Granite, quartzite, and marble are some of the most common stones you can use in your home, but they’re by no means the only stones available. Travertine, sandstone, and soapstone also common options for tiles and countertop slabs, and each has their own pros and cons. Are these natural beauties something you should be considering for your next renovation project? Well, it all depends on what your needs are. Let’s take a closer look at what these stones are all about, along with their best uses in the home.
Travertine is a type of limestone that is deposited by mineral springs and hot springs. They’re commonly found in Italy, Turkey, China, Afghanistan, Guatemala, Iran, as well as Oklahoma, Colorado, and Arizona. This stone has been used since ancient time and has been featured in some of the most stunning examples of Roman architecture, such as the famous Roman Colosseum.
Travertine tends to come in brownish-red hues, from light tans and yellows to deeper oranges and reds. This is largely due to the iron deposits in the stone. however, it can also come in shades of gray and white, which can often resemble marble. Travertine also looks great with a high polish but is often seen with a matte finish. The latter gives it a unique softness and warmth that many other stones don’t have. This makes it a particularly nice option for a sitting room, as it can make the space feel more inviting and lived-in.
Because travertine is a type of limestone and therefore contains calcium carbonate, it’s a very soft and highly-porous material, which can make it a more high-maintenance option for home use. Although it’s often used as floor tile and sometimes as a countertop, it might be best to use it in an area that doesn’t get an enormous amount of traffic because of how it can wear down, scratch, or stain over time. Travertine needs to be re-sealed frequently and any acidic spills need to be cleaned up immediately, or else the stone will stain and etch.
Finally, travertine can be quite heavy as a flooring material, so it’s essential that the subfloor is strong and sturdy in order to withstand the weight. This also may exclude the use of travertine on upper levels of a home. Travertine also tends to be more expensive than other stones which, combined with its high maintenance, might put some projects over-budget. Still, its unique warmth and coloration make it a highly desirable material and one that could be very worth the work for your space.
Sandstone is a sedimentary rock that doesn’t really contain any sand, but rather has sand-size gains of clays and other minerals that have been cemented together due to weathering and movement from water, wind or ice. Quartz and feldspar tend to make up the majority of most sandstones, but they can also contain mica, olivine, muscovite, and others. The different mineral contents are what changes the color of the stone, which tends to range from whitish-tans to yellow and deep rusty reds and browns. The stone also tends to have defined swirls and stripes of color along with a slightly speckled texture from all those individual grains, giving it a very unique and distinct look that comes across as soft and warm.
Because of sandstone’s natural texture, it’s a good option if you’re looking for a honed or leathered finish on your stone, though it does take a polish quite well. However, sandstone is also quite porous and absorbs water and other liquids very quickly. This can lead to discoloration, staining and etching if a spill isn’t cleaned up quickly enough and if the spill is acidic. The stone is also relatively soft and can scratch easily, and it can be quite slippery when wet.
Sandstone does age over time, depending on wear and tear. However, this is often seen as desirable, as it ads to sandstone’s gentle, lived-in feel. However, in order to ensure it stays in tip-top condition for all these years, it does require regular maintenance just like travertine. Sandstone tiles or countertops need to be sealed frequently and are often best in areas that don’t have heavy traffic.
Soapstone is sometimes forgotten about in the face of more “glamorous” stones in marble or granite, but it definitely deserves some time in the spotlight! Not only is this one of the most durable natural stones you can find, it can also be very beautiful even if it does have a more limited color palate.
Soapstone, also known as steatite, is a metamorphic rock comprised primarily of talc but also contains other minerals such as mica, amphiboles, and chlorite. It usually comes in shades of gray, black, and greenish-blue, and can have beautiful subtle veining and even some whitish streaks, depending on the exact mineral composition. The prevalence of talc in the stone is also what gives it its unique powdery, milky appearance.
Most people are surprised to find out that although soapstone is relatively soft, it’s actually completely non-porous and impervious to water. This makes it an ideal countertop and tile material for kitchens and bathrooms, as well as for use outdoors. In addition, soapstone isn’t affected by acids, so it won’t etch if there’s a wine or vinegar spill — a relief for many homeowners!
Soapstone also have very little maintained. It doesn’t need to be sealed, though it does benefit from a coating of mineral oil every now and then. This helps deepen the color of the stone and bring out any veining or textural changes, as well as keep the stone strong. No special cleaners are needed with soapstone, either: simply while down with whatever you have on hand and you’ll be good to go. It’s also not damaged by heat, so you can put hot pots and pans on it without worry. Finally, because it’s non-porous, soapstone is a great hypoallergenic choice that will never grow bacteria or harbor anything unsavory over time.
Soapstone can dent and scratch, though an application of mineral oil can help reduce the appearance of the later. It’s also a good candidate for a honed or matte finish because of its unique satiny texture, but it also takes a polish well. It also tends to deepen in color as it ages, but this is seen as desirable. It’s also worth noting that soapstone does tend to be more expensive that our other favorite durable stone, granite. However, soapstone overall has much greater durability and longevity than most other stones, which can make the cost worth it for many homeowners.
Although granite and marble are excellent stone choices for any home, there are lots of other great options out there that are worth your consideration. Travertine, sandstone, and soapstone are just some of the beautiful options for your new tiles or countertops, though, like any stone, you have to weigh the pros and cons of the material to make sure it’ll really work for your space. Have you used these materials in your space? Let us know in the comments!