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Stone or Tile: What You Should Know Before You Buy

Is there anything you can put on the floor that will stay looking great, no matter how many people walk on it? This is the question we all want answered. A visit to Europe to visit those great historic buildings with 300-year-old granite floors will convince you that there is hope. You won't find anyone walking in there and looking at the floor and exclaiming, "Boy, does this floor ever need to be replaced!

But you and I certainly don't need a floor to last several hundred years. Still, it's nice to know that a well-done stone or tile floor can not only take a huge amount of traffic, but it can retain its elegant good looks virtually for the life of the home. But before you run out and purchase such a floor, you need to learn a few basics.

First, while you can purchase tile flooring from many sources, not all places have the licenses to install it. Be sure you buy from a reputable dealer that is also licensed to install the floor. They are far more likely to be able to give you expert advice regarding your specific application and circumstance.

Second, there are two kinds of flooring to consider: 1) porcelain and 2) ceramic. The color in porcelain goes through the entire body of the tile, so if it becomes chipped or worn down, the color will remain true and the wear can even lend an attractive aged patina to the tile after sufficient traffic. However, porcelain tile is limited to solid color applications.

Ceramic tile, however, is different in that they use a screening process to apply the color or pattern to the surface of the tile. It is then glazed and fired. This is why ceramic tile has a lot more versatility in design choices. But you must know, that with ceramic tile, it is possible - with extremely heavy use - to wear through the screened surface. Happily this almost never happens in a residential application. Even in commercial settings, it generally only happens when the tile is placed in an inappropriate place.

What makes ceramic and porcelain tile such a good choice? Low maintenance. High resistance to staining. And there is a wide diversity of designs and colors from which to choose.

But as great as they are, there's nothing quite like the luxury and prestige of stone. You can get marble, travertine, slate, limestone and granite in a variety of colors. Just like a fine wine or a diamond, with proper maintenance, stone will improve in looks and value over time. But please note: stone floors do need to be professionally sealed, polished and maintained. Stains are a possibility, because stone is porous.

Because of the ease in cleaning these types of surfaces, stone and tile are excellent choices for kitchens, bathrooms and entries.


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