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INTRODUCTION: MAKING STONE AND PORCELAIN A FEATURE OF YOUR PROJECT

This brief guide contains all the essential information you’ll need when considering natural stone or porcelain elements within a project. As an architect or design professional, you may already be aware of some of the facts included in this guide; others may come as a surprise.

OPTIMISE THE BENEFITS OF YOUR CHOICES AND AVOID EXPENSIVE MISTAKES

Stone and porcelain are luxurious and durable surface materials that offer a broad range of benefits - but using them effectively requires knowledge, care and attention. There are facts related to the use, installation and maintenance of stone and porcelain which it is vital to be aware of. Ensuring you have all the information you need can help you avoid unexpected costs or delays during the design and implementation phases of a project.

We want to help you bring your vision to life. This guide is designed to deepen your knowledge and understanding of natural stone and porcelain - enabling you to specify these beautiful materials with complete confidence and ensure the best possible outcome for your project.

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THE BENEFITS: WHY SPECIFY STONE & PORCELAIN?

NATURAL STONE

Any description of stone inevitably contains references to its durability and to its natural beauty. Stone allows you to bring nature’s patterns to your design project and deliver a timeless effect that lasts.

From classic veined white marble for that cool and elegant look, to dark granite and slate for an earthy and no-nonsense appeal, stone creates drama and leaves the impression of luxury, no matter which type you select. The fact that every tile is different to the next gives stone a unique quality amongst surface covering materials.

PORCELAIN

Porcelain tile manufacturing has increased exponentially over the past 20 years. Porcelain is manufactured under extreme heat and intense pressure, creating a material that is harder wearing than stone and far less porous.

Now, advances in technology have led to the production of porcelain that offers such a close match for natural stone that initially you could be fooled into thinking it actually is stone.

For some applications, porcelain will be a more appropriate choice than stone. It will usually also come at a lower cost.

SUMMARY OF BENEFITS

Stone and porcelain are both extremely versatile materials, suitable for use in wide array of areas and settings beyond floor and wall tiling. It’s possible to create unique and interesting residential and commercial environments with stone and porcelain furniture, feature walls, shower trays, pool copings and more. These possibilities broaden the scope for potentially stunning spaces and allow a designer’s imagination to roam.

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COMMON MISTAKES: PITFALLS TO AVOID WHEN SPECIFYING STONE AND PORCELAIN

They say if you want something done, ask a busy person. As an architect or designer, you will have worked hard to establish your reputation; you’ve proven your ability and your expertise is in demand. Now there’s a weight of responsibility to know a lot about an extremely broad subject. Understanding the qualities and applications of surface covering materials is just one element of your role.

This section is designed to help you avoid them most common mistakes that even a seasoned professional can make. Refreshing your knowledge will ensure you can bring expertise and attention to detail to your project and impress even the most exacting client.

1. NOT BEING CLEAR ON THE DETAIL

At design stage, one area of vital importance is the detail of external corners. Stone to stone and porcelain to porcelain is often finished using joints such as a butt joint, the more refined look of a mitered, resined and polished corner, or a trim detail to suit the application and required aesthetics.  Such design expectations should always be laid down at the outset and include drawings showing cross sections etc. This ensures that the required standard is set at the beginning of the project.

2. NOT CONSIDERING MATERIAL THICKNESS

The thickness of the material being used impacts every stage of construction; from screeds to door heights and other finishes. For example, to maintain a single FFL (finish floor level) throughout a property, understanding the required build-up for all finishes before the project starts is critical. This will eliminate the need for levelling compound, with associated costs, as well as any ramps or slopes and unsightly thresholds in the finished project. Some porcelains (3000mm x 1500mm) are available in 6mm thickness, which can be used in lieu of 20mm stone. In a new build this means that the substrate would need to be built up in relation to the FFL.

Note: This thickness of product can also be used for over-cladding existing floor and wall tiles.

