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What You Didn't Know About Hardscape Maintenance: Stone

Stacked stone is one of the various ways to incorporate the beauty of natural stone into your home. Stacked stone veneer comes in either natural stone or a faux stone, so knowing which one you have is important for maintaining it. The main idea with either is still the basic concept of cleaning and sealing.

Stacked Stone Maintenance

The first thing to do before sealing your ledger panels is to give them a good cleaning. Use a soft-bristled brush to get rid of dirt and dust and then scrub your panels with a mixture of warm water and soap or stone cleanser for natural stone.

It's important to avoid cleaning products with bleach or acid because these can damage your stone. After scrubbing with a mild cleanser, rinse off the solution, wipe the stone wall tile with a towel and provide a minimum of two hours dry time before sealing.

Stack Stone Sealant

You can find a number of sealant brands at your local home improvement store or online, but before you make a purchase, check the manufacturer's recommendations to find out which is best for your specific stone type. Typically, you want a penetrating sealant because it won't change the coloring of your stone veneer and it can last up to five years. More specifically, look for a sealant that is a siloxane or silane based sealant and avoid sealants containing acid.

If you'd like your stacked stone to look more vibrant, select a sealer + enhancer combo. Not only does it seal your stone, it also enhances the stone's natural characteristics by making it look wet or slightly darker in tone. Whether you choose a sealant or sealer + enhancer, it's recommended you test the product in an area that isn't noticeable. You can also use a roller to paint on a thin layer of sealant.

When sealing for the first time, it's best to use two to three coats. Be aware that the more porous your ledger stone- such as sandstone- the more coats you'll have to apply. You may need to reapply the sealant every one to two years, but make sure to check your products specifications for more information.

Natural Stone Maintenance

Natural stone is used in many application beyond veneer. It is a material which time has made strong and man has made beautiful. Because of these qualities, you may use marble, granite, limestone and other natural stones for floors, countertops, fireplaces, tables, windows sills and many other applications.

Some often assume stone is "stain proof," however, all stone is porous to some degree. Natural stone should receive the same amount of attention you'd give to fine wood. Coasters should be placed under glasses, particularly those containing alcohol or citrus juices; many common foods and drinks contain acid. Since marble is an alkaline material and acid will eat into or etch the stone, spills of any type should be wiped up immediately. Hot plates should be used under heated dishes and placemats or felt bottoms should be placed under china, ceramics, silver and furniture to prevent scratching of the marble. Keeping a small rug or welcome mat near entries will help capture dirt from normal foot traffic which is abrasive on marble surface. Generally this type of attention will save a great deal of time spent on other cures; with normal preventative maintenance, stains and scratches should be minimal.

Protecting Your Natural Stone

Sealers are effective, but not infallible. Sealers are designed to prevent as many staining agents as possible from penetrating the pores of the stone. If the stain does not remain at or near the surface of the stone, it will be much more difficult to remove. Remember, once sealers are applied, they will usually need to be maintained. Depending on the sealer, some will need to be stripped or re-applied more regularly than others. Sealer, similar to cleaners, should be pH balanced or neutral. Some sealers may be approved for ceramic or wood, but this doesn't mean they are safe for natural stone. If the sealer is acidic, it may be damaging to the stone's surface. Chemicals high in acid will break down the mineral calcium carbonate, which is the building block of marble. Sealers are offered with a water or solvent base; the base acts as a carrier for the chemicals that actually seal the stone such as urethane, silicone or acrylic. Water based sealers are a lot more user friendly and typically easier to use than solvent based sealers. Solvent based sealers usually last longer, but most need to be applied by a qualified contractor; consult a professional for the appropriate sealer specific to your needs.

Water-Based Sealers

Most water-based sealers can be used by the homeowner or end-user, such as maintenance crews. Water-based sealers typically remain at or near the surface of the stone. Water-based sealers are generally easier to remove and most effective when used as a regular maintenance tool to protect your natural stone. Water-based sealers may provide stain protection from three months to three years. Factors such as heavy foot traffic and lack of regular cleaning can reduce the time between necessary applications. Sealers with a water base are usually more environmentally friendly compared to solvent-based sealers.

Solvent-Based Sealers

Solvent-based sealers allow the sealing agents to deeply penetrate the stone's pores and typically protect the stone's surface longer and don't need to be reapplied as often as water-based sealers. Like water-based sealers, many solvent-based sealers also contain urethane or acrylic as the sealing agent and help to carry the agents beneath the surface of the stone. Solvent-based sealers are usually more difficult to strip and remove than water-based sealers because the sealing agents bond to pores well below the stone's surface. Avoid using solvent-based sealers where food is present or unable to leave the area while the solvent base is drying.

Regular Cleaning

The way to keep your new or old stone looking lovely is to keep it clean. Remember the old saying "an ounce of prevention equals a pound of cure." If natural stone is given the proper care, the stone should sustain its beauty and durability. Unless regular cleaning is done, ordinary dust particles in the air can settle on your marble and can be ground into the surface by normal foot traffic. These specs of dust will slowly remove the natural polish on the stone's surface. With the use of a non-oil dust mop on a regular basis, you should be able to prolong the finish of your stone.

Natural stone should be washed regularly with fresh warm water and a clean, non-abrasive cloth. Adding a neutral (pH balanced) cleaner will help to remove surface dirt and grime. Avoid detergents that can be abrasive and contain chemicals high in acid or alkaline. These chemicals can etch or remove the natural polish on the stone's surface. Some stone cleaners contain a petroleum or animal fat base which may alter the appearance of your stone. These ingredients can darken natural stone and leave a residue, which over time can build up and turn yellow. The build up can be difficult to remove so it is best to use a cleaner that is free of these ingredients.

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