Build Direct - The Pros and Cons of Sealing Natural Stone

Natural stone has become a sought-after choice for fireplaces, countertops, flooring and more because of its natural beauty and durability. There are many different types of natural stone available, each with their own attributes. Among the most popular options are marble, limestone, travertineslate tile, and granite. Because it is porous, sealing natural stone on occasion will help to prevent stains and the growth of bacteria.

Fortunately, sealing natural stone flooring or countertops is a relatively inexpensive task that only has to be done once a year (at most). Some products work for multiple years, making it a simple maintenance chore that will drastically extend the life of your natural stone.

Sealing Natural Stone

Determining How Porous Stone Is

The type of stone you have plays a major role in how frequently sealing the stone is required. A simple water test will determine how porous your stone is. Place droplets of water directly on the stone and see how long it takes for the water to absorb into the stone. If the water penetrates the stone quickly, it is very porous. If the water sits on top for longer, the stone is less porous.

Among the most porous varieties of natural stone are marble, onyx, and limestone. Without a sealant, these stones stain very easily. Sealing these stones every six months will help them continue to look like new.  If you are looking for something more durable from the start, granite and quartz make great choices. These stones are easy to clean with soap and water and only require a sealant once a year.

Three Types of Sealants for Stone

Most new countertops and backsplashes arrive already sealed, eliminating the need for an initial coating. Down the line, sealing the stone again will help to preserve the look of the natural stone and prevent stains. Today, some stones feature resins that act as a built-in sealant, eliminating the need for an additional coating. If you have determined that your natural stone does require a coating, there are three main types of products to consider:

  • Surface Sealant: A surface sealant is also referred to as a strippable coating because it is applied to the surface only and is easy to remove if necessary. It is typically a water-based sealant containing polymers, such as acrylic. Because surface sealants are also available for tile floors, it is important to ensure that the product you select is intended for use on natural stone. Surface sealants are less of a commitment, but they also need to be reapplied regularly.
  • Penetrating Sealant: Penetrating sealants are commonly referred to as permanent coatings and are much more difficult to remove than a surface sealant because they are crafted of solvent-based polymers.
  • Impregnating Sealant: An impregnating sealant are a solvent-based formula that require professional application. They have become a popular choice for sealing outdoor stone because they are not affected by UV light and don’t alter the appearance of the stone. Although professional application is required, this sealant typically lasts for several years before another application is needed.

Pros of Sealing Natural Stone

Taking the time to add a coat of sealant to your natural stone can provide many benefits. Not only does it protect against stains, but it also helps to prevent acid erosion and bacteria growth. This step also helps to keep any outdoor stone from being susceptible to frost weathering and salt damage. On the floor, some coatings even add a layer of slip resistance, ensuring sure footing. Check out our article on the pros and cons of sealing your pavers for more specific information about outdoor patio flooring.

Cons of Sealing Natural Stone

As with anything, sealing floors has drawbacks as well as benefits. Unfortunately, sealing natural stone is a relatively frequent chore. Depending on the type of stone, it could be required as often as every six months. If an impregnating sealant is used, it may only be required only every one to three years. Even with proper application, there is always a chance that the sealant will not fully protect against stains. It is still good practice to wipe up any spills or standing liquids promptly and not allow them to sit for long, especially on countertops. On the floor, some sealants can tend to show wear patterns in the floor by becoming dull in areas that receive the most foot traffic.

Its natural beauty and durable design makes natural stone a popular choice for floors, countertops, bathrooms, and outdoor living areas. Keep it looking as spectacular as the day it was installed by properly sealing the stone when needed. Sealants help prevent this naturally porous material from stains, erosion, and wear while highlighting the beauty of the material. Weighing the pros and cons of the process and understanding the differences in the products will help you choose a sealant designed to prolong the life of your stone.

