The Best Natural Rock Materials For Your Home (Part One) | Blog Post #22
Is there such a thing as the best natural rock for your home? If you’re leaning towards natural rock for your house, today’s post is right up your alley! In the first of this two-part series, we explore the types of natural rock media commonly used for interior surfacing and how they stand up against one another.
Thanks to how they form – melting, churning, and solidifying just beneath the Earth’s crust – rocks have a characteristic and unique look to them. However, based on the conditions of formation and what they’re made of, rocks tend to have varying properties. Some are harder and more scratch-resistant, while others have more outstanding grain and colours.
Between Rocks –
Our criteria for judging today’s selection of natural rock media is the usual – common hazards in a house include physical trauma, spilt beverages or food, bacteria or mould growth, and harsh cleaning chemicals. Without further ado, let’s dive right into these three common rock surfaces!
Quartz is a catch-all term for rocks and crystals composed of silicon and oxygen. It is the second most common mineral in Earth’s crust and comes in many forms such as translucent crystals and opaque rocks. The varieties of quartz used in floor tiles are generally the harder and purer variants of the material. While some tiles are cut out of quartz, others are made of a resin binder and quartz flakes or powder.
Physical Resistance: 6.5/10
Quartz has a hardness of up to 7 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness. It is highly scratch resistant but is still vulnerable to chips and cracks from falling objects.
Stain Resistance: 6/10
Quartz made with a resin binder is almost entirely non-porous and non-absorbent, meaning it doesn’t stain easily. This high level of stain resistance defies most culprits such as tea, coffee, or wine, but only if cleaned up quickly. Coffee on a cup bottom left to sit on a quartz countertop will surely leave a stain. However, as stain-resistant as quartz is, if low-quality grout is used to seal gaps between your tiles, you can expect to see stain-free tiles but hideous marks in between.
Biological Resistance: 5.5/10
This category may be a bit of a misnomer, since quartz doesn’t actively fight off bacteria or anything of the sort. What it means, however, is how prone the material is to hosting bacteria and mould growth.
Quartz is almost non-porous and won’t trap bacteria-feeding organic debris on floors and countertops. The same concern we had for stain resistance regarding grout is present here as well – porous grout will shelter bacteria and mould, while poorly applied grout leaves a recess between tiles that will trap dirt and prevent efficient cleaning.
Chemical Resistance: 4-7/10
The lower rating applies to synthesized quartz tiles, while the higher rating applies to natural quartz tiles. Synthesized quartz is a combination of quartz powder and flakes with a resin binder, commonly made of petroleum by-products. Such resin binders are known to react with chemicals such as alkaline cleaners and some inks, resulting in very stubborn stains. Natural quartz is highly chemically stable — much like its common cousin, silicon dioxide, commonly known as sand.
This classic rock is one of the toughest ones used for interior surfacing. You may think of it as a ‘rock-alloy’ of quartz and feldspar, a composition of the two most common minerals in the Earth’s crust. Not surprisingly, it’s the most common magma-formed rock on Earth’s surface and has been used in buildings for centuries thanks to its abundance. It is commonly installed in whole slabs or tiles.
Physical Resistance: 7/10
Granite is one step up from quartz. While both rate 7 on the Mohs scale, granite is denser and more resistant to chips and cracks from impacts. Perfect for countertops and floors
Stain Resistance: 6/10
Granite enjoys a stain resistance on par with quartz. However, without a synthetic option, granite’s porous surface is vulnerable to stains from oils and viscous liquids like inks. While water may leave a dark stain for a while, evaporation will eventually clear it. Not oils and inks, however.
Biological Resistance: 4/10
The many pores on the surface of granite mean it will trap organic debris that feeds bacteria, as well as sheltering bacteria and mould. Without regular and thorough cleaning, granite surfaces – especially in the kitchen and bathroom – can quickly grow a disgusting layer of scum or discolour from bacteria growth.
Chemical Resistance: 7/10
Just like natural quartz, granite has a remarkable level of chemical resistance. All common household cleansers are fair game, meaning much easier cleaning for you.
Ceramic and porcelain are two types of man-made tiles using natural rock media. A wet mix of clay, feldspar, silica sand and other raw materials are shaped into tiles and fired in a kiln, producing strong and hard tiles. Porcelain is an upgrade on ceramic – the material is fired at a higher temperature for a longer duration, producing a denser and less porous tile. As expected, porcelain is usually a fair bit more expensive.
Physical Resistance: 4-6/10
Ceramic tiles rank a low 4 with their middling scratch and impact resistance making them prone to scratches and chips. Denser porcelain performs better at a 6, but can still be chipped or cracked by dropping heavy objects. Ceramic typically ranks up to 6 on the Mohs scale, while porcelain can go as high as 9.
Stain Resistance: 4-6/10
Ceramic and porcelain have a few strengths, but stain resistance is not one of them. To seal off pores on tiles, a ceramic glaze is often used on tiles. However, the glaze applied varies widely in composition across different manufacturers, and while some see more success than others in resisting stains, others are discoloured by simple substances like lemon juice or animal urine.
If you decline the option of a glaze, the raw tile itself still stains easily thanks to its porous nature. Raw porcelain (6/10) typically fares much better than raw ceramic (4/10).
Biological Resistance: 4-5.5/10
Porcelain and glazed ceramic (5.5/10) are non-porous and do not trap debris or bacteria, but suffer the same drawback as all tiles – grout. In other news, raw ceramic (4) is terrible, again. Its many tiny pores trap debris, grow bacteria and mould, and make cleaning difficult.
Chemical Resistance: 4-6/10
Glazes (4/10) may stain easily and badly thanks to their poor chemical resistance. While raw ceramic and porcelain (6/10) may fare better, this is a gamble you may wish to reconsider, since it depends heavily on the tile’s specific composition. A higher percentage of reactive material like chalk will certainly reduce the tile’s chemical resistance.
– And a Hard Place
The main selling point for natural rock media is first and foremost the variety of unique appearances and character available. However, you are always left juggling between cost – good granite and ceramic can get expensive – and durability in each category.
If your decision isn’t written in stone yet, you may wish to consider metallic epoxy, the Dwayne Johnson of interior surfacing materials. Besides rating incredibly highly in EVERY category, the material offers a vast expanse of design options, limited only by your imagination. Head over to the rest of our blog for more on what metallic epoxy is, how it is installed, and how it ranks against other materials.
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