Retailers’ guide to tile & stone: Engineered stone adds charm, durability to living spaces

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September 14/21; Volume 30/Number 7

(Editor’s note: This is the sixth in a 10-part series familiarizing flooring retailers with merchandising and installing tile and natural stone.)

Ancient civilizations used indigenous stone to build cities, roads and monuments; many of which still stand today, a nod to the strength and durability of this natural resource. The aesthetic appeal of stone continues in the modern world, albeit with a twist: Engineered stone tile is gaining popularity in recent years, giving added opportunity to dealers who want to go beyond flooring.

Engineered stone products are primarily—more than 90%—made of natural quartz, the hardest non-precious stone, bound together by resins. These products require less maintenance than granite because they are non-porous and do not have to be sealed periodically. As well, its impervious surface provides more stain and bacterial resistance than granite.

Engineered stone is a durable, long-lasting alternative to real stone and is meant for everyday wear and tear. In addition to floors, engineered stone products can be used for kitchen countertops, shower and tub surrounds, vanities and other surfaces throughout the home. And unlike porous granite, which can foster bacteria, engineered stone is ideal for commercial settings.

Ray Ferraro, president of All Trades Contracting, a Clinton, N.J., dealer, said quartz is “our go-to material” for bath counters, seats and sills. “It pairs perfectly with today’s tile and is non-porous in a bath. We still lead consumers to granite for a kitchen since it is a purer look, flows nicely, won’t burn and is at a much better price point. The successful quartz materials designers have made their quartz look as close to marble as possible and that’s the real success story. Quartz is virtually maintenance free and super hard while marble is soft and porous.”

Ferraro said that unlike real stone, consumers do not have to worry about chips or cracks with engineered stone. It can also be cut and milled in the same manner as other stone products that are available for creating countertops, allowing contractors to readily substitute engineered stone when a plan might call for something else.

Moreover, it can be installed with or without grout and over a variety of existing floors. It rarely requires sealing and can be installed much faster than standard stone.

Ferraro noted the best way to merchandise engineered stone is to take a few of the best colors as loose samples, place them next to a wood floor and move them around easily. “While mounted on a board or rack it doesn’t have the same effect, and the surrounding samples make the human eye scan too many colors. I’d suggest putting it in a small section on a bath floor with a 1⁄8-inch grout line.”

For installations that need added durability and slip resistance, unglazed quarry tile is a good solution, experts say, because its construction is better at resisting breaking.

In relation to design, grays and whites continue to be the colors of choice for consumers. “I’m happy to be trending out of the cream/beige/bone world,” Ferraro said.

As for care and maintenance, retailers recommend sweeping, vacuuming or damp mopping as necessary to remove dust, dirt and grit. Consumers can remove substantial spills or spots with a heavy detergent and a stiff brush or a non-metallic scouring pad. It is advisable to routinely mop the surface with a neutral liquid cleaner. A rule of thumb: Use a simple two bucket method—one bucket containing the diluted cleaner and the other containing clear water.

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