstone is an excellent choice for fireplaces surrounds as it absorbs and releases heat evenly. In order to keep it looking dark and vibrant, it is recommended that countertops be treated with mineral oil every six months.

Marble is also a metamorphic stone, it is classic with an “old world” look, it develops character with age. It is porous, scratches, stains, etches and requires care and maintenance. Marble can be used for vanities, fireplaces, furniture tops and kitchen countertops as well if honed. Serpentine although most closely related to marble, is technically not a “true marble,” it is by definition a metamorphic limestone. Often called a “green marble,” serpentine is usually dark green with white veining. This look is sought in luxury bathrooms and grand entrances alike. It is a relatively hard stone and does not scratch as easily as a “true marble.” It is acid and scratch-resistant making it a great choice for kitchen countertops. Other applications are floors, vanities and any dry locations; it is not good for showers or for any other wet applications as it could tend to warp over time.

Slate is another metamorphic stone that has been used as a durable roofing material for years. It generally comes in dark gray shades with hues of blue, purple, green and brown. Slates hardness varies significantly. Softer slates are best used for flooring and non-stressed architectural elements, like fireplaces. It can also be used for counters and vanities. It is rustic, stain resistant except for oils and does requires maintenance.

It is very important when considering a project, to ensure that the right material is used for the application. Every stone has specific characteristics. Using the wrong stone in an application can lead to material failure, damage, or other conditions. Knowing which stone to use in an application only comes from years of experience and you should always consult with an experienced stone professional.

Stone Craft In India – A Preview

Different kinds of rock originated on earth after numerous geological activities. These rocks with their different compositions came to be called stones like Redstone, Soapstone, Sandstone, Limestone, Marble, Granite and many others. Indian landmass is also made up of several kinds of rocks and the stone obtained here has been used in making forts, palaces, temples, sculptures, household items and for other miscellaneous purposes. In India, stone crafting traditions have their roots in pre-historic times, as at that time the weapons and other tools were made of stone. More professional approach in stone craft came in 7th century BC. During this time, several guilds of stone carvers and masons existed in India. During Maurya rule stone craft reached to its perfection. A number of rock stupas, rock cut caves and Buddhist chaityas were raised during this period. In India, all kind of stone sculptures and structures used to be made according to Shilpshastra, an ancient Hindu treatise on sculpture and architecture.

Region Wise Study of Stone Craft in India

In India, there are some regions that are specifically rich in stone culture. A classical culture prevails there of stone crafts. Depending upon the type of stone found and the tools used, the style and the finishing has been different and unique.

Stone Carving Practices of Orissa:

Stone carving is one of the major handicrafts of Orissa. Several archaeological monuments, rock-cut sculpture, carves and magnificent temples testify the claim.
All these have undergone intricate and very fine stone carving by the deft hands of the artisans. The temples of Puri, Konark, Lingaraj, Parasurameshwar and Mukteshwar are just the wonders crafted in stone. Whereas the stupas erected at Lalitagiri, Ratnagiri and Udaygiri are just par-excellence. The art of stone crafting reached pinnacle in the ancient and the early medieval period in Orissa with detailed exploration of each and every nuance of the stone craft. This art has automatically passed on to the present generation from their earlier generations. The present breed is not far behind its predecessors in creating the exact replica of the old masterpieces. Similarly, small sculptures are also made in big quantity catering to the huge demands of the visitors and the locals.

Stone Carving Practices of Rajasthan

Rajasthan has, though scarcity in wood and forest but it has abundant stone mineral.The landmass of Rajasthan is rich in different rocks like Granite, marble, Quartzite, Slate and other metamorphic rocks. The forts and palaces of Bharatpur, Baroli, Ramgarh, Nagda, Ajmer, Chittor, Mandsore, Jaisalmer, Bikaner and Udaipur have been made using these stones. The jaaliwork or the latticework of Ajmer, Udaipur, Jodhpur, and Bikaner is of fine quality and intricate finish. Rajasthan has most significant quarries of marble at Makrana. The marble mined here is used profoundly in the world famous stone sculpture of Taj Mahal as well as the stone wonder, Dilwara Jain Temple at Mt. Abu. The artistry in Dilwara Jain temple is exquisite, fine, intricate and just fascinating. Different places of Rajasthan are famous for different kind of stones found. Kota is the center of production of grey stone which is used in floor making. Similarly Barmer and Ajmer are famous for Yellowstone and granite respectively. Beautiful statues of deities are made using the soft stone mined from the quarries of Dungarpur. Jaipur is the place where sculptures of all kinds are made by white marble. The statues of deities carved in Rajasthan are sent to all areas of the country.

