The type of finish you select for your floor is mostly about safety and durability, because the floor is the one surface in your home that will take more abuse than any other. The way a piece of tile or stone is finished not only affects the way it looks, but also how it will perform.
A honed surface is machine-smoothed, stopping short of the polishing process. It will show fewer scratches than a polished surface and also allows for some wetness to be introduced to an area without worrying about slippage. Well, consider the diamond, the ultimate polished stone. Polishing natural stone tile, while not as complicated as the diamond polishing process, has the same sort of result: that the natural stone crystals are polished to a beautiful glossy sheen, often so well that they are mirrorlike.
Here are three more finishes to consider. A flamed surface is more textured and varied, created by “flaming” the top surface (yes, with fire), then rapidly cooling it. When the hot and cold are introduced one after the other, the surface of the stone will chip and raise, but not so that it is terribly rough.
A flamed surface is good for areas where slip resistance is a concern, such as in bathrooms. Know that the color of the stone can change through flaming, much in the same way that many semi-precious and precious gemstones are heated to bring out their beautiful colorations.
A split faced stone tile is a roughly textured, but not as abrasive as flamed. Achieved by hand cutting and chiseling at the quarry, this technique exposes the natural cleft of the stone.
Finally, tumbled. Typically seen in marble and limestone, these machine-tumbled tiles exhibit a smooth or slightly pitted surface, and broken, rounded edges and corners.
As for surface decoration, tile can be:
* unglazed, which means that the range of color is limited by the actual color of the material is has been created from. This could be a light sandy tone to a red brick. Don”t think for a minute that this isn’t a handsome looking piece of tile, however. The natural beauty can be quite appealing in the proper installation.
* plain glazeed, which is a thin clear glaze applied to enhance the natural tone and also provide a bit of protection for the surface.
* Encaustic or inlaid decoration is a method in which a tile has been stamped with a decoration, and then that decoration is filled in with white clay before it is glazed or fired. The two sections fuse together when they are fired.
* Hand-painted is a truly artistic effort, in which the surface of the tile is freely decorated in whatever colors and patterns the artist desires. Of course, these tiles will be quite expensive due to the amount of handwork and time employed. The piece is fired and the color becomes part of the tile.
* A carved tile is a relief carved into or a pattern pressed into the tile through the use of a wood block or other implement. This piece is usually painted as well to show contrast.