When your residential or commercial construction project calls for stone, selecting your materials is usually the starting point, but it’s the finish that really counts.
Since stone is nature’s original Green building material, it can literally be carved out of the earth, cut and installed nearly anywhere, without alteration. But, centuries ago, when kings were the only people who could afford natural stone, fabricators learned how to enhance the natural beauty of stone by using tools to refine its finish. Today, we mostly use machines that make the finishing process more efficient and, as a result, more affordable to nearly everyone.
There are many different types of finishes for stone. Among the most common:
This is the brightest finish, creating a high-gloss, mirror-like effect. These days, when customers buy very expensive stones, they really want to see the veins and natural patterns, so we usually put a very fine polish on those materials. Polishing enhances the visibility of the stone.
If you stop the finishing process just before the stone becomes shiny and mirrored, you have created a honed surface. It’s smooth, but doesn’t reflect.
A flamed surface is created when a high-temperature flame is applied to the surface of a stone. Used mostly on granites, flaming helps hide imperfections, so it’s often used on lower quality stones.
Other types of common finishes include Antiqued, Bush hammered, Sandblasted, Natural Cleft and Split-Faced.
Which finish is best? It depends on the type of stone and where it will be installed. A good place to start is whether the stone is going on the inside or the outside of your home or commercial building.
We suggest a honed or polished finish for granite or marble. It’s cleaner and shows off the stone in the best way. Keep in mind certain stones are difficult to keep shiny, even in an interior location. Also, there are many types of softer stones now being used for decoration inside the home. In the past, the customer’s primary concern was durability., but today, it’s more about the design and color. We now see a lot of soft material that would never have been used before. Chips and cracks happen easily with these soft stones, so we have to work carefully with these materials, using special glues and epoxies in the installation process.
We like to avoid shiny or highly polished surfaces outdoors. They’re more slippery and also lose their shine after about a year as the stone weathers, actually becoming a naturally honed finish. We’re more likely to use honed, split-faced or natural cleft finishes. Cleft and Bush-hammered or Flamed finishes work well in high-traffic, urban environments like outdoor plazas or shopping centers. These same finishes also create a naturally slip-resistant surface that’s suited for pool decks, patios and other areas where safety is a priority.
Today, with new technology, we can do more intricate work for less money. There are many applications that are possible. Many people don’t realize stone can be used, economically and creatively, to build a staircase or a patio, or any other architectural element. Choosing the right finish for the right stone for the right application is always the best way to insure your project will have the durability you expect and the lasting beauty you desire.