Natural Stone Selection – Serpentine.
Choosing the right natural stone for your surfacing project; whether it be back-splash, counter-tops, walls or flooring tile, depends upon knowing the attributes of the stone with which you will be working. So, let consider the natural stone called “Serpentine “.
Commercially, any stone capable of taking a polish, with the exception of granite, is known as marble. Well, not exactly. A beautiful green, and sometimes black, natural stone called serpentine is sometimes mistaken for marble. It too can take a high polish.
Serpentine is a gorgeous stone desirable for its distinctive thick, bold veining and precious rarity.
Serpentine is often chosen over marble or granite because it has the warmth and look of marble yet is harder and less porous than many types of granite. It has always been highly priced and popular as a surfacing material because of its texture, appearance and its superior acid resistance when compared to marble. It’s considered a more luxurious stone than granite and is often used in highly visible areas such as flooring, kitchen counter tops, fireplace surrounds, and shower walls. Homeowners are beginning to embrace serpentine as a functional counter-top material.
Use an an epoxy-based mortar for serpentine tile installation.
Serpentine is magnesium-silicate based, as opposed to calcite based stones like marble. As a result of the different mineralogy and chemistry of serpentine, it exhibits greater acid resistance and abrasion resistance than does a true marble. These properties make serpentine a common choice for both kitchen counter-tops and exterior applications.
Serpentine requires special treatment when being installed.
While it’s called marble, serpentine (green marble) is radically different in both makeup and installation methods. Serpentine gets its name because it spalls (splits and flakes) in a pattern that resembles the look of a snake’s scales when the stone comes in contact with water. The tile will want to pull up at the edges, curl, and blister or flake away.
Install serpentine tile using an an epoxy-based mortar.
So, when installing serpentine, the absorption of the water or moisture from a water based thin-set could cause the stone to begin to spall or flake, peel, and pit on its surface, even if it is sealed against moisture after installation. To avoid this, serpentine stone tile should be installed using an epoxy-based mortar, rather than a traditional water based Portland cement mortar. Or, if a Portland cement mortar is used, adding an acrylic polymer in place of water to the thinset is an alternative to using epoxy mortar. Both methods ensure that no moisture from the setting material will cause an installation failure.
Epoxy-based mortars require addition curing time before grouting. Allow time for the mortar to cure and the tiles to bond before grouting. Before grouting, serpentine tile should always be protected with an impregnating sealer to both stop the grout from staining the tile and to prevent moisture from the grout from causing the serpentine to spall.
From the viewpoint that function trumps form, the decision to use a serpentine tile in a kitchen environment is a winner.
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