Top tips for selecting natural stone

With so many stone types available from granite and limestone to travertine, marble and sandstone it’s easy to feel overwhelmed when selecting natural stone.. Selecting natural stone for the interior or exterior of your home is a very personal decision. While you might be drawn to a particular stone for its aesthetics, there are factors you need to consider that could make some types better suited than others. Not only will you need to consider how the stone looks, but also its suitability for your individual application.

In this guide, we look at some of the factors you should consider when selecting natural stone for your home.

1. Understand your needs

When selecting natural stone you should look for a product with a specific application in mind. For example, when choosing a stone for a wet area such as a bathroom feature wall, you’ll need to select a stone that isn’t vulnerable to moisture damage.

Ask yourself – does the stone need to perform a function? Is it purely decorative? Will it be exposed to sunlight, water, heat or dramatic shifts in temperature? Will the stone be installed in a high traffic area?

2. Select an appropriate finish

There are various finish options available for natural stone which will impact the appearance and performance of the material. Some of the finishes you may come across when selecting natural stone are honed, brushed, bush hammered, sawn, split, polished, leathered or antique.

If you’re planning a natural stone feature wall, the finish you choose will mainly affect the aesthetics. However, if you’re using stone as flooring, the texture will impact how it functions as well as its appearance.  A sawn finish, for example, is much more suitable in a wet area than honed or polished due to its non-slip quality.

3. Know the absorption rate

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Andorra Limestone installed in a garden by Fig Landscapes

The absorption rate measures how porous the stone is and can also be an indicator of a stone’s general durability depending on the individual application. A stone with a greater absorption rate tends to absorb stains more readily making it a less suitable surface for benchtops unless it is correctly sealed. It can also are prone to cracking damage if the stone is exposed to freezing conditions such as exterior wall cladding.

In general, when selecting natural stone, the lowest water absorption rate is desired.

4. Decide on the format

The format of your stone will have a large impact on the overall look and feel of your space. Most natural stone flooring and walling will come in a variety of sizes and profiles to suit your requirements. For example, you could choose a narrow, linear stone for a contemporary feature wall or a traditional format, textured stone cladding for a classic look. When deciding on the format and size, it’s also worth considering it in relation to the overall scale of your room.

Depending on the stone and application, the stone may also be laid in patterns for added visual effect. Most patterns can be customised to suit your needs and the aesthetic you’re seeking to create. Or you could opt for a more organic look by choosing a stone such as crazy paving or free form walling.

5. Consider the other materials

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Materials palette by Whiting Architects

When deciding which natural stone is right for you, consider it in relation to the other materials in your home. Perhaps you want to pick up the tonal variations in the natural timber featured within the interior or complement the existing façade material. You may want to create flow by continuing the same stone flooring or wall finish indoors and out.

6. Determine your colour palette

Lastly, determine the colour palette that will suit the interior or exterior of your home. Taking a sample of your stone choices and placing them against other materials, fabrics and paint colours will help you choose a stone that will enhance your space.

Ask yourself what you want from a stone in regards to colour. Do you want a stone with little tonal variation and natural textures? Are you looking for a more rugged, textural stone with strong warm hues of varying colours? Are you drawn to greys, warm natural earthy tones or a lighter surface?

Regardless of what natural stone you choose, remember there are always going to be some variations in tones and textures that are natures imperfections.