There is no doubt about the natural beauty of stone tiles used in your kitchen or bath. Unfortunately, because it is a natural product and not “man made” like porcelain tiles, the cuts and variation in size may be slight, but create havoc when trying to stay “square and level”.
Here are some tricks I have picked up when working with natural stone to make your tile job a little less frustrating:
1) Tiles do not stay square
When a natural stone tile is not cut square, it will create “unevenness”. Depending on the severity of the misalignment, use a toothpick on top of a spacer, a stacked tile spacer or a shim to level the tile at the top or sides. Don’t worry if your “lines” don’t look exactly the same throughout as the variation should be so slight, especially if you split the adjustment difference between the tile out of square and the next tile. Grout hides more than you may think as long as variations are kept small.
2) When cutting, the stone breaks before you get to the end
Many natural stone tiles are actually somewhat “soft” and crumble, chip or break easily when using a tile saw before you even finish the entire cut. Start with a small cut at the opposite end then flip the tile to the other side. This extra cut at the end will give it better “strength” as your cut line comes together. Also make sure your tile is wet enough.
3) Tiny L-shaped corners just break off
Start by cutting the smaller part of the “L” before you do the longer side. Again, this gives the tiny part better strength when the long cut meets up.
4) ALWAYS seal your natural stone tile before grouting
Natural stone tiles are very porous. Use a matte or glossy sealer that is compatible with your stone (read the manufacturers label) and apply at least 2 coats and let the sealant completely dry before grouting. This will make grout clean up a cinch.
5) Always seal your natural stone in wet areas at least once a year.
Some sealants claim to have better waterproof longevity, but why risk it when the sealing process is so easy? This also helps with maintenance!