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DWYER MARBLE & STONE  •  DESIGN NEWSLETTER  •  Vol. 2, Issue 4  •  Back Issues click to call: 248.476.4944
News & Views
 
Mad About Marble: A Geological Look at a Classic Stone

© UseNaturalStone.com

From the shimmering aura of the Taj Mahal to the humble floor of your home's bathroom, marble is one of the world's most revered and useful natural materials. Marble is Michelangelo's David, the Washington Monument, and the Duomo of Florence. It is also the primary ingredient in Tums antacid.

Tune into any kitchen design message board and you'll encounter a sharp divide over the utility of marble. Some ...   read more>>>

4 Questions to Ask When Specifying Sustainable Natural Stone

© UseNaturalStone.com

If you are looking for a sustainable material to select for a project that will save money, time, and resources over the long-term, then natural stone should be your material of choice. Due to stone's wide variety of aesthetics, durability, recyclability, low maintenance, and regional availability, there is no ...   read more>>>

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Mad About Marble: A Geological Look at a Classic Stone

by Karin Kirk


From the shimmering aura of the Taj Mahal to the humble floor of your home's bathroom, marble is one of the world's most revered and useful natural materials. Marble is Michelangelo's David, the Washington Monument, and the Duomo of Florence. It is also the primary ingredient in Tums antacid.

Tune into any kitchen design message board and you'll encounter a sharp divide over the utility of marble. Some people wouldn't dream of designing a kitchen without marble. Others decry that choice, citing marble's imperfections and fragility. Many are caught somewhere in the middle: in love with marble's irresistible appeal, but uncertain if it's the right choice for their circumstance. Few stones can match the warm glow, the softly flowing colors, the timelessness, and the authenticity of marble. There's good reason marble has been used for over 5,000 years.


A Seabed, Transformed

Marble is a metamorphic rock; it once was a different kind of rock, and was then transformed by a change of circumstance. Before marble becomes marble, it is first limestone, which forms on the shores and floors of tropical seas. Limestone is an accumulation of shells, shelly fragments, microscopically tiny shells, and dissolved shells. Depending on the conditions at a particular beach or sea, limestone's shelly sediment may be punctuated with occasional layers of clay or lenses of sand. But by and large, limestone is an assortment of shell-remnants, which are made of the mineral calcite.

The tropical shoals that give rise to limestone do not stay peaceful indefinitely. Oceans are basically geologic conveyor belts. The ocean floor slowly spreads apart from the center and slips underneath continents at the edges, gradually rearranging the map of the world.

When a limestone seabed gets dragged down into the Earth's crust, the additional heat transforms the calcite grains and fuses them together tightly. The dynamic action of rock layers as they become buried, twisted, and shoved around causes the original flat-lying layers to bend, buckle, and swirl together. A rock in this heated state doesn't melt. It's simply warm and flexible, much like a chocolate bar left in your pocket. This process of heating and warping is responsible for marble's trademark aesthetic of gracefully flowing bands of color. The grey swirls in marble are simply clay layers that got folded, smeared, and re-folded into the marble like a ribbon of chocolate infused throughout fudge ripple ice cream.

Patterns and Colorways Give Marble Versatility and Character


Part of what makes natural stone so appealing is the huge range of colors and variations expressed in solid rock. On one hand, these patterns tug on our heartstrings and offer aesthetic possibilities. On the other hand, each of these variations has its root in some sort of geologic process.

Marble can take on a delightful range of hues and textures. Pink marble is tinted by iron oxide, as is golden marble. Green marble and deep red marble contain serpentine, rich in magnesium. Fossil-rich limestone becomes graphite-infused marble, as the carbon in fish, algae, or seaweed reverts back to the elemental carbon in graphite when the rock is heated. Graphite-rich marble is steely grey with a metallic glimmer.

A marble breccia is formed when the stone fractures underground, which can happen if a stone lives in a fault zone. Mineral-laden groundwater comes to the rescue, filling in the voids and patching the fragments back into a solid mass, while creating a spectacular pattern at the same time.

It's Important To Understand The Properties of Marble

The mineral content of marble is the same as the limestone it came from, and both of these stones are made of calcite, AKA calcium carbonate, AKA CaCO3. Calcite is one of the more common minerals on Earth's surface; in addition to limestone and marble, calcite is the primary ingredient in travertine and onyx.


Calcite has a few properties that you should know about before you fall head over heels in love with a stunning marble slab. Calcite is 3 on Mohs hardness scale, which means it will get scratched by knife blades, ceramics, and a cast iron skillet accidentally slid across the kitchen island.

Calcite is also chemically reactive with common acids, such as those found in lemonade, wine, and colas. When acidic liquids land on a marble slab, a tiny amount of the stone is dissolved, or "etched." This doesn't affect the integrity of the stone, but it does leave a slight change in the color and/or luster of the stone. On a polished stone, an etch looks like an unpolished area.

Etches can be polished out, or they can be left alone and considered part of the natural patina that marble will acquire over time.

