We get this question a lot from customers looking for quality Natural Stone Tile or Pavers. Is your natural stone premium grade? How can I tell the difference between premium grade natural stone and standard grade? What makes a stone premium grade and how do I compare them?
To start, natural stone products like Travertine, Limestone, Marble, Slate, and Granite are all quarried from the earth by different factories, most of which are in other countries. Natural stone tile or pavers are not manufactured products like Porcelain or Ceramic so the difference between two Travertines with the same name can be very different. That means that even comparing a universal Travertine name like Noce between two different suppliers is not necessarily apples to apples. Even though they share the same color name there can be drastic differences on what you would receive in color tone, quality, and therefore value as well.
Premium does not always mean Premium....
Many suppliers do list their material as premium grade even though it's not, so what should you look for to make the best decision for your project? For this we are going to focus on Travertine Tile and Pavers.
What's in the stone's name? Common names for material that is NOT Premium Grade are Standard, Commercial, Classic and Antique. If you do see these listed in the name then that can be your first indicator it is not premium stone.
Travertine by nature is a porous material so there will always be some pitting with the stone. The amount of pitting in the stone though makes a big difference on the quality and grading that should be given to it. The denser the stone the more minimal the pitting you will see in it. This creates the need for less grout used for the fill and you will have stronger material which will be less likely to crack and break. With premium grade material the majority of the pitting should be really small with the larger pitting in it being around dime size or maybe a few that can be up to a quarter in size. Even with the pitting that you do see in premium stone you should not see the pitting go all the way through the tile. If you are seeing pitting that goes all the way through than that will be an indicator that it is a little lower quantity. If you are looking at Honed or Polished Travertine that has already been filled look at the amount and size of the fill marks on the surface to help determine its quality. For premium stone you want the true color of the stone to stand out and not grout that is filling the pitting of the stone.
What this means is that in a premium stone you don't want to have any off colors or colors in the stone that are not standard to that name. For example, a Noce Travertine should be a range of rich, medium to dark brown tones. If you do find any pink, peach, yellow, or green tones in the Noce then it would not be a premium Noce color. If you're looking at Ivoria Travertine you should see nice light cream and tan tones, also without any pink or orange. You may see some darker veining in the stone but there should not be enough to the point where it is really noticeable or the stone looks dirty. A similarity between identifying Premium Grade with these two color tones is looking for a clean look that has nice movement but not a huge change in color range or the off tones which are mentioned above. A big indicator of Non-Premium material is considerable black coloring or veining when it is not usually a component of that stone.
Determining true color tone while looking online is not the easiest thing to do so please make sure to receive current stock samples direct from what your order would be provided from and also get current stock pictures.
This is really important for the installation and aesthetics of your finished project. Premium stone tile should be within at least an 1/8" within the indicated size for the product. This is called nominal size which means that the sizing is within a very small variance from the exact size indicated in the name. The other important part to this is that the nominal size for all the tiles you receive in your order should be the exact size with each other or else it will cause installation problems with some, if not all of the tiles.
The other aspect of true size is the corners of the tile or pavers being right on 90 degrees. If the corners are off at all it will cause problems with the grout lines and installation in general.
The takeaway for finding premium grade Travertine tile for your project
- Check the amount and size of pitting to determine density of stone
- Make sure to receive current stock samples or at the very least current stock pictures to confirm color variation for your project
- Confirm the sizing of material