Q. What's the difference between marble and granite? A. Although both are stone and both are quarried from the earth, granite and marble (and marble's relatives – limestone, onyx and travertine) are very different from each other. Granite is formed deep in the earth's mantle at extremely high temperatures, and is a very hard, resistant stone made of crystallized minerals. The marble family – limestone, travertine, marble, onyx – starts out as sediment – animal skeletons and shells, plant matter, silt – at the bottom of bodies of water. After millions of years this solidifies into stone.
Q. I have just purchased a house in Kanata that has a marble hall. The flooring is about 10 years old. I understand that it should be sealed to reduce staining and dirt from penetrating into the pores of the stone. What do I seal it with? It is also dull and needs to be polished. How do I polish it and with what? A. After 10 years of foot traffic a marble floor needs to be re-polished. If the original installation is good, you can get away with a two-step restoration procedure, Honing + Polishing. If the original installation is bad (excessive "lippage"), then the floor must go through a three-step restoration procedure, Grinding + Honing + Polishing. You need special equipment that you can't rent anywhere, then you need proper grinding and honing attachments, then you need a good-quality polishing powder, then—most importantly, you need to know what you're doing! Hire a good, reputable stone restoration company to refinish your marble floors (do NOT, shop on price! The fewer good ones and far between—whom are those you ultimately want to hire—don't come cheap!), then learn how to properly take care of them.
Q. What is the best way to clean Terrazzo, Tile and Marble? A. We recommend you look at this Maintenance Guide published by the Terrazzo, Tile and Marble Association of Canada. Please contact us should you have further questions.
The old rule of thumb is never to use anything you wouldn't use on your hands. Never use powdered cleansers or abrasive pads to clean your stone. Even "soft scrub" type cleaners contain pumice, which is powdered volcanic stone, and might damage your stone countertops or floors. Never use any product which is acidic; this includes substances like ammonia or many common liquid cleaners such as Windex™.
Q. I have a travertine coffee and dining tables. They have become scratched and have some stains in them. Can I use vinegar to clean them? A. Travertine is a calcareous stone and sensitive to acidic cleaning, be cautious. Vinegar and other acids will etch the finish of the stone and take the polish off.
Q. We have a commercial mall in Orleans which was recently renovated. We are not happy with how the floor is leveled. Is there any "tolerance for lippage" as a standard? A. Lippage is a condition where edges of the tile are not at the same plane with each other. What are acceptable industry standards? This resulted in many conflicts, because what may have been acceptable to the installer was not acceptable to the owner, resulting in litigation or withholding payment to the subcontractor. Lippage should not exceed 1 mm when setting square edge tile with narrow joints (3 mm or less). More lippage can be tolerated when wider grout joints are used or the tile doesn't have a square edge, but lippage should not exceed 1 mm per 3 mm joint width. (TTMAC 2000 Specification Guide 09300 Tile Installation Manual Notes on Page 10).
Q. We inherited a marble coffee table. The marble had at one time been given a coat of clear varnish that had yellowed over time. So we sanded off the varnish and now the marble is white and beautiful, but dull. Since we want to use this as a coffee table that people would be setting their glasses on, how do we: 1) make the marble top shiny? 2) Protect the marble from glass rings? We already tried a spray marble polisher, and it didn't do anything. A. There are no ways around it; you need to hire a professional. There is nothing you can apply onto (or into) it to protect it from "glass rings". Use a coaster all the time. We once suggested a customer (after having charged her for two times in a year to refinish her dining table top!) to have a piece of glass custom-cut to put on top of the marble.
Q. Can any scratches be removed from a stone or marble floor? A. Conventional scratches (represent 95% of all stone deterioration), scuff marks and acidic stains (wine, vinegar, pop, household cleaners etc.) can be eliminated by diamond refinishing systems. However, the structural marble damage, compaction marks, stun marks, grooves, rust/oil stains, and stone mechanical trauma might not be removed even through deep resurfacing procedure. Replacement of tiles / slabs is required.
Q. I would like to know how to hone an existing marble floor that is 75 yrs old but in good condition. It never had a polished finish. There are many light scratches and worn areas that we would like to remove. If I hire a craftsman, what should I be aware of about their work and how do I judge an acceptable job? A. We would recommend hiring a professional marble restoration company. If it does the job properly, you will know!
Q. Many marble installers talk about sealers. What actually is the "sealing"? A. Sealers in the stone industry are called impregnators (pdf. file) because they impregnate the interior of the stone with silicones and resins that go through the pores of the surface. Stone sealers do to stone what exterior wood sealers do to wood. They protect the interior of the material.
Q. We had a new green marble vanity installed in a washroom. Why should we seal it? A. To save your money. The main objective of the impregnator is to protect the interior of the stone from staining. They help prevent fluids from penetrating through the pores. Sealing is a preventive measure that provides extra protection to the stone. The vanity should be sealed with a quality impregnator ASAP.
Q. Do stone impregnators really protect the surface? A. Technically, to a limited extent. Impregnators will not prevent traffic patterns or scratches, nor will they prevent etching from acid spills on marble. An impregnator will keep the acid out of the stone but not off the top surface.
Q. Our property management looks after a downtown Ottawa building which has a White Carrara marble lobby. Can we be sure that applying marble sealers to our stone is protecting it against wear? A. Unfortunately, no. Penetrating sealer has nothing to do with mechanical damage of the surface.
Q. Impregnators will not prevent wear, scratches and etching. Should my stone still to be sealed? Would my installers have done it already? A. All stones need to be sealed with a penetrating sealer. Most contaminants that damage your stone are water or oil soluble. Premium silicon impregnators that reject both water and oil should be used. By applying this type of sealer, you will have more time to blot up spills before they penetrate your stone's surface. Never assume your contractor or installer has sealed your stone. Always ask if it has been sealed and with what type of sealer.
Q. A marble company just installed limestone tiles in our kitchen and sealed it. Does sealed limestone need to be maintained? A. Yes. It is just like taking care of the paint on your car. If you wax or seal the paint, you still have to wash it regularly. Sealers will last longer when the stone is properly cared for.
Q. We have heard different stories about impregnators. Some people say, they last forever, others say for one season. How often should the sealers be reapplied? A. Most domestic applications should be done annually because they do not last forever. Over time the sealer loses its strength and bonding to the stone. Just like the penetrating exterior wood sealer it eventually breaks down and must be reapplied. However, this will be accelerated in certain conditions. For example, in a high traffic area, the impregnator wears as the stone surface wears down. The sealer only penetrates to a maximum of about 1.5mm. As stone porosity varies significantly the sealer penetration will also vary significantly.