Stone and Tile Articles

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Survey Finds Granite Countertops Still No. 1


NewsUSA) – By overwhelming majorities, American adults prefer granite to any other countertop surface for their dream kitchens, and believe granite countertops increase home resale values, according to a new national survey’s findings.

The survey of 2,021 U.S. adults aged 18 and over was conducted in October by Harris Interactive on behalf of the Marble Institute of America (MIA). It asked respondents which countertop they would most want in their dream kitchen. At 55 percent, “granite countertops” was the most popular choice, followed distantly by “synthetic stone” at 12 percent.

Asked how much they agree with the statement “granite countertops increase the resale value of a home,” 90 percent of respondents strongly or somewhat agreed.

“After months of inaccurate reporting and questionable research aimed at raising doubts about granite, it’s gratifying to know consumers believe granite countertops are as safe as they are beautiful, practical and durable,” said MIA President Guido Gliori.

In fact, 84 percent strongly or somewhat agreed with the statement “Granite countertops are among the most safe, beautiful and durable kitchen counter surfaces on the market today.”

“The survey results show consumers’ preferences for granite countertops are virtually the same across all regions, genders and age groups,” Gliori said.

For more information, visit www.usenaturalstone.com.

 

Natural Stone: Discovering New Forms of Art

(NewsUSA) – Art can take on many different shapes and sizes in a variety of media. From watercolor paintings and bronze sculptures to still-life photographs and wood carvings, art can become the focal point of any interior living space. But, what if art could become part of a home’s architecture in unexpected ways? The answer is yes, it can, and it comes in the form of natural stone.
Perhaps it’s the allure of the exotic location from which it originated, or an unusual texture or uncommon color — representing that single event in time illustrating when and how the stone was created. Whether it’s a rare stone that is one in a million or one that was uncovered from the depths of the earth, natural stone can truly make a beautiful and exotic piece of art.
“Mother nature definitely has defined and shared her art with us through her supply of natural stone,” says Tom Harty, director of procurement at Stone Source, a company that specializes in curating natural stone and a member of MIA + BSI: The Natural Stone Institute. “The beautiful and creative veining found in natural stone is like a painting on a canvas.”
Whether natural stone is used to draw attention to a fireplace design, or is carefully selected as a standout countertop in a bathroom, the ways in which it can be used are endless. Some homeowners even enjoy mounting stone slabs on interior walls as pieces of art.
Chris Schulte, president of Las Vegas Rock, Inc., a quarry that concentrates on extracting metaquartzite stone and also a member of MIA + BSI, explains that the company’s “rainbow gardens” offer a multitude of natural stone colors ranging from purples and reds to yellows and browns. Some of these stones are so beautiful, they can stand alone as art. “We have many customers who have purchased slabs as wall art,” he says. “In fact, in the cities of Henderson, Nevada and Las Vegas, government buildings have slabs of metaquartzite displayed on the walls.”
Onyx is another type of exotic natural stone that can be used in artful ways. “The translucent character of many onyxes lends them to be backlit and incorporated as decorative pieces,” says Harty. In fact, popular uses of onyx include bar backsplashes, built-in wall cabinets, bathroom countertops, staircases, and fireplaces.
Those who find beauty in nature might see natural stone as more than just another building material; they see it as a unique piece of fine art. For more information about natural stone, visit www.usenaturalstone.com.

 

Granite Countertops Still Top List of Home Improvements

NewsUSA) – Despite the sputtering economy, consumer spending on home renovation remains healthy. Across the nation, homeowners are investing in home remodeling projects – especially kitchen makeovers – either to make their homes more appealing to buyers or more comfortable and enjoyable while they ride out the housing slump.

And one of the most popular home improvements is, once again, granite countertops.

A recent study of 10,000 consumers, conducted by the Research Institute for Cooking and Kitchen Intelligence, found that kitchen renovations remain at the top of the list for consumers seeking to add value to their homes. When the study asked homeowners, “If you were changing your kitchen now and had no budget constraints, what improvement would you make?” granite countertops were among the kitchen features they coveted most.

Many consumers are tightening their belts but remain eager for granite countertops, according to Garis Distelhorst, executive vice president of the Marble Institute of America, the nation’s leading natural stone association.

“Historically, consumers recognize that granite countertops enhance the value of a home in ways few other improvements can,” said Distelhorst. “No other countertop surface can measure up to granite in terms of practicality, timeless beauty, durability and safety. This natural stone has held its value in ways more trendy materials have not.”

Consumers continue to invest confidently in kitchen makeovers because the projects typically increase the resale value of their homes. In the last five years, kitchen remodeling projects have generally returned 80 to 85 percent of consumers’ investments, according to the “Cost versus Value Report” from Remodeling magazine.

Because kitchen renovations increase resale values, experts agree that if consumers can only afford to renovate one room in their homes, it should be the kitchen. In fact, an all-new kitchen “that looks great and is fun to work in” was the top priority of 2,200 home enthusiasts surveyed recently by Better Homes and Gardens magazine.

“What we’ve discovered is that the home continues to be our emotional center and the sweet spot of everyday life,” said Gayle Butler, Better Home’s editor in chief. “Economic uncertainty aside, we won’t stop spending, improving and dreaming.”

