It would be difficult to find any stone more beautiful than marble. That’s why it has been used for centuries in so many different applications. For a long time, there were many commercial uses of marble, but not that many in personal residences. Part of this had to do with the cost of the materials.
Glassy smooth marble is often seen on vanity tops or shower walls, but it doesn’t get picked as often for kitchen applications because of its reaction to acids. The amount of acid in an orange or other fruit can cause etching that will ruin the face of the stone. Sealers don’t do any good protecting kitchen countertops, so most homeowners prefer to pass up marble in the kitchen.
Many kinds of stone are tumbled to smooth their surfaces and round off the sharp edges. The process is carried out in a rotating barrel that is lined with rubber. The stones, abrasive material, and water are placed inside the barrel to be rolled repeatedly for a preset period. Silicone carbide is the standard for the abrasive material. The harder the stones are initially, the longer the process takes.
Flat natural stones like marble are excellent for tumbling. Depending on the size of the tumbler, the stones may be as large as a 12″ floor tile or as small as 2″ square. Generally, some small pieces will be produced from the larger stones as fractures break during the tumbling. The results are stones of many different sizes that work well for overlaying a concrete floor, pool deck, sidewalk, or other area of foot traffic.
These stones create interesting designs for walls and highlight areas that draw attention to some other feature of the home or office. The range of marble colors is only limited by the imagination of the installer.
The effects of tumbling can be very pronounced or just a slight variation of the stones as they were to begin with. An antique stone is tumbled for only a short time, whereas a glossy, mirror-like finish requires running the tumbler for much longer. The grit size of the abrasives used has a bearing on the finished stones also.
Some of the places to use tumbled stones:
As ground cover leaving a pervious surface but placed closely enough together to serve as a walkway
As highlights around ponds or areas of landscaping
As accents on walls as backsplashes
As tub surrounds and bathroom walls
In fireplace surrounds
In custom tiled areas
Marble makes an excellent pool deck, as long as it isn’t finished too smoothly. Tumbled stones that leave a profile on the face of the stone are best. A good installation would have rounded edged marble in use as bull nosing around the pool itself. Another nice touch is to use the rounded marble for the steps leading into the pool. Smoother tiles typically are used for the coping inside the pool.
Marble and similar stones do not get as hot as concrete does in the sun, so a marble surface is more comfortable for the bare feet of swimmers and sun bathers.
Common Places to Find Marble
One of the more common uses of marble in the home is as a window sill because it makes a wide, attractive place to sit plants and home decor items. Marble is found quite often in churches for window sills as well.
Residentially, small floors such as those in an entrance foyer or small bath are traditional places to find marble. Most authorities agree that marble is not a suggested product to use in heavy traffic areas such as public commercial buildings.
Walls and vertical surfaces are much better places to use marble because it doesn’t take the abuse that it does underfoot, and there are fewer chances of acid falling on it and causing damage. Commercially, it is common to see marble at elevators, surrounding the ingress and egress doors. This sometimes continues to the exterior where marble is used to highlight areas in the outside walls.
There are many kinds of stone that are used in similar areas as marble. Some of them are harder and don’t react to acids, but none are any more beautiful than marble. It will add another dimension to any room where it is installed.