Marble is ground up into antacid tablets because calcite neutralizes acid, which makes your stomach feel better. That also explains why acid makes a mark on marble. The marble reacts with the acid, neutralizing the acid, but damaging your countertop in the meantime. Ironically, when your teenager dribbles pickle juice on a brand new countertop, you may find yourself reaching for the antacid, triggering the same chemical reaction both on the countertop and in your digestive tract.

Now you can see why some people love marble while others think that marble-lovers are crazy. To some, the nicks and etches on a marble surface add character and mark the passage of time in a busy household. To others, each blemish resonates as a personal loss. Which way do you see it? This is an important question to consider before you head to the slab yard.

© UseNaturalStone.com


4 Questions to Ask When Specifying Sustainable Natural Stone

by Stephanie Vierra, Assoc. AIA, LEED AP BD+C


Specifying Sustainable Stone | What Questions To Ask

If you are looking for a sustainable material to select for a project that will save money, time, and resources over the long-term, then natural stone should be your material of choice. Due to stone's wide variety of aesthetics, durability, recyclability, low maintenance, and regional availability, there is no project that stone cannot enhance. These inherent qualities and characteristics make specifying stone an easy choice for meeting many sustainability requirements, including those in the LEED Rating System or Living Building Challenge. These rating systems are intended to help create buildings and communities that reduce energy use, are healthy, enhance the environment, and contribute to a more sustainable future.

Stone is a natural material and has been used for centuries for everything from sculpture, roads, paving, buildings, and tools. Designers, architects, and builders have long known about and understood the timeless beauty and strength that stone offers. Over the centuries, more stones have entered the marketplace and new technologies have advanced stone's ability to be applied to an even greater range of projects and installation types. These advancements have also contributed to the stone industry's improvements in waste reduction, increased efficiency, and enhanced life of the material. Homeowners as well as building owners have gained a greater interest and understanding of how these developments support their sustainability goals.


The choice of stone will depend on a variety of considerations such as the client or homeowner's aesthetic preferences, budget, intended use, and technical requirements for the specific application. There are many visual similarities among different materials, but few can naturally achieve the sustainable qualities of natural stone. So, when selecting stone to meet sustainability goals and requirements it is important to have a thorough and clear understanding of how to ask for what you need, and have a clear set of communications for both quality assurance and quality control on the project. It starts with setting goals for the project and determining how they can be met with stone, then coordinating the selection, fabrication, finishing, installation methods, and maintenance that will help you meet those goals. These questions are a good starting point when specifying stone for sustainability:


1) What kind of stone is it and what are its characteristics? This refers to the stone's basic mineral composition and an essential part of the selection process. The most sustainable use of stone is the one that is selected appropriately, performs as designed and lasts a long time. Begin by visiting stone suppliers, fabrication plants, and stone showrooms to discuss your goals and start the stone selection process. During this process discuss the importance of sustainability and learn more about the stones that are available that meet your criteria. Do you plan to use the stone on the exterior or interior? What is the intended use for the stone? Is it available in the quantity and timeframe needed for the project?

2) Does the stone scratch or stain easily? This refers to the hardness and rate of absorption of the stone, respectively. These characteristics are important to know if you intend to use stone in a high use or high traffic application such as flooring, countertops, restrooms, labs, and bars. It will also be a good indicator of whether or not the stone can contribute to a healthy, hygienic interior, an essential element of sustainable design. If you find a stone that you really want to use, but it does not meet these criteria, ask if the stone can be filled, finished, or sealed to achieve the result you desire.

3) What are the fabrication and finishing options and how do these contribute to sustainability? The fabrication method and finish you choose will have an impact on the final look of the material as well as on how it performs. There is such a wide range of fabrication and finishing options to choose from, each of which has a different process and outcome. Fabrication techniques using computer numerically controlled machinery can save resources such as time, water, and energy due to the increased efficiency of the equipment. This efficiency will also translate to reduced waste of the material and cost savings. Ask what fabrication method and finishing option would help the stone you have chosen stand up better to wear and tear, reduce weathering, or increase the stone's ability to resist slipping, mold, staining, or etching and scratching. Ask if there are ways to create different looks from one stone using different finishes. This is a creative way to use only one material, especially if there are budget constraints, but it will also save on quarrying and fabricating additional types of stone, which will help conserve natural materials.


4) What is the optimal and most sustainable installation or setting method for the stone selected? From the underlayment, grouts, and sealants, to the size of slab or tile, the methods used to install and set the stone should enhance the stone's ability to stand up to weather, traffic, and use. The installation method and supporting materials should all be considered together so the stone performs as a system. In sustainable design, durable, low maintenance materials are highly desirable. So ask your stone supplier, fabricator and installer if there are methods and materials that will ensure that these goals are met. Sustainable setting products with no harmful chemicals or low and no volatile organic compounds (VOCs) are available in the marketplace to meet sustainability requirements.

© UseNaturalStone.com