Stone is often considered the most elegant flooring type, but elegance comes with a hefty price tag. Most types of stone cost between $15 and $30 per square foot, making it the most expensive of all common flooring types. Most stone flooring types are approximately 3/4" thick, although the thickness can vary based on the type of stone used. There are more than a dozen types of stone flooring; the most common are marble and granite, though slate is also gaining popularity.
Marble is considered the most classic stone floor. It comes in tiles, sheets and blocks with a variety of colors and patterns. Mined in quarries and consisting of limestone and calcite or domite, marble is considered somewhat rare and beautiful. It must be sealed to protect it from stains and moisture, but once sealed, marble is easy to clean and maintain. And although it is not quite as beautiful, a dull finish will prevent more slips and falls than a highly polished surface.
Granite is another option. Like marble, granite comes in tile, sheet and block form. Although it lacks the broad spectrum of colors available in marble, granite offers several neutral and warm color options. Mined from mineral rock and composed mainly of quartz, feldspar and mica, granite is the most expensive stone flooring choice. Like marble, it requires sealing and polishing and can sometimes prove quite slippery.
Slate is a less popular flooring choice, but is just as durable as marble and granite when properly sealed. It comes in sheet and tile varieties in mainly dark, muted colors. Mined from the earth, slate is highly durable and composed mainly of mica and quartz. It is available in either honed or natural grain finishes, but natural grain finishes require extra cleaning and care.
With proper sealing, stone floors are resistant to moisture and stains and do not show wear easily. In addition, properly sealed stone floors are extremely easy to clean and require only periodic polishing. Like wood, stone also adds to the perceived value of a home. It is durable and long-lasting.
While it adds value and elegance, stone flooring is very expensive and requires professional installation, compounding the cost. Stone flooring is hard and noisy and can be very cold underfoot, necessitating under-floor heating in colder climates. It is also prone to chips and cracks and must be sealed to resist moisture and stains. Periodic polishing must also be done professionally, increasing maintenance costs.
Installing a stone floor is not a do-it-yourself project. Stone tiles, sheets or blocks are cut with special tools to fit the dimensions of a room, then attached to a subfloor with adhesive and/or grout. Installation can be both costly and time consuming, often taking more than two or three days for completion. American Olean and Emser are the leading manufacturers of stone flooring products.
Stone flooring is a good choice for deep-pocketed homeowners who want its very particular look. Stone is durable and can be a good long-term investment with commitment to the maintenance costs and requirements. It must be properly sealed and should only be installed in areas where chips and cracks are unlikely to happen, as repairs can be difficult or impossible.