Natural Stone Styles

Shop smarter with this knowledge about natural stone styles.

Just like snowflakes, stars and people, no two natural stone floors are the same. Each floor will exhibit its own unique coloring, veining and natural characteristics such as hardness and porosity.

Each has it’s own style. A one-of-a-kind presence and personality.

If you’re shopping for flooring that is exciting and exclusive, beautiful and individual, natural stone is a natural choice.

However, it can also be a difficult choice because of the multitude of types, styles and finishes.

With a lot of information here and a little imagination on your part, you can begin to see what type of natural stone best represents your style.

First, remember that in general, natural stone floor tile sizes are 12”x12”, 13”x13”, 16”x16”, and 18”x18 and larger.” Natural stone is also available in mosaics which are comprised of pieces 3” or smaller and are often attached to a mesh backing.

Next, you should be aware that there are two types of edges for natural stone floor tile: a polished bull nose edge that has a rounded or curved appearance, or a polished straight 90 degree edge that gives a more modern and clean look to your space.

To help you understand the types of natural stone, we’ve put this glossary together.

There are two basic types of stone used in the building industry:

  • Natural stone such as marble, granite, or limestone.
  • Agglomerates (Manufactured stones) that consist of natural stone chips suspended in a bonding, manufactured material.

Natural stone can be grouped into three classes.

Igneous rock is formed when molten rock (called lava or magma) cools and hardens. Granite is an example of an igneous rock.

Sedimentary rock is formed from biological deposits that have undergone consolidation and crystallization. Limestone and sandstone fall into this category.

Metamorphic rock is created when other kinds of rocks are changed by great heat and pressure inside the earth. Marble, slate and quartzite are examples of metamorphic rocks.

Here are the names and definitions of some of the more popular natural stones:

Granite is an igneous stone that is extremely hard, dense and resistant to scratches and acid etching. It is an ideal stone for use in flooring and in food preparation areas. Hundreds of varieties of granite exist.

Sandstone is a sedimentary stone that is primarily composed of loose grains of quartz sand that are rough in texture. A number of varieties are available.

Limestone is another sedimentary stone, it’s formed from calcite and sediment and comes in many earthen colors.

Marble is a derivative of limestone. It is a metamorphic stone that can be polished. Marble is characteristically soft and easily scratched or etched by acids. There are countless types of marble from around the world.

Travertine is a crystallized, partially metamorphosed limestone, which because of its structure, can be filled and honed and is dense enough to be a type of marble.

Slate is a metamorphic stone that has a sheet-like structure. It is composed of clay, quartz and shale, and comes in a multitude of colors including reds and greens.

Agglomerate Stone is a manufactured stone made from natural stone chips suspended in a binder such as cement, epoxy resins or polyester.

The most well known agglomerated stone is poured-in-place terrazzo, used in building for thousands of years.

Today, some of the most popular manufactured stone products are quartz products.

These products offer the look of natural stone but are stain and scratch resistant, offer consistency and strength, and are virtually maintenance free.

Now, let’s take an even closer look at some of the most popular natural stone types available today, and provide you with some recommended applications.


For durability, granite can take the hard knocks.

Of all natural stone, granite is one of the hardest and densest, second only to diamond.

Made up mostly of quartz and feldspar, it resists staining and scratching better than any other natural stone, making it an ideal choice for your kitchen.

In fact, granite is durable enough for almost any application you can think of.

It’s beautiful in foyers, bathrooms, libraries, or as an accent with other natural stones.

Mother Nature produces granite in a variety of colors such as rich browns, vibrant golds, warm creams and cooler blues, greens, grays and decadent black.


For pure elegance, marble is the choice.

Marble has a legendary elegance. It was used throughout the ancient world because it was soft enough to be worked with tools but hard enough to last through the ages.

Once considered the domain of the rich and famous, marble can be used in many applications throughout your home.

Just what is marble you may ask? It’s a crystallized limestone that is not as hard as granite.

Marble comes in many different color variations and usually displays a prominent veining pattern with luxurious swirls and patches of contrasting color that make marble famous. Sophisticated grays and whites to a wide range of earth tones in both light and dark colors are the most popular.