For more information, visit the Marble Institute Web site, www.usenaturalstone.com.

How Setting Materials Bond and Why Resin-Backed Tiles Fail

  

How Setting Materials Bond and Why Resin-Backed Tiles Fail

By Frederick M. Hueston

Educational information that adequately explains how a bond forms between tile and thinset or other setting materials can be hard to come by, despite the abundance of information available online. Manufacturers do provide some information, but it is mostly marketing jibber jabber that cites bonding agents and secret formulas, without providing details into exactly how the bonding process happens. This article examines the basic chemistry of thinset and other setting materials and explains why some setting materials do not bond properly or at all. Armed with this information, installers may be able to avoid bonding failures.

Setting Material Ingredients

Thinset and other setting materials are made of Portland cement. Although setting materials contain other ingredients, including bonding agents, the main ingredient is Portland cement. So, all one needs is a basic understanding of how Portland cement cures to understand how these setting materials bond to tile.

What Is Portland Cement?

A common misunderstanding is that concrete is the same material as cement. They are actually two different materials. A typical bag of concrete, or Portland cement, is a combination of aggregate and a cement mixture. The cement mixture is made from either a combination of limestone, shells, and chalk or a combination of marble, shale, clay, slate, blast furnace slag, silica sand, and iron ore. Limestone, etc., is heated at high temperatures to form a solid material, which is ground to form a fine powder that we call cement. 

How Concrete Cures

Adding water to a mixture of cement and aggregates will cause a reaction called hydration. The cement paste reacts with the water, forming microscopic crystals and branches (see photo #1). Plainly stated, the concrete cures. Without water, the hydration process cannot happen, and the concrete will not cure.

How Setting Materials Form a Bond

Tile setting materials are basically concrete. In order for these materials to form a bond with the back of the tile, there has to be some moisture exchange. In other words, the back of the tile must be absorbent. As the concrete cures, the little crystals and branches enter the pores of the tile, creating a bond. 

Causes For Lack of Bond

Setting materials, in and of themselves, will not bond to non-absorbent tile, because non-absorbent tile lacks pores. Remember, bonding takes place when the crystals and branches enter the pores of the tile. Resin-backed tiles (whether absorbent or not) will not bond properly, because the resin forms a non-absorbent coating on the back of the tile.

Bonding Agents

Bonding agents, such as acrylics, latex, etc., are added to many setting materials to help create a strong bond, however, in most cases the back of the tile will still need to have some absorbency. Manufacturers often recommend using an epoxy setting material on resin-backed tile. Epoxy setting material creates a chemical bond that does not require tile absorbency.

Most thinsets and setting materials have limitations listed on the bag or information data sheet. Review these limitations carefully and take the necessary precautions to avoid bonding failures.

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Figure 1 crystals and branches forming during hydration

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The Dangers of Pressure Washing Stone and Masonry Surfacest

by Frederick M. Hueston


  

Pressure washing is a fast and easy way to clean concrete, sidewalks, driveways, and other surfaces, but when it comes to stone and masonry, pressure washing can cause damage. Anyone can purchase a pressure washer and claim to be qualified to clean exterior stone and masonry. One should always opt to have a professional stone restoration contractor to achieve safe, lasting results.

Oversaturation Can Cause Efflorescence

Pressure washing can remove the natural protective patina of stone and masonry surfaces. It will also remove any coating or sealers. This opens up the pores in the surface, allowing water to seep deep into the stone or masonry. The higher the pressure, the more water the stone or masonry will consume, and the more saturated it will become. Oversaturated stone or masonry can cause a condition known as Efflorescence, a white powdery residue that accumulates on the surface. This powder consists of salts originating from the stone and the setting material. The salts are dissolved from the water and deposited on the surface. In many cases the salts will deposit into the pores without making their way all the way to the surface, causing pitting, flaking and delamination. 

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Scaring/Gouging

In order to get difficult soiling removed, many contractors will intentionally not place tips on their pressure washers. This can cause severe scaring of the surface. It is easy to recognize scaring by deep patterns carved into the surface of the stone or masonry. 

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Chemicals

In addition to pressure washing, unqualified contractors often use inappropriate chemicals in an attempt to help remove the soiling. These chemicals are applied before and during the pressure washing process. The chemicals can be driven deep into the stone with the high water pressure, causing etching and other damage. Common chemicals are acids, bleach, and high alkaline cleaners, which if not applied and neutralized properly, can cause irreversible damage.

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Missing Grout and Point

Grout on interior surfaces and point on exterior surfaces can be removed by pressure washing. As grout and point become soft, weak, and crack with age. Using a pressure washer accelerates this process through oversaturation.


The Proper Use of Pressure Washing

Not all pressure washing in damaging, but whoever performs it needs to be aware of the following:

1. The surface to be cleaned should be inspected and evaluated to determine the softness of the material.

2. Grout and point should be examined carefully before washing.

3. Never use a pressure washer over 1000 PSI.

4. Never use a zero-point tip. Only fan tips should be used.

5. Do not use bleach, acids, or high-alkaline chemicals on stone or masonry surfaces.

6. The pressure washing tip should be at least 12 inches from the surface of the material being cleaned.

In order to avoid damage to your stone or masonry always consult with a professional stone and masonry restoration contractor.

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