Natural Stone consists of any solidified mineral deposits which are relatively abundant in one specific state or another. Depending on the processes it has undergone it can range from clay; soft, malleable and wet, through to obsidian; incredibly hard and completely non-porous.
Once a material thought to be suitable for use is located, quarrying begins and the process of creating stone tiles is started. Large pieces of the material are removed from the landscape, in as workable a shape as is possible, and then sent to be processed.
Depending upon whether the stone's layers are easily cleft or not, the stone is either split (such as slates and some limestones) or, more commonly, cut into sheets of the desired thickness, and then cut again in the other plane, to form the shape and size of the specific format of tile required.
After this, the last part of the process of creating the tile is applying the 'finish'. This can be one of a number of processes, the most common of which are as follows:
Honing - Cutting the face of the tile to form a flat, smooth surface
Brushing - Course, metal brushes smooth the surface but leave any undulations
Tumbling - Rolling a tile, open faced, with small gravel pieces, to chip the surface
Seasoning - Roughing the surface using stones, water and other tools
Antiquing - Ageing the stone so as to make it look worn and weathered
After any number of finishes have been applied, it's then ready for sale. It is packed and shipped to the distributors for general sale in the specific formats in which it should be laid.
Once the customer has purchased the stone tiles they need for their specific project, they are shipped to the customer ready for the fixing process.
Fixing begins by preparing the surface. Preparations for a wall are fairly minimal, but for a floor, this includes stripping of any current flooring back to the base floor, pouring a compound to level the base (or screeding), and any additional preparations that might be required (such as laying an underfloor heating system).
Once this has been done, a layer of adhesive is spread about the surface (either in one go if slow set, or bit by bit if it is rapid set) and the tiles are then placed. It is incredibly important that the process be methodical and follows lines (such as the line of the wall or, in the case of patterned work, a preset squaring), using spacers to ensure consistency. This crucial step will, ultimately, dictate how the tiled surface, and the joints between the tiles, end up looking.
After the adhesive has 'gone off' (that is to say, the adhesive has set), the joints (space between tiles) are then grouted and, assuming all is well and no corrections are required, the final step is to seal the surface. Liquid sealant is applied, spread evenly into the stone. This process is repeated until no more sealant will be absorbed. After this, your beautiful stone tiling is completed and ready for use.