Coral, character and color come home with limestone.

Limestone has a more subtle, casual look and is actually a “young” marble.

It is created by the accumulation of organic materials such as shells and coral that gives it a unique, natural look.

This more porous stone comes in a diverse range of neutral colors from ivory to soft grays to golden browns.

This range of colors makes limestone a versatile design option for flooring and walls.


There’s a “hole” lot to know about Travertine.

A member of the limestone family, Travertine shares some similar characteristics such as being soft and porous.

Travertine is formed with many small cavities and holes that can be filled in with cement or resin, or left unfilled for a textured surface.

The surface is then polished creating a different looks from honed to highly polished. The filled-in areas remain dull which creates an interesting contrast Travertine can also be tumbled for a rustic, old world look.

Travertine can be used in flooring in numerous rooms in your home and can also make for a wonderful backsplash. Again, the colors are generally earthy and warm and are at home in both warm and cool environments.


Slate: intriguing indoors, outstanding outdoors.

Slate is a highly versatile stone that gives a natural, rustic and colorful appearance to any room.

Slate can be used for interiors as well as exteriors, making it the perfect product to bring the outdoors inside your home.

All slate has a natural “clefting” along the surface that gives this stone its unique textural, layered look but is also available with a smooth surface.

This stone is made up of clay and shale, which is very dense.

Slate is water resistant, which also makes it ideal for exterior applications, such as patios and pool surrounds.

Slate colors range from rich reds, oranges and golds to mauve, lavender, green, blue, black, rust and brown.

If your style is about texture, no other natural stone has the dramatic texture and color of slate.


Don’t finish without learning about finishes.

All natural stone is fabricated with a particular type of surface finish.

Some common types of surface finishes we see today are: polished, honed, acid-washed, saw-cut refined, flamed, split-faced, tumbled and brushed.


A polished surface creates a beautiful glossy shine from the natural reflection of the stone’s crystals.

The mirror-like shine is accomplished by using progressively finer polishing heads during the polishing process, similar to the way that sandpaper smoothes hardwood furniture.

The finer the sandpaper, the smoother the surface.

The polish may last a long time or may be unstable depending on the type of stone.

Granite, marble and limestone are frequently polished, and require varying degrees of maintenance to preserve the shine.


A honed surface provides a flat, matte or satin finish creating a more informal and softer look.

This finish is created by stopping short of the last stage of polishing.

A honed finish shows fewer scratches, and requires very little maintenance.

Marble, limestone, and slate would be your best choices for a honed finish.


An acid-washed finish is shiny with small etching marks (pits in the surface). This finish shows fewer scratches and is much more rustic in appearance than a honed finish.

Most stones can be acid-washed but the most common are marble and limestone.

Acid washing is also a way to soften the shine on granite.


Saw-cut refined offers you a matte finish. After initial cutting, the stone is processed to remove the heaviest saw marks but not enough to achieve a honed finish.


A flamed finish is achieved by heating the surface of the stone to extreme temperatures, followed by rapid cooling.

The surface of the stone pops and chips leaving a rough, unrefined texture.

This process is usually done with granite. Flamed granite has a highly textured surface, making it ideal for areas where slip resistance might be a concern. Like in your shower areas.


Split-faced gives you a rough texture, but one not as abrasive as flamed.

This finish is typically achieved by hand cutting and chiseling at the quarry, exposing the natural cleft of the stone. This finish is primarily done on slate.


Tumbled delivers a smooth or slightly pitted surface, and broken, rounded edges and corners.

There are several methods used to achieve the tumbled look.

3/8” thick tiles can be tumbled in a machine to achieve the desired look, or 3cm tiles can be tumbled and then split, creating two tiles that are tumbled on one side.

Marble and limestone are your primary candidates for a tumbled finish.


Brushed features a worn-down look achieved by brushing the surface of the stone, simulating natural wear over time.


The natural stone family has many styles and personalities.

Hopefully we’ve provided you with enough knowledge to be a smarter shopper by understanding and appreciating their natural and beautiful differences.