Ceramic tile is one of the most durable and maintenance friendly surfaces you can choose for your walls, floors, countertops, etc. With proper care & minimum maintenance, it will retain its original beauty and luster for many years. Generally, all that is necessary to keep your tile looking as good as new is a quick wipe with a clean damp cloth or mop. Prompt cleanup of spills and regular cleaning will keep your ceramic tile surfaces looking their best.
If a cleaner is necessary, Florida Tile recommends the use of low VOC (volatile organic compound), neutral pH, non-hazardous, and non-polluting products.
Glazed tile walls in your home will easily keep their lovely look with simple routine care, just wipe regularly with a clean damp cloth or sponge. A non-abrasive, neutral cleaner can be used (abrasive cleansers will cause scratching to shiny tile and polished marble surfaces). Highly polished tile and stone surfaces should be polished dry with a soft absorbent cloth after cleaning to eliminate the buildup of hard water residue and to maintain the high polished finish.
For glazed tile floors, sweep or vacuum regularly to remove dirt and gritty particles. Follow with a mop or sponge dampened with a neutral pH cleaner. If a cleaner is used, be sure the surface is rinsed thoroughly with clean water and dried. For textured or uneven tile or stone surfaces, substituting a soft scrub brush or white nylon scrub pad for the mop or sponge will quicken the cleaning process. Unglazed tile floors and porcelain tile floors can also be maintained in this same manner.
Tiled surfaces in your bathroom may require a more thorough routine cleaning because of a build-up of soap scum, body oils or hard-water stains. Use a clean, damp cloth, or sponge with a neutral pH cleaner, allowing it to stand about five minutes before rinsing and drying. Specialty bathroom cleaners may also be used (always test first). Clean shower regularly with the appropriate tile and stone cleaner. Dry with a towel after each use and leave curtain or door open between showers to allow for maximum ventilation and moisture escape.
Heavy Duty Cleaning
For high traffic areas or when tile has been neglected for a long time, heavy-duty cleaning may be required.
Glazed walls and countertops should be cleaned with an alkaline-based cleaner (high pH, non-acidic). Use a white nylon scrub pad, followed by a clean water rinse. Poultice may be used in combination with any appropriate cleaner, if needed, to restore seriously soiled areas. Poultice is a very fine powder that serves as a mild abrasive, yet cannot cause scratching to even the most delicate glazed tile and polished marble surfaces. Unglazed tile and natural stone can be treated in the same manner as glazed when heavy-duty cleaning is required. Once the tile or stone has been effectively restored and is dry, it is recommended that the appropriate sealer be applied to protect from staining and ease ongoing maintenance.
To clean badly soiled countertops, an appropriate alkaline cleaner is recommended. Poultice can be lightly sprinkled onto the wet cleaner solution and scrubbed with a white nylon scrub pad or medium nylon scrub brush to facilitate cleaning. Rinse thoroughly. For glazed tile floors, the same products and procedures are recommended.
For showers, tub surrounds, or other wet areas, light acidic cleaners are recommended to remove hard water mineral deposits. These acidic cleaners are not recommended on acid-sensitive surfaces such as metallic glazes or polished marble. For acid-sensitive surfaces, a neutral or alkaline cleaner, used in combination with Poultice is recommended. Never use harsh acids such as hydrochloric (muriatic) or hydrofluoric, as these acids, and even the acid fumes, can cause damage to tile, stone, grout, humans and pets! The accepted acids (use sparingly) for homeowners use are mild citric, sulfamic and phosphoric. Always test first for desired results.
Do's and Don'ts
  • Do use a grout joint. Due to inherent size variations in porcelain and ceramic floor tiles, a grout joint must be used. Your installer will be able to recommend a suitable grout joint for the product you’ve selected
  • Do regularly apply a water based penetrating sealer on all natural stone products
  • Always do a small test with sealers & cleaners to insure desired results
  • Do use a sealer on grout joints; except for 100% solid epoxy grout
  • Do read and follow label directions for all cleaners and sealers
  • Do not combine ammonia and household bleaches
  • Do not use harsh cleaning agents such as steel wool pads or strong acids, which can scratch or damage the surface of your tile
  • Do not use a cleaning agent that contains color on unglazed tile, natural stone, or white grout, as these porous surfaces may absorb the color
  • Do use only non-abrasive cleaning compound or formula that is recommended for both glass and tile when cleaning glass tile
  • Do see your nearest Florida Tile Dealer or Distributor for advice on special cleaning problems or if you have any questions

 

Murals, Resins, Glass, Cast Stone Fixtures and Metals
Wipe clean with a damp cloth or sponge using a neutral, non-abrasive cleanser. Be sure any cleaner residue is removed with a clean water rinse. Clean with alkaline tile cleaner or all-purpose cleaner using a soft cloth. Rinse with clean water and dry with a soft towel. Cast Stone Fixtures and Cast Decors are pre-sealed in manufacturing with water based, liquid silicone rubber dispersed sealer. For re-sealing, the sealing product should also be the same type of sealer for best penetration into existing sealer. For more detailed information on Glass tile installation and maintenance, visit www.floridatile.com or review the TCNA (Tile Council of North America) Handbook Guidelines.
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