Your Scientific Guide To Shopping Natural Stone
Browsing aisle after aisle of slabs, learning about the newest stones, and following up on all the latest trends is always an exciting experience. From your go-to granite to luxurious marbles, the beauty of natural stone can just captivate you. But the process of selecting your perfect stone and searching through the slab yard can be overwhelming, especially if this is your first time shopping for stone. You can begin to think, how do you tell these stones apart? What makes granite different than quartzite or marble, and which is the best fit for your project? How do you care for these materials?
Take a step back and relax because our team of experts has the answers for you! While all the different stone names, numerous shades of whites, and current design trends can be confusing – we do have one reliable tool to help you, science! Yes, we are talking about conducting your very own science experiment just like you did in grade school.
Not only is the science behind how these beautiful stones are formed super cool, but there is also a lot you can learn from using this method during your shopping experience. Experimenting on stone samples will help you learn how the stone performs, give you important information and allow you to have confidence in the stone you end up choosing. So grab your safety goggles, magnifying glass, and notepad… let’s get started!
One of the most important things to establish when looking for the right natural stone for you is what is the purpose of this stone? What type of design are you trying to achieve? Where will it be going? The bathroom, kitchen or outdoors? In high traffic areas, like the kitchen and bathroom, where you put the material to work you will want durability and strength. Outdoor spaces you need to prioritize finding material that resists splitting and discoloration.
We always recommend that before you head to the showroom, create a list of what your top priorities are in a material and write down your needs and expectations. That way our team can best assist you in narrowing down options based off of this list and avoid showing you stones that don’t meet your needs.
What should you have in your toolkit?
Now that you have created your list, let’s gather the tools needed to carry out the science experiment! As science lovers, we take pride in our gear, so we are sharing our favorite items we keep in our toolkits.
- Magnifying glass
- Spray bottle filled with water
- Cloth for wiping up liquids
- Camera for documentation
- Pocket knife
Now the most important part, the samples of stone you need in order to conduct your experiment. As you are shown the numerous stone choices available to you, simply explain to the sales team that you would like to take home some samples of your top contenders. Often times the team is happy to provide samples in order to help you make the best decision, we strive for educated happy customers.
Finding The Facts
After having gathered the tools and materials to conduct your science experiment, it’s time to get the answers you’ve been looking for. Some things you will be testing for are:
- Porosity (Staining)
When you are checking the durability of a stone, you are looking to see how well it stands up to crumbling, splitting and cracking. This is one of the harder characteristics to check because it can be very subtle. Here are some things to examine:
- Grains: All stones are made of minerals, but you want to make sure the minerals are stuck together and not easily loosened or removed. Test the grains by using the tip of a pocketknife and see if it’s possible to loosen or remove any of the grains to easily. This is not an easy task, so we always recommend to do this carefully and safely, but in doing so you will see how truly strong natural stone is.
- Splitting: Many stones are made up of layers, you can check this by examining a broken edge and see if you can peel apart those layers.
- Cracking: Often confused with fissures, which are perfectly normal and caused by a geological stressor, cracks are caused due to human handling. Weaknesses in the stone are often a concern during the fabrication and installation process, where cracks are more likely to occur. You can investigate any abnormalities in the surface of the stone to see if you can feel the edge of a fracture on the surface of the slab or if it runs all the way through the stone. If so, this can are can be trimmed off during fabrication.
Porosity is the amount of space that exists within the solid matrix of the stone, which varies amongst natural stone types. In order to test the porosity of the stone, you will need to grab your spray bottle filled with water. Spray some water on the surface of an unsealed stone and watch what happens. Stones with high porosity will allow the water to soak right in. If you are able to wipe up the water cleanly then it is a tightly compacted low porosity.
But if you have fallen head over heels for a stone with high porosity, don’t take it out of the contender list yet. Thanks to sealers, you can minimize the amount of absorption, allowing you to clean your surface before a stain becomes a problem!
Last but not least in the experiment, it is time to evaluate the hardness of your stone, which is its resistance to being scratched. This is not the same thing as strength or durability. Hardness is something to consider when you are using metal utensils on your countertop. This can be tested by carefully using the tip of the pocket knife and seeing if it scratches the stone. A stone that is harder than the blade is more likely to do well in high-wear areas. But softer stones are still able to be used in high-wear areas, this will go back to your list of priorities you made.
Now that you have safely and thoroughly conducted your science experiment, you can analyze your results. Reference your priority list to compare and contrast the options you have to make a decision. Our goal at UMI is for our customers to be confident in the choice they are making when shopping with us. If more questions arise you can always contact one of our knowledgeable team members for answers or come visit a showroom nearest you!