How to Select Natural Stone Tile

Natural stone has been popular for use on floors for centuries and for very good reason. Stone tile brings the colors and texture of nature to our homes and adds a quality and warmth to a room that’s not possible with any other material.

Because natural stone comes out of the earth, there can be wild variations in its color and quality, so be sure to do your homework when shopping for stone tile for your floor. Order enough material to complete the job in one shipment — that will minimize mismatched lots. As is the case with any flooring material, get a case or two extra. If you have to repair a floor later, the stone you want may not be available.

Let’s take a look at the most popular stone tile materials: slate, travertine, granite and marble. Which one would you choose?

Slate is probably the type of stone tile you’ll encounter most often. It’s a metamorphic rock that splits into thin sheets easily. Once it cleaves into sheets like that, it’s easy to turn it into tile.

slate tile floor

  • Pros: Tends to be dark, beautiful color variation, highly resilient
  • Cons: Needs to be installed by someone who knows what he or she’s doing, be sure to figure installation into the final cost


Travertine is a limestone formed from minerals that have been dissolved in groundwater and pushed through the earth’s crust by water. Travertine tile, a multi-layer stone, is available in a variety of earthy colors and offers a timeless choice for walls and floors.

Travertine gets a lot of bad press for being a fragile material, but the Trevi Fountain in Rome is made from travertine, and it’s been there for 300 years. That says a thing or two about travertine’s longevity.

Travertine tile floor versailles pattern bathroom floor

  • Pros: Wildly variable patterns and colors make for a very unique floor, feels soft underfoot
  • Cons: Has a tendency to scratch and stain, as it’s a porous rock


Marble. In ancient times, kings and caesars demanded marble floors, and in these more democratic times, you can too. Even though it’s another stone that’s prone to staining and scratching, marble has character.

It’s harder and more resilient than travertine but it does need some extra attention.

Marble tile floor entry

  • Pros: Beautiful patterns and colors, highly resilient
  • Cons: Absorbs water, and is prone to stains and scratches


Granite. Probably the hardest natural stone out there is granite. Nothing else will hold a shine or repel water the way granite will. However granite’s resilience is double-edged sword. It’s shine and hardness make it an unforgiving surface despite its beauty.

Granite kitchen countertop

  • Granite pros: Beautiful colors, highly resilient, can be used indoors or out
  • Cons: Can seem cold, and it can stain