Natural stone flooring materials are somewhat porous and must be periodically coated with a sealant.
There are two basic types of natural stone sealants to choose from: topical and penetrating. Choosing the best natural stone sealant will largely depend on the type of stone you have and its use. Topical sealants are typically used to polish and protect the surface of porous stones such as limestone and slate. Penetrant sealants generally work best for less porous stones, such as granite and marble. Both types of sealants may contain special additives to change the color or appearance of the stone.
Determining the type of stone you have is the first step in choosing the best natural sealant. Vein patterns in the stone usually indicate some type of marble. Fossil formations are usually found in softer rocks such as limestone. Hard, rough stones with a crystalline appearance are probably granite. Slate stones often have a dusty, crumbly surface.
A natural stone topical sealant is usually made up of acrylic or urethane and helps create a protective barrier against water and oil. Application of this type of sealant usually produces a polished appearance on the stone’s surface. Topical sealants can become quite slippery when the stone is wet and a special non-slip additive may be required for bathroom and kitchen applications. The glossy surface produced by topical sealants can be polished to a high gloss if desired.
Topical sealants also tend to darken the stone’s surface and often alter its natural finish. The protective layer often shows scuff marks and scratches from foot traffic. The finish produced by a topical sealant tends to wear out quickly in high-traffic areas and may need to be repainted frequently. This type of natural stone sealant generally requires more maintenance than penetrating sealants and will likely need to be reapplied every six months.
A penetrating natural stone sealant works under the surface to protect it from oil and water damage. Penetrant sealants generally do not affect the appearance of stones in any way. This type of sealant does not protect the stone surface from scratches and abrasions caused by foot traffic. Penetrant sealants do not wear away at the stone surface like topical sealants and generally require less frequent maintenance. A special cleaner may be needed when this type of sealant is used.
The type of natural stone sealant you choose will largely depend on the finish you want. The glossy finish produced by a topical sealant often provides the best overall protection for soft, porous stones in high-traffic areas. A penetrating sealant usually offers the best type of protection for hard, dense stones such as marble and granite. Both penetrating and topical sealants are available with a special color-enhancing agent to deepen the stone’s natural color.