The Appearance of Stone Can (and Can't) Be Altered
Natural stone, a restorable surface material, is complex in comparison to restorable man-made materials, such as engineered stone, solid surfaces, and concrete. Unique as a snowflake or a fingerprint, natural stone requires customized restoration methods. It all depends on the composition of the stone, where it is installed, and how it is used. When homeowners want their stone restoration technician to change the appearance of their stone in some way, the task may or may not be possible to accomplish, and in some circumstances, it may be inadvisable. Let's look at the various ways the appearance of stone can be altered.
But First... About DIY vs Professional Services
The appearance of stone can be altered subtly or in sweeping, dramatic ways. Subtle alterations can sometimes be successfully accomplished with DIY methods. For example, one might use a marble polishing compound to easily remove a minor etch mark on marble with a polished finish. More extensive changes should always be entrusted to your professional stone restoration technician.
Changing the Level of Shine or Finish
Professional stone refinishing entails using various methods to alter the reflectivity and texture of the surface of stone. If your stone is polished, but you would prefer that it have a soft, honed finish, or if your stone has a satin finish, but you would prefer a glossy, reflective surface, in most cases your professional stone restoration technician can make it happen.
There are a variety of natural stone finishes possible, including:
- Honed / Satin / Matte - soft, velvety shine
- Polished - glossy, mirror-like shine
- Brushed / Antiqued - looks textured, but is smooth to the touch
- Texture / Hammered / Tooled / Leathered - varying degrees of roughness, depending on the finishing technique
- Custom - a personalized combination of other finishes
- Coatings / Enhancers / Etch Protection Treatments or Films - alter the shine or finish
You Can't Always Get What You Want
Your stone restoration technician may recommend against certain types of finishes in certain circumstances. For example, natural stone needs to "breathe" and for some applications, coatings could cause spalling, pitting, flaking, or other damage to the stone. Here's another example. For sanitary reasons, textured finishes are not suitable for food preparation areas, because the unevenness of the surface can make cleaning difficult. The bottom line is that most of the time, you can get the finish you want, but sometimes the finish you want may not be appropriate.
Changing the Color or Darkness / Lightness
Are you unhappy with the color of your stone? Perhaps exposure to UV rays have made the stone fade or caused the resins in the stone to become discolored. If your stone is stained or dyed, and some of the color is inadvertently removed, then the untreated stone will show through, giving the stone a splotchy appearance. Your stone restoration technician may be able to reapply stains or dyes. Another option might be to hone the stone to remove the stains or dyes, revealing the brand new stone underneath and then refinish the stone to the finish of your choice.
Enhancers do not actually change the color of the stone, but they do intensify the color of stone.
Sometimes there are properties inherent in the stone that affect its apparent color in different lighting scenarios. For example, if granite contains a mineral called hackmanite, then certain spots will change color from pink to gray or another light color, depending on how much light exposure it gets. With some types of stone, a slab viewed from one end of a room will appear to be a different color than when it is viewed from the other end of the room. In cases like these, stone restoration contractors can't really do anything to resolve the problem. You may, however, try experimenting with light fixtures and controlling the level of natural light exposure.
Removing Stains, Spots, or Discolorations
When it comes to stains, spots, and discolorations, things can get really confusing. A stain is a discoloration, but a discoloration may not be a stain. The easiest way to sort things out is to remember that a stain on natural stone will always be darker than the stone itself. Most stains can be removed. If the discoloration is lighter than the stone, then this is an indication that the it is a mark is corrosion (etching) caused by an acidic substance, or a caustic mark (bleaching) caused by a strong base (alkali). Stain removal methods will be ineffective on such stone damage.
The good news is that whether your stone is stained or damaged, in most cases the problem can be resolved. Your stone restoration contractor can instruct you on cost-effective DIY methods for stain removal or attempt to remove the stain for you. If your stone is damaged, it can likely be repaired and restored.
As mentioned previously, some spots or discolorations are inherent in the stone itself. One must either learn to appreciate the beautiful imperfection of natural stone or have it replaced.
Repairing Chips, Cracks, Holes, and Other Damage
Natural stone damage can happen in many ways, from scratches caused by dragging furniture or cracks caused by dropping a heavy object to signs of wear created by normal foot traffic or use. Your fully trained and qualified stone restoration technician can restore the finish and repair the damage, in most cases. They may grind, hone, polish, use color matched polyester or epoxy to fill in missing areas, replace tiles, and other methods, depending on what problem needs to be resolved.
Sometimes small imperfections or naturally occurring features in stone are mistaken for damage, even though they have no effect on the structural integrity of the stone. These include fissures or veins that look like cracks, angular fragments of stone, inconsistent veining, holes, pits, irregular shapes or inconsistencies in thickness, mineral deposits, and other features.
Moving Seams, Altering Edges, and Other Major Changes
After natural stone countertops have been installed, major changes are either difficult or impossible for a stone restoration technician to accomplish. Fabricators, that is, the ones who size and install countertops, use very specific equipment to do their work. Restoration contractors are not equipped to rearrange or re-profile countertops, and although fabricators are equipped, their work would entail removing the countertops completely, moving them back to the shop, and then reinstalling them. This labor-intensive effort would cost more than simply having the countertops replaced and could result in irreparable damage to the stone.
Contact us to discuss the appearance of your stone. We can take into consideration the look you have in mind, the composition of the stone, where it is installed, and how it is used, and then make the best recommendations.
This article is one of a series of articles written and published on behalf of Surface Care PRO Partners.