Stone and tile can add a sense of elegance to many rooms in the home. Without proper maintenance and cleaning, however, that added beauty will be lost. A professional stone restoration technician can help you extend the life of your stone or tile and keep it looking brand-new for years of enjoyment.
Many homeowners are unsure about whether having their natural stone surfaces sealed is a good idea. Sealing the stone will provide extra protection against dirt and spills so that food and oils will not penetrate the natural fissures in the stone and stain it. Sealed stone will also require periodic maintenance, using pH balanced cleaners designed specifically for natural stone. Ultimately, the best way to decide if you should seal your natural stone is to talk to a trained stone restoration technician. There are, however, a few things to be aware of before making that call.
Sealers. There are two types of sealers—topical sealers and impregnators. Topical sealers act as a protective barrier on top of the stone’s surface. They are cheap to apply and provide a layer of armor that absorbs most of the damage that would otherwise afflict your stone. Some topical sealers also provide a measure of slip resistance or additional luster. Unfortunately, topical sealers are usually softer than the stone they’re protecting and thus will require reapplication or buffing to mask the inevitable scratches and scuffs. Some homeowners also find that topical sealers give the stone an artificial, plastic appearance.
Impregnators, on the other hand, work beneath the stone’s surface, blocking its pores and thus making it less absorbent. Most impregnators don’t affect the stone’s appearance, and they will generally last for several years before requiring reapplication. Impregnators are usually more expensive than topical sealers, however. Also, some types of impregnators release volatile organic compounds (VOCs), which may pose a health risk. Make sure to consult a professional technician to determine what type of sealer is best for your stone.
To seal or not to seal. With the exception of gemstones, all stone is porous and therefore able to absorb liquid to a certain extent. The porosity of the stone depends on two factors—the type of stone and its finish. Travertine, for example, is porous enough to absorb liquids in its unfinished state, but once polished, the surface tension becomes strong enough to make absorption much less likely. A simple way to determine if your stone needs to be sealed is to test it with water. Take a couple of tablespoons of water and spill it on a small portion of the stone’s surface. After about five minutes, wipe it dry. If the area is slightly darker than the rest of the stone (this shading is temporary, and it’s in an area where spills are likely, such as a kitchen, then you should probably have your stone sealed. If there is no darkening or if it’s in an area where spills are not likely, then sealing is not necessary.