Polished: One of the prized characteristics of a marble floor is its ability to take a very high polish. This allows the material to be buffed until it glistening in the light, and is perfectly smooth to the touch. In lighter colored marbles, polished tiles will actually glow, with the light of the room penetrating slightly into the stone and then illuminating it with a soft shadow of light.
There are several drawbacks to polished marble floors. First of all they are very slippery, especially in wet environments. They also tend to take and show physical damage very readily. The surface can be scratched which will create mars in the perfect polished surface of the stone. These blemishes will be more visible in darker solid colored marble materials than in light or single colored tiles.
Honed: The process of honing takes a piece of marble, and grinds it down until it is flat and smooth, but not to the point where it is slippery and polished. These tiles allow you to have the beauty of marble in a space, without having to worry as much about slipping hazards.
Unfortunately honed marble often does not have the vibrant colors that polished materials will have. Often the hues will seem a little faded and washed out compared to the similar material in a polished finish. Honed marble also still has a relatively low coefficient of friction, and can be scratched if not cared for properly.
Tumbled: Tumbling marble is a process that is very similar to using a rock tumbler in your home. Old broken, chipped, or scratched tiles are placed in a large machine and then sent “tumbling” for a set period of time. When the material is taken out the tiles have rounded edges, and a stripped surface that gives them a rustic, natural look.
With tumbled marble each piece you get is going to be slightly different. The tiles themselves will be fairly standard in size, but the shapes with vary slightly, and not every piece will be an exactly perfect right angled square. You may also have some pieces that are polished and others that have a stripped honed surface. This irregularity is part of the appeal of using honed materials. However you will want to lay out a floor to make sure that the finished look of your design flows attractively.
Sizes: While marble is available in slab form it is generally not installed in floors. Marble slabs are extremely expensive, and anything except a perfect installation can result in a slab floor cracking. In addition, it is nearly impossible to properly repair a marble slab floor, and replacement is of course, very expensive.
Marble floor tiles are available in a variety of sizes.
- 12” X 12” tiles are the standard, and are generally 3/8” thick.
- 16” X 16” tiles are also available and are usually 7/16” thick.
- 24” X 24” tiles are usually the biggest available and come in ½” thickness.
These tiles sizes can be cut down to practically any size and shape, however it is most cost effective to divide them by even multiples. For instance a12” X 12” marble tile can be cut down into 3”, 4”, or 6” squares and the entire tile will be used. However a 5” square will leave two inches of material wasted in each tile.
Mosaics: Marble is often available in a variety of mosaic cuts. These can either be small individual chips, or mesh mounted chips laid on backing. In some cases you will be able to buy medallions or patterns where the marble colors are arranged on the mesh mount to create attractive and colorful displays.
Size Considerations With Marble Tiles: With all tiles floors, the bigger the tile, the fewer grout lines you will have. Grout is one of the most susceptible parts of a tile floor installation, and the presence of more grout lines will mean that the floor will require more maintenance to keep it protected against stains and water damage.
Colors: Marble is available in dozens of different colors. The exact look of each tile is slightly different from any other, with unique hues being present based on the chemicals that are there when the marble forms. There are two major types of marble when it comes to color: solid, and multicolored. Solid marble tiles will be predominantly a single shade, such as white, or red. Multi-colors will have several different colors, which will be arranged in the surface of each stone differently.