8 Things to Know Before You Install Natural Stone Tile

Calacatta Gold 6x12 Subway Tile

If you plan to install natural stone tile yourself rather than hiring a professional, there are several things you need to be aware of.

Installing natural stone isn’t the same as installing porcelain or ceramic–it’s a more involved and complex process.

But don’t let that scare you! As long as you prepare accordingly, you can still achieve a picture-perfect finish with your new natural stone tile.

1. It Requires Skill and Experience

Room under renovation

Stone tile installation isn’t ideal for beginners; it’s better for those who have some prior knowledge, skill, and experience with tile.

Because of the preparation and longer installation process involved, you’ll need to plan for at least a few days to complete this project.

You’ll also need specialized tools, such as a wet tile saw. Cutting natural stone with a dry saw creates toxic silica dust that can cause lung damage.

2. You Need 95% Mortar Coverage

Grout and grout float

If you’ve ever worked with porcelain or ceramic tile, then you probably know that you need 80% mortar coverage in dry areas.

When installing natural stone tile, the required mortar coverage is 95% for both wet and dry interior and exterior areas.

3. The Right Floor Structure Is Key

Sheet of plywood

Natural stone tile cannot be installed on top of a wood-framed floor in the same way that porcelain and ceramic can. Because natural stone isn’t as strong as these other materials, it requires a floor system that’s twice as stiff.

In fact, the 2015 Tile Council of North America Handbook only has one approved method for natural stone tile installation. It requires a tongue and groove plywood subfloor, plus a plywood underlayment as the second layer.

In other words, you need two layers of structural wood panel on your floor if you’re using a backer board as the substrate for your natural stone tile.

Without the proper floor structure, you may be looking at an expensive floor replacement in the future.

4. Natural Stone Is Susceptible to Staining

Stained checkerboard tile

You also need to be aware that natural stone tiles are porous and thus can stain pretty easily, so after you install them, you’ll also need to seal them.

A good sealer covers the tile’s pores, preventing stains, and also makes your floor easier to clean.

However, sealing isn’t just a one-time task. You’ll need to reseal your natural stone tile every year or two to maintain it and protect your investment.

5. There Is Variance Between Tiles

 Gray natural stone tile with yellow discoloration

Because natural stone is, of course, natural (and not man-made), no two tiles will look exactly alike. You’ll see variances in color and veining in all types of natural stone.

We always recommend buying 10% more tile than you need for a project, but when working with natural stone, you may want to buy a little extra on top of the additional 10%.

This way, you can weed out any tiles that don’t look quite right. Extra tile is also great to save so that you’ll have matching tile for repairs later on.

6. Not All Types of Natural Stone Work in Every Room

Kitchen with natural stone counter and backsplash

There are different recommended uses for various types of natural stone.

For instance, porous stones like limestone, travertine, and marble aren’t the best choices for kitchen countertops because they’re more likely to stain and harbor bacteria from food.

Meanwhile, granite is less porous and is an excellent choice for any area in the house.

And while not all natural stone is suited for outdoor use, slate can handle temperature changes easily, so it works well for patios and other outdoor projects.

7. Natural Stone Costs More, But It Lasts Longer 

$100 bills

You’re likely already aware of this, but natural stone tile tends to cost much more than porcelain and ceramic. That’s part of the reason that porcelain and ceramic tile often mimic the look of natural stone–so that homeowners can get the look they want for less.

One thing to keep in mind, though, is that natural stone has a long lifespan. It can last 100 years or more when it’s properly installed and maintained!

Sometimes, natural stone even outlasts the buildings it’s installed in. No wonder it’s been widely used as a building material for hundreds of years!

In the long run, choosing natural stone may take a larger initial investment, but it’s cheaper than purchasing flooring that you’ll need to consistently replace every five to ten years.

8. Natural Stone Tiles Are Heavy

Weights of different sizes

Finally, before you install your own natural stone tile, take its weight into account. A 12-inch square tile that’s ½” thick can weigh nearly seven pounds, so if you’re planning to handle large quantities of tile, it’s a great idea to have a friend or two to help you out.

Of course, it’s also an option to select a thinner tile, but a thicker tile is much more resistant to cracking and chipping, especially in high-traffic areas.

Find Beautiful Natural Stone Tile at Tilezz.com

At Tilezz.com, we have a beautiful selection of natural stone tiles that we’re sure you’ll love. Every order comes with fast delivery, insured shipments, and easy returns. Take a look at our products here, or visit our blog for more DIY info and design inspiration.

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