3. THE SUBSTRATE NOT BEING SPECIFIED CORRECTLY

When a project is complete, what lies beneath the surface materials is invisible - but the choices you make for your substrate often make or break a project. As you will most likely be aware, the Tile Association no longer recommends plywood as a substrate for tiling. Cement and tile backer boards are as cost-effective and easy to use as plywood. They come with the additional benefit that they won’t expand and contract as wood does, meaning the joints of the substrate will not affect the surface integrity if installed properly.

Note: Many designers and contractors add plasterboard to areas that need tiling. However, it’s important to remember that plasterboard is not designed to take the weight of most tiles. The recommended and most cost-effective alternative is a suitable tile backer board such as No More Ply or Dukka Board.

4. NOT CHOOSING THE RIGHT SCREED

When selecting a screed, the key thing to note is drying time. Many screeds are available and for the best results SR1 or SR2 (at the most) should be specified.

Your choice will determine how soon tiling can begin and impact deadlines for project completion. A further element to consider is underfloor heating as cracks can develop if the screed dries too quickly. The temperature of the screed should only be increased by a maximum of 5°C within 24hrs. Temperature can be gradually increased up to slightly above the normal room temperature of 20°C then reduced to 15°C for tiling.

Applying a suitable decoupling membrane such as Idrobuild or Mapetex (Ditra if tanking) will give the necessary separation layer required to make sure, wherever possible, that no cracks come through to the surface.

Note: Anhydrite screeds must be prepared properly before affixing tiles. Primarily, ensuring all laitance is removed before double priming to avoid adhesion failure. Please ask for help - the implications of not following this advice could be costly.

5. FORGETTING TO ALLOW FOR MOVEMENT JOINTS

Careful planning of the location of movement joints is essential prior to screed application. Tiled floor areas should be no larger than 10m x 7m and the final tile layout should be planned before the screed is put in. In this way you can ensure that the tile joint and movement joint align perfectly.

Note: The finished movement joint is filled using pre-manufactured rubber strips inside a metal trim. An alternative option is to use a low modulus silicone to fill a 5-8mm joint, colour matched to the grout.

6. NOT AIMING FOR A PREMIUM FINISH WHEN VALUE ENGINEERING BECOMES NECESSARY

Natural stone can deliver a luxury aesthetic that is hard to match with any other material. However, when value-engineering becomes necessary, a luxury finish is still within reach. This is when the need for clever design comes to the forefront and enables you to cut the investment by incorporating higher priced materials in innovative ways rather than using them for 100% coverage of surfaces.

Note: A contemporary high-end design could be achieved by cladding walls and floors with porcelain but using 20 or 30mm natural stone on visible edges. Specialist mitering of external edges on porcelain is also a superb way to create a solid stone look.

7. NOT GIVING THE TANKING PROCESS YOUR FULL ATTENTION

The perfect finish requires careful preparation, and this is never truer than when it comes to tanking. Inadequate or badly installed tanking can lead to expensive remedial work, which is why many suppliers will recommend using their own professionally trained installers. It’s important to know that certain tanking materials are not compatible. For example, silicone in contact with bitumen will cause failure and certain adhesives in contact with bitumen will react, causing bitumen to leach through stone and grout. As a rule, the stronger the sub-base the more successful the tanking will be - but the final finish will be dependent on several different factors.

In new builds there is inevitable shrinking as the building dries and settles and the tanking must bridge this. For this reason, in all corners and edges of a room, the tanking should be strengthened with a reinforced jointing tape. Deciding which tanking option is best for your project requires careful consideration. Some recommended products are as follows:

Ditra matting (a 1m wide sheet with dovetail holes, on a roll) is used for decoupling and tanking, while Kerdi matting (a 1m wide sheet on a roll) is the recommended tanking material for walls.

Both these products are essentially a plastic layer with material/fabric that grips into the tile adhesive and allows the substrate to move independently. Another popular option is Mapei gum, which is a paint-on product strengthened with hessian tape.

Note: If in doubt, seek help. An experienced supplier will be able to advise you on the best (and most cost-effective) choice for your project.

