For the average consumer, cost will be the number one factor in choosing between stone and ceramic flooring. Depending on the material itself, natural stone can cost on average between $3 and $10 per square foot and is much more expensive than your typical ceramic tiling which comes in at around $1 to $3 per square foot. It’s because of this disparity in price that ceramic flooring is more popular among those who are working within a limited budget.
In most cases, the choice to install natural stone is only available to those who can afford to pay for the luxury of that rustic look you always hear so much about. And while ceramic flooring comes in a large variety of styles to suit any customer’s needs, it is the general consensus among high-end customers to think of ceramic products as merely cheap imitations of natural stone, which is widely regarded as being inherently more valuable. And while that may be true in terms of appealing to our more cultured sensibilities, there are many practical concerns that put natural stone at a disadvantage.
Aside from the difference in price, natural stone requires more maintenance than ceramic tiling. Being a porous material, stone will absorb ambient moisture from the air and will readily soak up any liquid spilled on its surface. Over time this will result in discoloration of the floor. To protect the stone from slow degradation, a special sealer must be applied that penetrates into the material and seals it off from moisture while concurrently allowing it to breathe. This product must then be applied at regular intervals throughout the floor’s life in order to maintain its original cast.
Stone flooring must also be deep-cleaned on a regular basis by professionals with the proper equipment. Due once again to the porous nature of stone, household cleaning products will be unable to remove much of the dirt that will naturally imbed itself into the floor. These same cleaning products also tend to leave soap scum in the grout joints, an effect that looks worse than the actual dirt. Conversely, ceramic tiles need only to be mopped like any regular floor.
While stone and ceramic are both “hard” floors, ceramic is actually a more robust material. The hardest of stone can be easily scratched whereas ceramic tiles are much more resistant and are approximately 25% harder than even granite. It is important to note as well that many of the household cleaning products previously mentioned are very likely to stain natural stone. Ceramic tiles on the other hand will stand up nicely to this effect as the years go by.
One obvious but noteworthy contrast is the fact that each stone is unique, be it a tile or a slab. And so its surface is marked by ridges and depressions and lacks any degree of uniformity, as opposed to ceramic tiles which exhibit a consistent finish throughout. These differences are minor though, as aside from financial constraints, it’s simply a matter of taste.
A final consideration can be found in the grout joints themselves, and admittedly, this point goes to stone. Natural stone slabs and tiles are laid closer together than ceramic tiles and show less grout when finished. The result is that with less grout to see, there is also less dirt buildup to see. Depending on the customer however, one look may be preferred over the other. Although I fail to see anyone basing their decision solely on the width of the grout joints.
At the end of the day, yes, natural stone is quite beautiful. But it being such an expensive and high-maintenance material, it’s simply not practical for the average consumer.