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Stone Maintenance at Home

Updated:2008-08-05 14:35:54

Choosing natural stone based on its chemical and physical properties is a key to successful ease of maintenance and repairs. One of the most important considerations is whether the stone will be in a high-traffic or highly-used area. Countertops, for example, are a location where hard stones such as granite and marble are ideal. Onyx, though it is an eye-catching stone in the wide variety of beautiful colors, is not recommended for countertops and kitchen islands because of its etch-able nature and its high vulnerability to acid damage.

Now trendy, slate and limestone with a honed finish are ideal for a kitchen backsplash and for flooring. The soft rustic character of these stones can be refined through color enhancers and sealants that slightly alter the dusty stone appeal. For exterior pavers, patios and grilling surfaces, slate and granite are perhaps the best choice in natural stones because they withstand freezing and thawing with an excellent perseverance. Marble, on the other hand, holds water through its veins that will later expand with freezing, leading to destructive cracks and spalling.

One misconception regarding the application of sealants is the difference between a "coating" and a "sealant." Generally, a coating of any kind should never be applied to natural stone because it will close the natural pores and veins, thus creating a moisture barrier that will ultimately damage the stone's physical strength and possibly the natural coloration. Rather, for highly used or high-traffic areas, select and apply a superior impregnating sealant that soaks deep into the pores and veins of the natural stone. With an impregnating sealant application, water vapors are allowed to pass through the core of the stone.

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"If you apply the correct sealer the first time, you very likely won't have to seal it again," Huligar says. There are three categories of impregnating sealants: solvent-based, water-based and silicone-based. Porous stones, such as travertine marble, require a thick silicone-sealant whereas dense stones, such as black granite, require a thin solvent-sealer. For the majority of other stones, a water-based sealant is most commonly applied because of its median thickness and clarity. Conversely, for low-usage areas such as a on a kitchen backsplash, a sealant is not obligatory. Exterior applications of granite and slate — such as pavers — do not need a sealer either unless they will be exposed to the possibility of spilled acidic drinks or from barbeque grease or other food debris.

Regardless of the natural stone type and finish, it should be kept clean daily. Gritty dirt and acidic liquids such as those commonly found in foods and drinks should especially be removed in a timely manner. Selecting the correct type of cleaner for the type of natural stone is important. Granite and marble, for example, should not ever be cleaned with acidic cleansers. A product such as Lustro Italiano should be applied once a month, Huligar explains. This particular product does not have any added aromas, and it is completely transparent from the bottle to its application. Daily cleaners by Lustro Italiano primarily enhance cleaning maintenance of polished and honed stones by leaving them better protected against the next acidic spill or watermark. The product is not recommended, however, for applications such as steam showers because the daily cleaner's chemical compounds can be altered by extra minerals in hard water. Additionally, this product is intended exclusively for natural stone rather than for Portland cement countertops or any other man-made products.

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