It's probably the first thing you see in a model home’s kitchen: a shiny granite countertop. Sleek and sophisticated, granite is one of the most personal décor selections a homeowner can make. But when it comes to stonework, the story’s not just about granite. There are many other types of stone, including mar- ble and travertine, that can adorn floors, backsplashes and bathrooms to decorate — and visually punctuate — your home.
“The biggest thing I talk about is that stone is a natural product,” said Nancy Rhea, design studio manager for Maracay Homes. “It’s the jewel of your home. It’s going to look different in your house than in someone else’s because each piece is different. There’s natural movement, there’s variety. That’s the beauty of it.” When you shop for stone, remember that there are literally dozens of different types. Some you might not be able to distinguish with your eye while others will be obvious. And remember, if the stone you’ve got your heart set on is beyond your budget, be open to new possibilities — your salesperson might be able to find you a different stone with a similar look for a more affordable price.
Granite is the most common type of stone that homeowners select. Generally, it’s used for kitchen countertops but it’s also commonly being used for bathroom and laundry-room countertops. It’s also available in flooring tiles. “When we’re using it in a bathroom, you’re talking about on a vanity area as well as on tub decks,” Rhea said. “Those are beautiful area to use granite. Granite slabs aren’t typically used in showers but that’s where you’d typically find a coordinating material to use. It gives you the chance to mix it up.”
Granite — like other stones — is a natural material. That means it’s quarried somewhere in the world and shipped in large slabs from as far away as India or as close as Mexico.
“You should be aware that natural stone is a product of nature — it’ll look different from piece to piece and even block to block,” said Samantha Stinocher, marketing communications specialist for Arizona Tile, which carries stone from more than 40 countries. “A block of granite is like a loaf of bread that’s
sliced. From slice to slice you’re going to have variance.”
Marble is again popular for bathrooms but its use generally is limited. That’s because marble is extremely porous — more porous than granite — so it’s vulnerable to staining. A marble countertop might look beautiful in a kitchen but a red-wine or citrus stain could ruin a marble countertop. If the maintenance of marble is a concern, there might be a porcelain-tile alternative that provides the same look with much less maintenance.
“A lot of times people think that porcelain tile will be less [costly] than a natural stone but that’s not always the case,” Stinocher said. “If a porcelain tile looks very realistic then there was most likely more involved in the manufacturing process and that can affect the price. It might be more cost-effective in the long run because of maintenance, however.”
Another type of stone commonly used in homes is travertine. This versatile stone often is used for flooring, indoors and out; it’s also often used as an accent material for backsplashes or mosaics. Travertine can be rough or smooth which means you can apply it to the design style you want. “Travertine is a natural product, so whether it’s a filled product or an unfilled, it will need maintenance over time,” Rhea said. “Unlike a porcelain tile, it needs to be honed and cleaned and resealed periodically.”
Other types of stone
It’s important to realize that the option-list for types of stone stretches far beyond granite, marble and travertine. For example: “There’s quartzite, which is a great alternative to marble,” Stinocher said. “There’s also soapstone and slate tiles. We’ve carried onyx in the past. It’s quite an array.”
Moral of the story
Be sure to do your research on stone before you visit your builder’s design studio. The more you know, the better decisions you can make.