What to Expect During a Natural Stone Restoration

by | Dec 6, 2018 | Living With Stone

Photo by International Stoneworks, Inc.

Normal wear and tear and damaging chemicals can affect the finishes of your natural stone surfaces. Fortunately, natural stone is a durable material that can be brought back to life with professional stone restoration. Knowing when it’s time to restore will depend on two factors, says Jacqueline Tabbah, vice president of International Stoneworks in Houston, Texas.

“First is what type of stone you have,” she says. “Certain stones, like marble, travertine, or limestone, are acid sensitive. It’s very hard in a kitchen or bar to avoid any spilling of things that can etch the stone, and these stones will usually need to be restored more often.”

The second factor is how the stone has been maintained. Using neutral cleaners will keep your stone looking good longer, but harsher chemicals can quickly damage the finish of certain stones, says Tabbah.

“If someone were to clean a marble surface with vinegar, it would need to be restored the next day,” she says.

The Process

Polishing white marble. Photo courtesy of International Stoneworks, Inc.

If your stone looks soiled or worn, a reputable stone restoration company will send an estimator to your home to diagnose your project and determine whether it needs light maintenance, maintenance, restoration, or repair, says James Paley, president of ATLAS Marble and Stone Care in Santa Ana, California.

“They will ask you who installed the stone, what cleaners you use and what bothers you most about the stone,” he says. “Polished surfaces need to be restored more often than honed because you don’t notice etches and scratches as much with honed surfaces.”

Grout joints are the biggest storyteller, adds Paley. “They can be stained or dirty from improper care, but they can also be cracked and degraded, which presents problems beyond maintenance,” he says. “A good estimator will determine if the surface needs cleaning and sealing, repolishing, rehoning, or repair.”

The restoration process is similar to wet sanding and involves the application of a cream or powder abrasive, says Tabbah. If the stone has extensive damage, the restorer will use a floor or hand machine with an industrial diamond disc. The process exfoliates the surface of the stone. Then, depending on the finish, the stone will be repolished or rehoned.

Restoration could take multiple days to complete, says Scott Calabritto, national technical director for SOLID Surface Care in Charlotte, North Carolina.

Photo by International Stoneworks, Inc.

“It’s an intricate process that takes between three and seven steps,” he says. “The timeframe is often longer than most people expect.”

“Restoration isn’t simply squirting a topical wax on surface,” adds Tabbah. “The extent of the process depends on the condition, size and how much TLC is needed.”

Communication with your restorer throughout the process is key. In case of kitchen or bathroom countertop, for example, determine who will remove the fixtures of the sink, says Calabritto. “Otherwise the restorer can get as close as they can, but you can have halo effect around faucet and dispensers,” he says.

When it comes to floors, discuss who will move the furniture. “A lot of contractors will not move furniture because it’s a different liability class for their insurance,” says Calabritto.

After Restoration

Photo courtesy of International Stoneworks, Inc.

Once the process is complete, the restorer will typically seal the stone. How quickly you can use it will depend on the surface.

“It can be dry to touch but the sealer might need to cure and will not be effective for a certain amount of hours,” says Tabbah. “You should allow a shower to cure overnight. For kitchen countertops, feel free to set something down, but don’t do a big fried chicken dinner that night.”

The contractor should also provide care instructions and general housekeeping tips, says Calabritto. “You will want to keep the surface clean with a good stone soap,” he says. “Dusting the surface to remove grit and residue is advised.”

“A lot of homeowners wonder why sealing doesn’t provide protection,” Tabbah says. “The sealers that restorers use are penetrating sealers, not a coating or wax. They soak into the pores of the stone and help repel grease or oil, but they don’t stop acid or other chemicals from etching or slightly burning the surface.”

Sealed granite countertops and island. Photo by International Stoneworks, Inc.

Restoring your stone can bring it back to the look and luster it had when it was originally installed. Part of the beauty of natural stone is that the process can be repeated without worry so you can enjoy your investment for a lifetime.

“Proper restoration doesn’t compromise the integrity of the stone,” says Tabbah. “You could do it on an annual basis and be fine.”

It is important to note that misdiagnosed and incorrectly applied restoration techniques can cause more harm than good. Make sure to use an established restoration contractor with a proven list of satisfied clients.

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