And as with any good recipe, it’s part art and part technique. The process really begins when large deposits of the right kind of rock are uncovered. Once excavation of say, limestone, has begun, we have a quarry.
The word “quarry” comes from the Latin word for “squared.” In the beginning, quarrymen cut building blocks from the quarry. There are ancient and modern quarries in many countries: Italy, China, Spain, India, Canada, Mexico and the United States. In some places the methods for cutting the stones have not changed since the early days. In fact, there are still artisans who cut by hand and with very simple tools.
Today, the artisanal quarryman must compete with modern technology. High-speed tools and controlled explosives can extract marble and travertine, among others, with speed and efficiency. That’s what makes a stone floor affordable.
Rocks Cut Rocks
Often, giant blocks of rock are cut with diamond studded, high-speed wire saws. This diamond wire cutting system has revolutionized the process of removing stone by hand. Other techniques use highly controlled explosives to cut large slices from the earth.
The Greatest Thing Since Sliced Rock
Blocks of stone are moved from the quarry to a processing plant where they are cut into slabs. Again, modern technology makes this process much easier. High-speed gang saws fitted with several blades, typically about 12 to 15 feet long, make simultaneous parallel cuts. It takes about two days to completely cut a 20-ton block of stone. Not that you couldn’t do this by hand — it just takes longer. Lots longer. Years longer.
A Little Spit and Polish.
In order to present consumers with the widest variety of stone flooring, slabs must be polished. The polishing machine uses spindles that rotate polishing pads at high speeds over the top of the stone. Most machines can produce an assortment of finishes, from a rough, rustic texture to a mirror-like surface.
During polishing, the slab is also calibrated. Calibration is a process of machine honing the back of the piece to either a smooth or ribbed finish. Calibration ensures the same thickness for the whole slab.
The Stone Fabricator
Fabricators take the large slabs and customize them for specific installations. Edges are shaped and polished with a series of small diamond-studded and water-cooled saws or router bits.
If the slab is destined to become tiles, it is cut down into smaller squares in a range of sizes: 12” x 12”, 16” x 16”, 18” x 18”, etc. Then each tile is sent through a final polisher.
Natural stone tiles are packaged, shipped and stored in a very special way: vertically. The packages are never stacked on top of each other.
Natural Stone Flooring — A Solid Investment.
The hows and whys are covered. Now it’s time to look at all the magnificent choices you have in color, style and type. Keep in mind that just as no two snowflakes are alike, no two pieces of stone flooring are alike. Often it’s packaged and stored wet. Make sure you judge the color of a dry sample and in good light.
Also called Agglomerate Stone, manmade stone offers you the look of natural stone but can be more cost-effective. Made from natural stone chips suspended in a binder, such as cement, epoxy resins or polyester, it’s available in a wide array of colors and textures.
Manufactured Stone is scratch resistant but not scratch proof. It’s highly resistant to staining, very hygienic and virtually maintenance free. The binder makes it non-porous so it doesn’t require sealing.
Manufactured Stone is strong. It resists chipping and cracking as well as granite. It’s certainly worth consideration if you love the look of stone but need to watch your pebbles.
Stone flooring can be as contemporary as Finnish furniture, as warm as a wood stove, as primeval as a mud bath. Where will you use it in your home?