Selecting Stone Finishes
Congratulations on making the decision to include natural stone in your project. But, now what? You may be asking, “Which finish should I go with? How do I select finishes and colors?” These are the types of questions we’ve regularly fielded for architects, builders and luxury homeowners for more than a decade. What follows is a comparison of three stone finishes applied to the same type of stone, in this case, Bigio Grey Granite. It won’t make you a stone expert but it will give you some confidence in thinking about the various design paths your project could take. When you want to lean on a stone expert please contact us.
Flamed stone finishes are applied to stone to “weather” the stone and make it more slip resistant. To achieve this finish the stone is typically soaked in water until saturated. Then a torch flame is applied directly to the surface. The stone surface snaps, crackles and pops as it quickly dries and heats and spalls off small pieces and shards. This leaves a random textured finish that is natural looking and has a good coefficient of friction (COF), wet or dry.
To enhance the color, after flaming the stone, HDG normally brushes the stone (wire or resin brushes) to remove any loose stone, dust or film. An even richer and darker color can be achieved by water-jetting the flamed face, which adds something like a micro-polish to the textured surface.
Applications: When your natural stone application requires slip resistance consider flamed finish. It is probably the most common finish on public and commercial stone paving areas.
The lychee surface resembles the skin of the fruit by the same name. Also referred to as bush-hammered, this percussive finish is traditionally applied by hand or now more often by “hand” but with a pneumatic hammer. The finish can be aggressive, deeper and more coarse or lighter and finer. The head of the hammer resembles a meat-tenderizer with either 9-larger points (coarse finish) or 16-smaller points (finer finish).
The lychee finish cannot be taken to the edge of an existing cut piece of stone or it will chip the edge. Instead, the finish is stopped about 1/2-3/4″ from the edge and another traditional hand-finish (adze — which is a cross-axe) is used to create a edge-band finish perpendicular to the edge. Then we typically finish the corners with a 1mm or 2mm 45-degree bevel to protect the edge.
Applications: Lychee is an excellent finish for flat, even walking surfaces. It’s often used on stair treads and other architectural elements such as water-tables, lintels, and window sills. Lychee is a good finish for curvilinear surfaces like columns, bases, and pool coping.
Natural stone with a polished surface is highly reflective and glossy looking. It is beautiful and elegant with a glass-like quality. Think Steinway piano, but on your floor or walls.
Scratches are more apparent on a polished stone surface compared to other finishes. Because of this polished finishes are best for non high-traffic areas where you want a design aesthetic that says elegant.
Applications: Typical examples of polished or honed (still smooth, but matte finish) would be wall tile, building cladding architectural surfaces on fireplace surrounds, wall-caps, water-features, and benches.
Don’t Go It Alone
Selecting the right stone can be daunting enough. But when you combine the various colors and finishes you can end up sinking weeks of extra time into your project. That wastes your time and ultimately could diminish the quality and potential of your projects. It’s far more productive and cost-effective to have an exploratory conversation with HDG’s resident stone expert, Erik Nelson. Erik will help you navigate the myriad choices of stone, colors and finishes available to achieve just the right characteristics for your application. HDG Building Materials is a resource to architects and builders from concept to completion. Contact Us to introduce your project.