8. INAPPROPRIATE POSITIONING OF ACCESS PANELS

Gain an advantage for your project by planning access panels into the design of joints. Access panels are available as a ready to tile kit. Planning their position rather than including them as an afterthought means contractors can adjust the mechanical and electrical equipment behind without damaging the tiling and tilers can make progress without holding contractors up.

Note: Care should be taken at the design stage not to include access panels in wet room or shower areas.

9. NOT PREPARING A SHOWER BASE CORRECTLY

Shower areas are where we most expect to see tiles. Modern designs mean that shower areas are now far more than functional, providing a luxurious relaxation area. A walk in shower can add particular design appeal to a room if the material flows without introducing a further shower tray. However, in any shower or wet room, it is imperative to allow plenty of fall (often
more than you might think) for the water to flow briskly to the designated drain outlet. More often than not, too shallow a buildup is provided for the tiling and the water often ends up pooling, or coming out of the shower, when it is expected to go down the drain.

Note: The recommended fall is at least 21mm in 1000mm.

10. FAILING TO PROTECT STONE AND PORCELAIN FLOORS FROM MEWPS

Be sure to give thought to the protection of all screeded and tiled floors against mobile elevated work platforms (MEWPs). Protective measures should ideally be included in your design plan or operation and maintenance (O&M) manual. MEWPs have an extremely high loading point and can unintentionally cause major damage to a new or existing floor. Effective protection can be achieved with felt, which can be purchased in rolls for this purpose, covered with a minimum 18mm plywood.

Note: For heavier items, cross-lay the plywood to double thickness. This will prevent a weak point existing at the edges of the plywood.

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ADDITIONAL CONSIDERATIONS: THREE STEPS WORTH TAKING

Truly robust design with tiles begins with a comprehensive overview of your client’s needs and an understanding of how your chosen substrate lends itself to successful completion of the project. A three-step process can be used to ensure you can deliver on your design promises.

1. GAIN FAMILIARITY WITH WHAT IS AVAILABLE ON THE MARKET

Tile product ranges are changing and expanding all the time. It’s important to stay ahead of developments and read up on the quirks and characteristics of the products that are available. It can also be helpful to visit showrooms or warehouses to handle stone and porcelain tiles and speak with tile experts. Allocating some time to these activities will deliver worthwhile benefits when it comes to laying down a solid design.

2. CONSIDER ALL FACTORS INVOLVED IN LAYING YOUR CHOSEN MATERIAL

Your supplier should be able to support you with a suitable M40 specification for any porcelain or stone product. Specifying the right adhesive and grout for your project type, substrate and environmental conditions is as important as choosing the right tile. The M40 provides you with the opportunity to make sure your specification is absolutely perfect and that your project doesn’t suffer any unnecessary delays or additional costs.

3. UNDERSTAND STONE’S NATURAL CONSTITUTION

If you choose to use stone in your project, you can expect to see colour variations from tile to tile. While a sample provides a better guide than a brochure or website, there is really nothing better than a personal visit to a showroom or warehouse to see and handle full size tiles and slabs. With stone, a sample cannot properly represent a full tile or slab.

Seeing the real thing and chatting to the epxerts will give you a complete understanding of the product and what’s involved in laying it, so that you can be sure you’re giving both clients and contractors an accurate picture of what the tiling project will entail.

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APPLICATIONS: WHEN IS STONE AND PORCELAIN SUITABLE?

There is a saying in our industry that goes something like this: “there is no such thing as a poor quality stone, it’s where you use it”.

However, there are some situations in which stone or porcelain tiles should definitely be considered.

1. WHERE A HARD-WEARING SURFACE IS A REQUIREMENT

Stone and porcelain are some of the hardest wearing products in the construction industry. Of the two, porcelain is particularly durable and low maintenance and may therefore be the right choice for areas likely to endure a high volume of foot traffic and constant cleaning regimes. Stone is naturally porous and requires sealing to maintain its appearance. However, a part of its appeal is that it grows its own patina and is enhanced by age. The use of stone will always add to the grandeur of a project and create the impression of a building designed to withstand the test of time.