Stone Art Practices of Uttar Pradesh

Mathura, Varanasi and Agra are the famous centers for stone craft in Uttar Pradesh. Some pieces of stone sculptures have been found from the excavations at Mathura and other adjacent areas belonging to Maurya period. The interesting fact is that lavishly used stone in these sculptures is the red sandstone mined from the Chunar. It indicates that this land once used to be the center of stone carving art some thousands of years back. During medieval period under the Mughal rule, several beautiful palaces and forts were constructed chiefly with the help of stone. Some fascinating examples of the stone sculptures if Uttar Pradesh are: Red fort of Agra, The Taj Mahal, the palace of Fatehpur Sikri, The tomb of Akbar at Sikandara and many more.

In the present times the focus of the stone craftsmen is changing towards exploring new kinds of stones as well as new article to be made. Nowadays they make the stone sculptures that beautify the home or the gift articles like candle stands, ashtrays, jewelry boxes, and Taj replicas. Carved pillars, railings and fireplaces are the architectural objects that the craft persons are making.
Rupbas near Agra and Karauli are the quarries which have produced the red stone used in the forts and palaces Agra, Delhi and Fatehpur Sikri.

At Varanasi the stone used is not hard marble but soft stone called Gorara. This is the stone that is brought from the Hamirpur and Mahoba areas. This stone has a unique quality to change its colors on polishing. Bowls and the servicing dishes are the popular products made of gorara stones. Sonia and Kalimohal areas of Varanasi and Gokulpura area of Agra are the centers of the main activities of stone craft in U.P.

Stone Art Practices of Southern India

In southern India, the temple architecture of Hoyasalas at Halebid and Belur are most exquisite and splendid example of stone craft. 57 Feet tall stone statue of Jain saint Gomateshwara at Shrabanbelgola is another example of marvelous stone art. Similarly, the ruins of Vijayanagara Empire at Hampi in Bellary are also the samples of glorious Indian tradition of Stone craft.

Other classic stone examples of stone craft in the southern part of India are: Meenakshi Temple Madurai and its 1000 pillared mandaps, Chidambaram Temple with beautiful panels depicting 108 karanas of the Natya Shastra, Kanchipuram accommodating a number of temples from he era of Pallawas to Nayaks and Granite carvings at Mamallapuram and Chingalpet. The Kailash temple at the Ellora caves is the monolithic structure whose craft is just unique and astonishingly beautiful.

Facts About Natural Stone

Used for thousands of years for building materials, weapons, tools and other uses, natural stone is one of the finest and first things that man learned to utilize, and continues to utilize today in our homes. Found on our walls, floors, countertops, memorials, art and architecture, stone is largely used today as a strong, sturdy and beautiful flooring material that lasts through the test of time with elegance and grace that most other materials simply cannot compare to. Stone that we use today for its shining surfaces are some of the very same used thousands of years ago; like limestone surfacing, which was used by the ancient Egyptians in their pyramids and other important structures.

Natural stone come in a myriad of colors and densities and can be cut to form basically any shape imaginable, making it one of the more versatile materials known to man. Basically coming in three different types-igneous, metamorphic and sedimentary-each type has its own list of uses, positive and negative qualities. Igneous stones like granite are made of small bits of other stones; sedimentary stones like limestone and travertine are very soft and fine and marble and slate are prime examples of metamorphic stones that start out as another stone but are changed by intense heat or pressure.

When properly maintained and cared for, stone is one of the longest lasting materials known and can easily outlive our own generations. There are certain tips and guides to follow in how to keep your specific stone tile looking as beautiful as they day that you had it installed, and some stone does come with specific warnings and things to be cautious of, but generalized cleaning tips do exist. It takes a very devoted hand to keep stone looking perfect because it can be so easily damaged if neglected, but the upkeeping process is actually very simple.

Something as easy as sweeping daily to keep small particles off the floor, gentle cleaning with very mild soap with no acidic properties, thorough rinsing and drying as well as optional buffing for a high quality shine is really all that you need to do to keep your floor beautiful. Installing preventative measures like soft mats, coasters on the feet of furniture and removing or wiping your shoes off before you enter the room are all very easy and logical steps to take.

