While some may not feel that stone is an eco-friendly option for flooring – due to the fact that quarrying and the rest of the excavation process may have a serious negative impact on the environment – if the stone is taken from a well-managed quarry, then it can be an eco-friendly option.
Why Choose Stone Flooring?
Stone has a natural, timeless beauty and a feeling of solid quality which is hard to match with any other type of material. It is naturally water-resistant and is a particularly good choice for kitchen and bathroom areas. It also has a unmatched strength and durability, providing that it is looked after correctly. Note, however, that stone is by no means the cheapest type of flooring to install or maintain.
Remember, if you are planning to install your stone flooring in areas of high traffic, it is a good idea to choose a tile with a tougher glaze – one that has been fired for long periods at high temperatures – as this will give the floor greater durability. Darker-coloured grout might also be a good idea as it is less likely to show up dirt and grime which has been tracked indoors.
For those looking for an eco-friendly option, stone does not rank the highest but if taken from a well-designed and managed quarry, it can be considered. In addition, although it is not strictly a renewable resource, it is in plentiful supply and it does not incorporate any synthetic elements (eg. petroleum by-products) which are not only environmentally-unfriendly but may also release harmful chemicals into the atmosphere.
How to Make Sure your Choice is Eco-Friendly
If you want to choose stone as an eco-friendly flooring option, avoid stones like marble and granite which have to be mined from deep within the Earth’s crust and therefore require energy-intensive extraction processes which release pollutants such as carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.
For more environmentally-responsible stone flooring, choose softer type of stone, such as sandstone and slate. These are found closer to the Earth’s surface and therefore are much easier to mine, requiring less energy and pollution-emitting extraction processes. Furthermore, they tend to come in plainer form, with less intense patterning, which can be more easy on the eye, especially when covering a large expanse of floor space.
Other ways to minimize environmental impact is to locally-quarried stone as this will involve minimal transport and shipping and thus reduce the carbon footprint involved. Finally, while stone is generally installed using mortar (also known as cement), which is limestone, sand and water-based adhesive and does not involve man-made chemicals or volatile organic compounds, make sure that the tile surfaces are not also treated with chemical polishes.
The price of stone flooring will depend on the quality and availability. This means that the same stone may have very different prices in different situations. For example, the cheap version of slate generally has a rough surface and may not be suitable for bare feet and indoor use, such as in bathrooms but the more expensive version is a top quality product that can be used anywhere in the home.
Types of Stone Flooring
Three popular types of stone flooring are as follows:
Limestone – this is formed when seashells and marine animal skeletons (eg. coral reefs) is compressed and cemented. Another form of limestone is formed when the same thing happens with stalactites and stalagmites. Although consisting mainly of calcium carbonate, limestone may also contain traces of clay, quartz, iron oxide or organic particles. These impurities mean that limestone often varies in colour and can range from dark grey and mustard to brown, pink, yellow and creamy white. A softer stone, limestone is more easy to work with than many other natural stones, such as marble.
Slate – This is formed when a variety of rocks and minerals are compressed and recrystallize under the pressure, forming thin slabs of rock along planar surfaces. This rock is very dense and hard and contains fine-grained, metamorphoc rock, such as volcanic ash and shale. It also incorporates minerals like titanium oxide, chlorite, iron oxides, sclerite, quartz and some graphite.
Sandstone – This is formed from minerals such as quartz and feldspar, ground up as small sand-sized grains and held together by a fine muddy matrix which forms a sort of “natural cement”. It is essentially a type of sedimentary rock and as such, shows great variation in colour, texture, composition and layering. The surfaces may also show planks and ripple marks and even animal trails.
Stone flooring can be a great choice – it is long-wearing and water-resistant and also repairable (for example, slate or limestone that has been chipped can be repaired with sandpaper and sealant). Depending on its finish and surface type, it can also be easy maintenance and all types are very good at hiding dirt. If taken from a well-managed quarry and from a type that does not require deep excavation, stone flooring can be an eco-friendly choice too.