Homes and Gardens - The Essential Guide to Stone Flooring

1 March 2008

Millions of years in the making, thousands of years in human use and hundreds of years in our houses, stone is a fabulous material for floors. Valued for its durability and natural beauty, it is the flooring material that grows old most gracefully and the sheer variety of textures and colours available means that each floor is unique.

Stone is sometimes thought of as being just for period homes, but highly polished stone, such as African Brown from De Ferranti, gives a smart, contemporary edge. Even though it is most commonly used in kitchens, bathrooms, hallways and conservatories, there is no reason why you should not choose stone for a bedroom or sitting room. There is a growing trend to have the same stone laid throughout the ground floor and seamlessly to a terrace to create a wonderful sense of space both indoors and out.

While colour, pattern and finish may be at the forefront of your mind when choosing stone, do consider the practical questions first. Does your home have timber floor joists and are they capable of withstanding the extra weight? Does your budget stretch to underfloor heating, as stone can feel cold? Do you have small children or pets who might find the surface hard and unrelenting? A stone floor is a large investment, so think it through. One complaint about stone in kitchens and dining rooms is that glass and chinaware will break if dropped, while bathrooms can become slippery.

But there are many positive sides to stone. Virtually indestructible, it is easy to clean if sealed properly, allergy-friendly, and a good choice for wet areas as it withstands damp and flooding. It is a natural material that comes in a vast choice of colours and finishes, from pale marbles to black slates, and a surprisingly lively colour palette in between with yellows, blues, greens and pinks created by mineral content. Natural variations add interest – look for grain, veining and even fossils – and you can alter the character of any stone with a finish such as a high-sheen polish, an understated matt or even a weathered effect. The laying of stone offers further decorative opportunities: large tiles or a mix of sizes look dramatic while herringbone or basketweave patterns or travertine mosaics create a softer effect. Finally, despite its reputation for being cold underfoot, stone is a great insulator, keeping cool in summer and retaining ambient heat in winter.

Reputable specialists offer both freshly quarried and “reclaimed” stone. The latter tends to be more expensive, but has an immediate patina and softness and can be more environmentally friendly (although weigh up the transportation implications). Solid stones such as slate, sandstone, limestone and granite are all good choices, but also consider composite flooring. Made from chipped or ground stone mixed with a bonding agent, it is cast as tiles and has a more uniform finish with a lower price tag.

Stone floors must be properly installed. A professional fitter can advise you on sealants, adhesive, grouts and the preparation of the substrate to avoid movement.

• Although neutrals are popular, consider more unusual shades such as the pinks and greens of Peacock Riven slate from Mandarin.
• View as many different stones as possible.
• Ask to see a similar floor in situ, as it can look quite different en masse and sealed.
• Look out for interesting patterns. Mark Wilkinson of Hopton Works comments, “It is still possible to find rare colours and patterns.”
• Check lead times as stone that is not held in stock may take longer to arrive.
• Ensure that your stone is properly sealed. Charlie Smallbone of Paris Ceramics says, “A big misconception is that limestone floors stain or discolour with use. But modern seals preserve even the palest stone.”
• Immediately wipe away any acidic spills.
• Clean with a dedicated cleaner such as Lithofin Easycare, available at


De Ferranti,
Rare and unusual stones expertly sourced.

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