Material & Stone Guide

This guide is here to help you understand the wonderful and vast world of stone. With such a wide variety of materials, types and finishes these guides will help provide a grounding in what is out there. Ultimately the choice of stone can come down to personal preference however when choosing a stone you should always keep clear in your mind the pro’s and con’s of each material. Just because one material is beautiful doesn’t mean its suitable for its intended purpose!

Material Classes

Today’s products come from two classes of material. Firstly there is natural stone. This will involve some form of quarrying and post-processing to produce a useful product. Then there are synthetic or engineered stones. These usually involve some degree of heat, pressure, binders and other technological marvels to achieve a useful product.

Natural Stone

These materials are quarried from rock deposits across the globe. Stone is typically quarried from an open pit mine from the surface of the earth. Through using heavy industrial equipment and explosives, the stone is extracted from the ground in ‘block’ form where it’s sent for further processing at slab factories. This video is a good example of the typical quarrying process. The benefit of using natural stone is just that. Natural stone is natural. The veining, grains and patterns are incredibly difficult to replicate in a man-made way.

Synthetic and Engineered Stone

With the development of technology and engineering over the past 50-60 years, man-made alternatives have surfaced. Using combinations of raw materials, resins and colourings combined with high pressure and heat have given way to a whole plethora of materials. From Quartz to Dekton these ‘new’ materials can do it all.  Typically very hard and chemically inert they are also relatively green. Nowadays most synthetic stones utilise recycled materials making it a great green material.

Material Types

Marble - Natural Stone

Softer than granite, marbles are typically seen as an elegant material. Many types are characterised by veins and are often bookmatched to create a truly stunning effect. As it is softer it is more prone to staining and scratches than harder materials. In the UK using marble externally is risky due to acid rain and UV radiation.

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Limestone - Natural Stone

Limestone forms from layers of natural deposits being compressed over thousands of years. Fossils can be characteristic of this material. Material colours are usually limited from creams to browns. Typically the lighter the colour the softer the stone is a good rule of thumb. For the UK using limestone externally can be risky depending on the material. We clad Jura limestone externally across many Next stores throughout the UK with no problems.

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Granite - Natural Stone

An extremely hard and durable igneous rock. Granite is formed when molten magma cools slowly under the earth's crust. Its slow cooling rate is what creates the large crystals we can see by eye. Highly wear and dirt resistant makes this material popular in high traffic areas or tough work conditions. Minimal aftercare is usually needed with this material.

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Quartz - Engineered Stone

Quartz stone uses a combination of crushed natural stone, resins and pigments to achieve a man-made material. Heated and cured under pressure produces a strong, scratch and stain resistant material. Although it still has a man made appearance, technological developments are slowly advancing producing a more 'natural' look. Silestone are one of the industries leaders in Quartz slabs, producing a high quality material.

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Dekton - Engineered Stone

Dekton is a highly engineered ultra compact material. Using a blend of natural stone processed using particle sintering technology, it essentially mimicks the highly pressurised and high temperature process natural stone undergoes. Reducing the time frame from thousands of years to mere minutes. It is incredibly hard, virtually non-porous and resistant to all forms of UV and chemical attack. It is a highly stressed material which can cause breakages during manufacture.

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Ceramic & Porcelain - Engineered Stones

Made from clay and fired in a kiln, these tiles are notoriously tough. Highly resistant to moisture, scratches and stains make for an appealing material. Typically coming in a tile format as opposed to a slab , its cooked structure make it prone to chipping and cracking if machined from its tile format. A variety of textures, patterns and colours are also possible.

Material Comparison Chart

Below is a chart to help compare materials. Generalisations have been made over these materials as there is such variety available for each material type. So please use this chart for reference only. We always recommend to get in contact with us to check if your chosen material is suitable for your application. For advice on what material finishes are available, check out our material finishes guide.

Material Comparison Chart