Choosing floor tiles and want a natural stone? Stone floor tiles will work in most rooms of the house, especially the hallway, kitchen and bathroom. From the palest marble and limestone to the darkest slate and granite, the design possibilities of stone flooring are vast. But which natural stone floor tiles to choose? Read our expert guide to find the best for your home.
Large-format sizes are currently the most popular for a smooth, seamless look and to create uniformity in an open plan space. For a rustic traditional look, smaller tumbled or aged tiles and flagstones are perfect.
How much do real stone floor tiles cost?
Prices vary enormously and will depend on the grade and quality of the stone. Most stone is newly quarried but reclaimed slabs are available, which, although considered more environmentally friendly, are usually more expensive. Expect to pay upwards of £30 per m² from a high-street or national retailer and up to and over £500 per m² for high-grade or rarer stones.
Which real stone floor tiles to choose?
Stone floors are widely considered to add value to a property, but choose wisely as, once laid; you won’t want to change them for years. They can also be very difficult and expensive to remove. Here are the natural stones you can choose from:
Easily split into various thicknesses and available with a textured finish, slate works well in wet areas.
Slate sits at the cheaper end of the spectrum, costing as little as £10 per m² from a high street or online supplier, up to £50 per m² for interesting colours and textures from specialist suppliers.
Available in a wide spectrum of colours, often with mineral specks or subtle veining granite is a flexible choice that can be adapted to most house styles. It comes in different finishes, but it is the polished form that fully reveals the colours and patterns. Colours range from blue and purple shades through to grey and olive green, and they often include rusty red markings.
Granite floor tiles typically cost from £30 per m² for basic and uniform, black small format tiles. Expect to pay, on average, between £50-£70 per m² for larger format tiles, that have a more interesting and colourful finish. The limitless variations of granite flooring colours and textures means that it is hard to put a price on some of the rare examples available. It is very possible to spend in excess of £150 per m² to find the perfect patterning for your floor.
Starting its life as limestone, under certain conditions its components crystallise to form the veins typical of marble. In its purest form, it can be found in a wide range of other shades, from various greys through to green and black.
Marble floors come in at a similar price to granite, with an equal number of variations in colour and texture on the market. Expect to pay from £50 per m² for the most basic tile, to as much as £150 or £200 per m² for decorative tiles or tiles with specialist colour-ways and finishes.
Occurring in many tones, from nearly white to the more common warm honey, as well as rarer greys and dark browns Limestone is often a rustic. Textures range from even-grained stones through to smoother types with fossils and coarser, open-textured varieties. Some can be polished to resemble marble.
There is a lot of variation in the price of limestone tiles. The cheapest you will come across are around £30 per m² for a basic option, the average price is between £50 – £80 per m², but much like granite and marble, you can end up spending up to £200 per m².
Travertine has a porous surface with small holes that give it a sponge-like appearance; higher grade, premium travertine has fewer pits with a more vibrant colour. It can be sourced ready-filled from some suppliers; otherwise it will need to be filled in situ.
The cheapest travertine options are very affordable, starting from around £15 to £30 per m² and giving a similar effect to limestone. The most you will look at spending on travertine tiles is around £70 per m².
Which natural stone finish for your tiles?
The finish you choose will affect the overall look of your tiles and, as a result, your room. This glossary tells you what's what in floor tile finishes.
- Honed – a smooth, matt surface for a natural look.
- Tumbled – an aged or distressed finish created by the tumbling process, which uses a machine with water and stones to give softer edges.
- Riven – stone, usually slate, is split to expose the natural texture for a rustic look.
- Brushed – a finish that is created by stiff bristles for a slightly rough appearance.
- Hammered – the surface has been finished with a pocked effect.
- Pillowed – a description used for stone that has soft, rounded edges.
- Polished – smoothed for a glossy finish.
- Flamed – a textured, non-reflective surface produced by a flame; sometimes referred to as a thermal finish.
What are the downsides to stone floors?
Stone tiles can be cold and hard underfoot, and this needs to be considered when deciding where to lay it. In a south-facing room, stone will adopt the ambient temperature and warm with the sun, but if you have a north-facing room that has the potential to become cold, a stone floor may not be the ideal choice; however, you can soften a stone floor with a rug.
China and glass will almost certainly break if dropped on a solid stone floor. Some polished surfaces can be slippery in bathrooms, but there are textured tiles with non-slip finishes. The best way to find out if a floor covering is suitable for your space is to ask your supplier; if your selected tile isn’t appropriate, they will be able to suggest a similar option that is.
Are stone floor tiles compatible with underfloor heating?
Solid stone floor tiles are the perfect partner for underfloor heating because of the ease at which it absorbs and emits heat. This can be especially useful in a bathroom or kitchen, and the underfloor heating is most cost effective when it is run at a constant low temperature. Not only will it feel pleasant under bare feet, but it is also an effective way of reducing the risk of damp because of the constant ambient temperature in the room.
How to lay stone floor tiles
It is possible to lay stone floor tiles yourself if you have the correct tools. If you have the time, patience and don’t mind making one or two mistakes, then you could save yourself the cost of installation. For the sake of a weekend’s work, you could use the +£1,000 of installation costs elsewhere.
Many suppliers recommend professional fitting for natural stone, as getting a perfect finish requires skill and experience. An uneven subfloor, for example, can lead to cracking, and your fitter will know the correct adhesives, grout and sealants to use.
If you have invested in expensive flooring, or have a finite number of reclaimed floor tiles, it is advisable to have a professional fit the flooring for you. There are also other considerations, such as whether your joists will take the weight of large tiles or thick flagstones – timber floors may need strengthening. If you do decide to lay it yourself, do your homework first or at least have a professional assess the job for you.
Where to find a reputable tiler
Ask your supplier if they offer a fitting service or if they can recommend a local tradesperson. Otherwise, the websites checkatrade.com, ratedpeople.com and trustmark.org.uk are good places to start.
How to maintain natural stone floor tiles
Your stone floor tiles will need to be sealed to prevent damage and staining, and will require sealing at regular intervals afterwards. Your supplier or installer will be able to recommend the most appropriate products to use and should provide you with advice on looking after your chosen material. Once you have the correct product, cleaning stone floor tiles is a simple job.
Using cleaning products that aren’t recommended can leave behind a film, which can attract dirt and may need chemical removal at a later date. Regular sweeping will keep loose dirt away and, if needed, stone can be professionally cleaned and restored.