Grinding with diamond abrasives, crystallization, applying barrier coatings, and buffing with polishing powders and compounds are the most common methods used to create shine on natural stone floors today. It is important to note that each method is not necessarily effective on all types of stone and using more than one may ultimately be necessary. Read on to learn more about which method may be best for you, including some of the downsides that can help you make an informed decision about which method to use.
Grinding with Diamond Abrasives
This process is done by grinding your stone surface with various grids of diamonds, typically of industrial grade, in the form of diameter pads or discs. Three to six discs will be placed on the bottom of a drive plate of a floor machine and are attached with Velcro. Typically a floor machine with lower speed settings such as 175 rpm are used to sand the stone surface with the diamonds in order to eliminate any scratches. This process will then be repeated with increasingly fine grits of diamond until the shine is accomplished.
The crystallization process is accomplished with a chemical known as fluorosilicate. It begins by spraying this chemical onto the stone and using steel wool pads to buff the stone. This leads to new glassy crystals formed on the surface. A typical 175 rpm floor machine is used typically with a heavy drive plate in order to generate the friction and heat necessary for forming and polishing the crystals. Although crystallization is a relatively popular method for polishing stone surfaces, it is a hazard not only to your floors but to your health as well. This may appear as a relatively inexpensive method for polishing your marble but it can be extremely dangerous and this is why it is strongly recommended that you do not move forward with this method.
Applying Barrier Coatings
Coatings are more frequently referred to as waxing in order to generate an artificial shine. A semi-liquid or liquid form of acrylic, urethane, wax or another type of polymer is applied to the surface with lamb’s wool applicator, a sprayer, a roller or a mop. Some are applied to complete the process but others need to be buffed up in order to accomplish the shine. This process is usually done with a high speed machine known as a floor burnisher and hog's hair pads or fiber. This method is not recommended for use with porous stone.
The basics of this process are similar to sanding with diamonds, but the powder in this case is a finer abrasive. Usually, this process also involves oxalate or oxalic acid to produce a reaction similar to crystallization. Fine grains of tin oxide abrasive powder or aluminum are rubbed or buffed onto the stone’s surface in order to generate shine.
Pros and Cons of Each Polishing Method
The following advantages and disadvantages are presented from the viewpoint that polished granite, limestone and marble are typically chosen for their natural beauty. Although cost can be indicated as a pro or a con it is only to be able to compare apples to apples. The majority of floor owners expect the cost of maintaining a natural stone floor to be more expensive than that of resilient floors.
Grinding with Diamonds
- This is the most natural method
- This typically removes all scratches
- It works well on granite and marble
- Has a long-lasting and durable finish
- In terms of material and labor, this is the highest cost method
- This mandates an initial restoration of the floor in order to bevel the lippage or remove the lippage that could damage the grit diamonds used the clarity and final polish will vary based on the stone and will typically need to be augmented with polish, compound or powder
- No mess
- Removes heavy scratches and fine scratches
- Generates a long-lasting finish
- Gives a natural look
- Can be applied with standard floor machines on low speed
- Doesn't require polishing the entire floor
- Easy to use
- Leads to a slippery floor if buffed too much
- Scuffs can be caused by wax
- Requires regular stripping
- Can shed or rust
- Can lead to slight yellowing in the stones in the event of moisture
- Could darken or discolor grout
- Is a quick fix only
Powders and Compounds
- Never requires stripping
- Only needs to be done periodically
- Can be applied with a standard machine
- Will typically remove medium to fine scratches
- Generates a fairly durable finish
- Gives a natural look
- A messy and complicated process
- Requires several types of equipment
- Can lead to blistering or etching of the limestone and marble depending on the skill of the individual using it
- Typically leads to good slip resistance
- Usually the lowest cost method
- Many maintenance personnel are already familiar with this method
- Doesn't lead to a natural look
- Requires daily burnishing or buffing
- Dulls very rapidly
- Scuffs easily
- The majority of coatings do not stick to the polished stone well
- Can be expensive in order to get the best shine
- Locks the stone's pores, which can lead to striping and spalling
Consulting with an natural stone restoration professional who has a great deal of experience in this types of project is recommended before you polish your stone floor. At Marble Doctors our mission is to serve, give us a call today for a free consultation on you natural stone polishing project.