Natural Stone: Pros and Cons
Natural Stone has been the material of choice for centuries when it comes to flooring. Before modern manufacturing techniques were made accessible, mining limestone and marble was the only way of producing floor tiles. Not anymore. With today’s technology leaping in front of even yesterday’s, can the old king of stone keep pace with the upstarts? We examine the pros and cons of using what the earth has given us in your home.
Natural Stone looks amazing. That’s a simple fact. There is nothing a factory can do that will match thousands of years of pressure that is needed to produce marble, or the burning volcanic fires that forge granite from the depths of the planet. But factories today are getting very, very close. Porcelain (clay which is fired at high temperatures by man) is digitally printed nowadays so that it looks like marble, and if you check out our Stonemarble range (pictured below) and you can see how close it looks. Nevertheless, porcelain isn’t natural stone and will never achieve the natural look, despite it getting closer by the month. The question is whether that look outweighs the cons.
Our Stonemarble range is actually procelain, but it looks very close to real marble in this kitchen.
Natural Stone is hard work. A piece of stone which has been slowly formed over millenia wasn’t built for bolognese splashes, and it will stain (microscopic holes in the surface mean any liquid is absorbed quickly). Natural Stone has to be sealed before you expose it to daily life, and has to be maintained and cleaned using specialist products regularly. It’s a commitment you need to understand before you buy: you can’t just lay 60 metres of Travertine and forget about it. Porcelain is much more durable however. It’s non-porous (no match for bolognese) and is extremely tough — there’s a reason airports and shopping centres are tiled in porcelain. Food for thought.
As you can imagine, Natural Stone is expensive. The overheads of a welsh Slate mine are considerably higher than a Spanish porcelain factory, and unfortunately those overheads get passed on to you, the customer. You can find what appear to be ‘good deals’ on natural products online, but be aware that there is a grading system and you do get what you pay for (i.e. poorer quality stone is of course cheaper). A porcelain slate-effect tile (like our Ardesia Range) is considerably cheaper than its natural equivalent — and the quality is consistently high. Again, it’s another con to weigh up when deciding on your floor.
Our Ardesia Slate range is less expenive and of a consistently higher quality than real slate
Anyone that lives in the UK will understand better than most that Mother Nature is unpredictable at the best of times. A slight change in downward pressure in 1147 AD can mean a completely different shade of Limestone to the sample you took home. Some people love this aspect of natural products and are happy to have plenty of variation (nowadays porcelain copies are printed with variation in some lines too), but be aware that even box to box you will find plenty of variation. If you’re not keen on this idea then porcelain is the way to go — with most lines you can be sure that each tile will look similar (although there is some shade variation) which is especially useful if you under-order and need a few more.
Natural Stone is beautiful and unique — as retailers we certainly don’t want to put you off — but there are drawbacks that you should be aware of. The aftercare required is extensive and can be awkward, as can the price if you go for something with a reasonable quality grading. Porcelain overcomes these obstacles, and although it can look very (very) similar, it still isn’t quite the same. Essentially, you have to weigh up the pros and cons and decide for yourself what will look best on your floor. Pop in to any one of our four branches to see some example of both porcelain and the real thing, and get an expert opinion from a staff member. Trust Mother Nature or put your faith in technology - the choice is yours.