Regular Gold Notes readers know that I’m a big fan of engineered stone and porcelain slab for their low maintenance properties. You also know that I consider Mother Nature to be the finest artist in the world and greatly admire the incomparable beauty of natural stone. There are times when no substitute will do, like when it’s a client’s ‘comfort and joy’ wellness feature. So how do you take care of your surfaces when, like most natural elements, they will transform over time?
In putting together thoughts for my Coverings Connected interview next week, I wanted to check on whether there were new sealers or innovations for natural stone worth sharing with attendees and my readers. I reached out to a recommended professional on this topic, Denise Daniels, vice president at MB Stone Care. This North Carolina-based company has been creating solutions for homeowners and industry pros for more than two decades. Daniels has been with the firm for 10 years, researching and developing new products.
Here are her insights on caring for your granite, marble, limestone and other natural stone surfaces, in her own words, in response to two questions I asked.
JAMIE: Are there any notable innovations in natural stone sealers? The ones I’m aware of can be ‘pierced’ with acidic materials and need to be reapplied periodically. I’d also appreciate any insights you have as to highly durable natural stone sealers that are non-toxic.”
DENISE: Sealers aren’t really pierced by acids. Most live below the surface, especially impregnating sealers. There are some topicals that sit on the surface, but most sealers are impregnating. All a sealer was ever designed to do is temporarily inhibit the intrusion of stain agents. Meaning, they are supposed to give you the time needed to clean up any spills before they are absorbed into the stone.
Normal wear, time and especially using the wrong cleaner will break down the solids in a sealer and it would need to be reapplied. Sealer basically consists of a solid (a resin or polymer for instance) and a carrying agent (like water or solvent). After the sealer is applied, the carrying agent basically evaporates and leaves the solid that fills the pores of the stone. It’s those solids that prevent the absorption. This is why a good quality sealer is important, ones that are made with a high amount of quality solids. There is a misconception that all stones need to be sealed and that simply isn’t accurate. Some stones are dense and not porous; therefore they will not absorb anything, including a sealer.
For the acidic part I mentioned earlier, acids react with stone that contain calcite like marble, travertine and limestone. When acids come in contact with calcite it creates an instantaneous chemical reaction that causes an etch. It actually breaks down the stone itself. There is no sealer that protects from that. There have been some coatings developed that can prevent it, but those are usually a resin that sits on the surface of the stone. If you can imagine plastic on furniture, LOL… But these look a lot better now. It really boils down to specifying the right stone for the right application. If you are still choosing, put in the time to really know what the stone’s characteristics and mineral makeup is before choosing. Unfortunately, that seems to be the struggle, and then ways to live with stone used in wrong areas have been created over the years: The “we want what we want” way of thinking. It’s equally important to understand what stone you have and how to best maintain it if it’s already installed.
For sealer, we would recommend our MB-24 Barrier (water-based) with no VOCs and MB-21 Enhance (solvent based) with low VOCs. MORE premium sealer is a good one as well. There are many sealers, so doing your research and looking at SDS [manufacturers’ specification] sheets is important to understand what the sealer is made of and how much. Everyone should be very careful with sealer warranties and read them very carefully to understand what the guarantee actually is!
JAMIE: Are there any stone tops that typically don’t require sealing?
DENISE: That’s a tough question. With all the new kinds of stone that are now being quarried, imported, used and mis-identified, it has become more difficult to identify by name. One stone for sure that does not need to be sealed is a polished absolute black granite. We always tell our customers to use the water test. It’s the best way to know if the stone is porous. Basically, you let a small puddle of water sit on the surface for about 10 minutes. If the area turns dark, then the stone is absorbent. If it doesn’t darken, it isn’t porous. If a stone won’t absorb the water, it won’t absorb a sealer or be easily stained.
Since you’re reading this post, I know you’re interested in the links between your home and your health. The respected publication Healthy Women just shared my insights with its readership on this topic. You can check those out here.
Yoga room by designer Ana Cummings.
(Photo courtesy of Ana Cummings. Photographer: Steve Dutchesen // Wellness By Design, Tiller Press. © J. Gold)
I also wrote a piece about tile trends and innovations in my regular Kitchen & Bath Design News Trend Spotting. You can check that out here.
Decorative porcelain slabs create dramatic wall coverings.
(Photo: Courtesy of Del Conca – Tile Council of North America)
Two weeks to pub date on my new Wellness by Design book! It’s not too late to join my Book Launch Circle here.