When used outside, stone is a wonderful thought for walkways, patios, paving, decks, swimming pools and fishponds. Because it is all natural, it can stand the test of the weather far more gracefully than most man-made products, and can also provide a sense of nature in your yard. Surrounding other main areas of interest inside and outside your home, firepits and hearths also make fine use of natural stones because they are resistant to heat and actually may look more authentic and lovely with some use. Even something as grand as a memorial or sculpture completely carved by stone is an elegant and steadfast thing to behold that will stand the test of time with minimal upkeep compared to others. All of these reasons and so many more make natural stone the answer to so many things, and will no doubt be the very reason it will be used even further in the future.

Installing Manufactured Stone Veneer

Manufactured stone veneer can be used to greatly enhance the look and feel of a project. These hand crafted thin veneer stones are cast from natural stone in a process that captures the natural elegance and beauty of genuine stone. In this article we will be discussing some basic step-by-step installation procedures that can help with your next stone veneer project.

Determining Type of Substrate: There are several types of substrates that manufactured stone veneer can be applied to if the surface is properly prepared. The most commonly used are plywood, cement board and CMU. Varies substrates require different preparation processes. It is important to use the right preparation techniques and tools for each project. (Note: Review the stone manufacturers detailed installation instructions before installation any project)

Applying Weather Resistant Barrier: It is recommended that you install two separate layers of WRB in shingle fashion, starting at the bottom of the wall. The upper layers of WRB should overlap the top of the lower layers by a minimum of two inches. The WRB should be installed in accordance with the manufacturer’s recommendations. (Note: This step may not be required for some installations. Please review your stone manufacturers detailed installation instructions.) Recommended Material: #15 felt or Grade D paper

Applying Galvanized Metal Lath: Lath should be installed horizontally with the cups up, and should overlap a minimum of one inch on the horizontal and vertical seams. Around inside and outside corners, lath should be attached every six inches allowing a 16 inch overlap around corners. Recommended Material: 2.5 lb. or 3.4 lb. self-furring corrosion resistant lath

Applying Scratch Coat: Apply a nominal ½” thick layer of mortar over the lath, ensure the lath is completely covered with mortar to allow for scoring of the surface. The mortar should be applied with sufficient pressure and thickness to fully embed the lath. Once the mortar is thumb-print hard, scratch the surface horizontally with a notched trowel or scarifier to create a scratch coat. Recommended Tools: Notched trowel or scarifier

Snapping Chalk Lines: After the scratch coat dries (usually 48 hours) and before the stone is applied, chalk lines are snapped across the wall for the purpose of proper horizontal alignment of stone. The chalk lines are necessary in keeping the courses of stone straight and level during installation, which provides for a beautiful and professional result. Recommended Tools: Chalk Line

Mortar Coverage (Back of Stone): Cover the entire back of the stone with approximately ½” of mortar. This will ensure a proper adhesion between the stone and the scratch coated wall surface. Please follow the manufactures recommendations regarding mortar mixture formulas. (Note: Weather conditions can affect the adhesion of mortar to the scratch coat. Please review the stone manufacturers detailed installation instructions for different weather environments.) Recommended Material: Polymer modified Type-S mortar / Recommended Tools: Trowel

Installing the First Course: When installing the first course, start at the bottom corner of a wall installing one or two corner stones first. Corner pieces have a long and a short return, these returns should alternate in opposite directions on the wall’s corner staying within the 8″ chalk lines. Continue the project by installing flats off of these corner pieces. Work the stones into the wall with a side to side motion to create a bond. Each additional course that is installed will always begin with a cornerstone.

Cutting Stones to Fit: Manufactured stone veneer is easily shaped or cut as desired. This enables you to fit stones quickly into place, insuring a natural looking wall with tight mortar joints. (Note: Always wear safety glasses while cutting stone veneer.) Recommended Tools: Makita 4.5″ handheld disc grinder with diamond blade, or nippers.

Grouting the joints: If grouting is required, use a grout bag to fill in the joints. Try to avoid smearing grout on the face of the stone. If grout does come in contact with the face of the stone, use a clean damp sponge to remove the residue.(note: make sure sponge is clean to avoid smearing grout elsewhere) Once the grout is thumb print hard, use a metal joint tool or wood stick to finish joints. Use a whisk broom to sweep away any left over debris. Recommended Tools: Metal joint tool or wood stick

Grout Color and Style: The color of the grout joint has a dramatic impact on the final appearance of the installation. From varying depth raked joints to full brushed joints, there are several grouting techniques that also impact the final appearance.