2. WHEN INSIDE AND OUTSIDE CONTINUITY IS DESIRED

Stone and porcelain are completely at home in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Designs with seamless continuity between inside and outside areas are increasingly desirable and designers often seek to remove boundaries to increase feelings of light and space. One of the best ways to achieve this is with a combination of stone and porcelain; for example, when a lighter look is required, 2CM porcelain can give a practical advantage outside for a white limestone appearance, with the same look created inside in stone for ultimate luxury.

3. WHEN IT NEEDS TO BE EASY TO CLEAN

Both stone and porcelain are excellent choices when cleaning and maintenance is of paramount importance, although porcelain is often the top scorer when it comes to using any type of cleaning fluid or process. Getting the right advice and the right cleaner is often the answer to caring for a floor properly. Short turnaround times in hotels require regular rather than specialist cleaning teams, so porcelain is probably the ideal choice here as it is resilient to all stains without sealing.

4. WHEN CREATING ATMOSPHERE AND AMBIENCE IS PARAMOUNT

Stone and porcelain are completely at home in both indoor and outdoor spaces. Designs with seamless continuity between inside and outside areas are increasingly desirable and designers often seek to remove boundaries to increase feelings of light and space. One of the best ways to achieve this is with a combination of stone and porcelain; for example, when a lighter look is required, 2CM porcelain can give a practical advantage outside for a white limestone appearance, with the same look created inside in stone for ultimate luxury.

5. WHEN THE PROJECT REQUIRES A NATURAL FEEL

Stone is the ultimate symbol of permanence in nature, but it is also imbued with unique patterns and colouration that can vary with each layer in the same quarry. The result is a statement of solidity mixed with a beauty that comes straight out of nature. Every piece has been years in the making and has a story of its own to tell. When value engineering is a necessity, consider using stone in smaller areas, combined with a porcelain that complements the natural feel.

6. WHEN THE DESIGN REQUIRES CONTINUITY

Stone and porcelain are a foundation material in construction and have the ability to be used in almost any elevation and object. Thanks to developments in modern technology and hand crafting skill, perfect combinations can flow from floor to wall, through furniture and even through objects or across ceilings. It provides the ultimate opportunity for continuity throughout a design.

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ABOUT KINORIGO

We supply natural stone and porcelain products for hotels, luxury residential properties, and high-end commercial developments; for use on walls, flooring and bespoke furniture. We have been sourcing exquisite stone and tile products in this industry for over 30 years and are therefore uniquely placed to offer expert guidance on specifying natural stone and porcelain for a design project.

Our stone and porcelain products are chosen with extreme care, not only for their aesthetics but also with regard to other attributes such as durability and porosity. We take pride in the quality and beauty of all our products, with the ultimate aim of delivering the best for you and your clients.

CALL ON OUR EXPERTISE

We are always on hand to provide professional consultancy and advice. Our long years of industry experience have equipped us with the knowledge of what it takes to see a concept through to successful completion - and we share this resource readily. We’re happy to discuss everything from sustainability to durability and provenance. The team at Kinorigo are incredibly passionate about design and understand what you need to deliver beautiful and unique living and working spaces in stone and porcelain.

We understand that transforming your design into a successful project depends upon attention to detail, which is why we want to help you get the little things right as well as the big things.

We’re here to support you at every step.

Experience – our service draws on 30+ years’ experience within the industry

Design outlook – we speak your language and understand your objectives

Professional installers – minimise the risk of disruption or delay

Large warehouse – ample stock of a wide selection of stone and porcelain

Workshop – come and see how your stone is prepared while you have a coffee!

End to end service – we’re committed to the successful outcome of your project, during and after installation

Imagination – we put innovation and creativity at the heart of everything we do

Accountability – we believe in taking responsibility for product quality and project success

Passion – we take pride in the superior quality of our materials, customer service and aftersales care.

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