Natural Stone Tile: What Makes It Unique

Photo: colorhome/flickrWhat’s new in tiling? A material that is actually very, very old. For centuries, installation of all natural stone tile has been used by human beings to embellish their homes. And with good reason. This kind of tile is strikingly beautiful, as well as durable and fire safe. Be aware, however, that one trait of natural stone, as opposed to ceramic or glass tiles, is that it exhibits variations of color and thickness. Every stone tile is unique in its appearance and therefore, careful matching is required.

5 Popular Types of Stone for Tile

There are five types of stone which are widely used in tile manufacture for residential purposes: marble, granite, slate, limestone, and basalt. Each kind has its own idiosyncratic look and features, due to where and how it was originally formed. Take these distinctions into account to help you select a suitable type of natural stone tile to install in your home.


Marble is a type of metamorphic rock, the result of the intense pressure on limestone or dolomite. Although marble may be pure white in hue, it is often exquisitely veined with lovely earthy colors, due to minerals that were present at the time it was formed. This type of stone is relatively compact, making it easy to cut into tiles and to work with. Marble natural stone tile is frequently used for floors, walls (both indoors and out), and fireplaces, as well as countertops and backsplashes if it has first been honed and sealed to reduce its porosity.


Granite is classified as an igneous rock, meaning that it is volcanic lava or magma which has cooled and hardened. White, gray, or pink in color, granite is known for its characteristic dark speckles. Its attractive appearance, combined with its incredible toughness, make it a popular choice for stone tile. Granite tile is ideal for flooring (it is resistant to moisture and holds up extremely well in heavy traffic areas), kitchen or bathroom countertops, fireplace surrounds, and wet bars.


Slate is another metamorphic rock, in this case originally volcanic ash or clay. Most often a shade of gray, slate can also be found in purple, green or cyan -- an interesting turquoise-blue. Slate is a long lasting, easy-care material which is remarkably resistant to water absorption. Tiles cut from slate are great for interior and exterior walls or floors, countertops, and roofing.


Limestone is a sedimentary rock, formed from deposits of tiny mineral particles in rivers or other bodies of water. Usually white, off-white, beige, or gray in hue, limestone is readily available and affordable. However, it cannot be polished and is not generally resistant to scratching, staining, or etching, particularly from acidic substances such as fruit juices or vinegar. Limestone tiles are suitable for floors, shower walls, fireplaces, and vanity surfaces. Travertine is another form of limestone, which is capable of taking a polish. As well as floors, natural stone tiles made of travertine are widely used for the facades of buildings, patios, and garden walkways.


Basalt is a kind of igneous or magmatic rock. Its coloration is a light to deep gray, brown, or black. A durable, fine-grained, non-porous natural stone, tile made of basalt is excellent for floors and walls, in addition to a multitude of decorative and practical outdoor applications such as swimming pool surrounds, garden paths, water features, and fire pits.

Whichever type of all natural stone tile you prefer, find a contractor to install it in your home.

Laura Firszt writes for

Updated July 24, 2018.

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