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“People expect stone to be as hard as rock”, says Andrew Parkinson, managing director of SCE Stone & Design Limited. But some of the most popular exotic materials, such as marble or travertine are barely harder than your fingernails. We talk to Parkinson about the importance of spending enough time in the planning stages of a project familiarising yourself with natural and man-made stone options, getting the right advice, and understanding how your desired/selected options will perform in the specific circumstances over time.

“People expect stone to be as hard as rock”, says Andrew Parkinson, managing director of SCE Stone & Design Limited. But some of the most popular exotic materials, such as marble or travertine are barely harder than your fingernails. We talk to Parkinson about the importance of spending enough time in the planning stages of a project familiarising yourself with natural and man-made stone options, getting the right advice, and understanding how your desired/selected options will perform in the specific circumstances over time.

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Man-made versus natural stone
You’ll want to find out as much about the stone you are buying in advance as possible. If a seller gives you “a very simple answer or an answer which is flippant, question it,” advises Parkinson. It’s also important when selecting from a small sample to understand that it’s not a guarantee of what you’ll get. Natural stone has “veins running through it different ways, or it might have a fissure here, or a mark there, or a blemish here.” It doesn’t matter so much the geographical source rather understanding the physical characteristics in relation to what you are wanting to achieve.

Man-made versus natural stone
You’ll want to find out as much about the stone you are buying in advance as possible. If a seller gives you “a very simple answer or an answer which is flippant, question it,” advises Parkinson. It’s also important when selecting from a small sample to understand that it’s not a guarantee of what you’ll get. Natural stone has “veins running through it different ways, or it might have a fissure here, or a mark there, or a blemish here.” It doesn’t matter so much the geographical source rather understanding the physical characteristics in relation to what you are wanting to achieve.

Although man-made materials, with the advent of modern inkjet technologies, replicate natural stone very well, it’s usually just on the surface, explains Parkinson. Real stone is ideal for detailing on the edges of benchtops and architraves. You might consider a man-made material for economic reasons; however, some granites, says Parkinson, “are very cheap to bring out of the ground” and require less processing. But if you want a thinner product, this is easier to achieve with man-made materials, due to the homogeneous nature, rather than the heterogeneous nature of natural stone.

Although man-made materials, with the advent of modern inkjet technologies, replicate natural stone very well, it’s usually just on the surface, explains Parkinson. Real stone is ideal for detailing on the edges of benchtops and architraves. You might consider a man-made material for economic reasons; however, some granites, says Parkinson, “are very cheap to bring out of the ground” and require less processing. But if you want a thinner product, this is easier to achieve with man-made materials, due to the homogeneous nature, rather than the heterogeneous nature of natural stone.

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The importance of planning
Nature isn’t always providing what you want at the time you desire or require. Therefore, depending on your project, allowing sufficient time for the selection process is wise. Sourcing the stone can require quite a lot of travelling and waiting – the majority of stones marketed in New Zealand are imported. For this reason, advanced planning is crucial. If you have specific requirements of the final look you want to achieve, Parkinson believes that six months would be a reasonable amount of time to allow for sourcing real stone. “In instances if somebody is looking for a very specific look of material, you may have to wait longer for it to come available and also beat all the other buyers around from the world. But if you’re looking at a man-made material, which is a copy, you can probably get this imported into New Zealand in a couple of months.”

How to make stone last
Natural stone has been used forever as a building product – more so in current time as a veneer with aesthetic significance. It’s important to choose material that is fit for purpose for you and being fully aware of what to expect with use in the future. “For example, the thing with calcium based products is they don’t like acid and they also will absorb oils and fats – but they will not blunt knives and are generally considered aesthetically more beautiful than the harder wearing granites” – something worth noting when selecting materials for the kitchen. “Generally a lot of the most exotic materials in that line can be quite fractious. They’re not strong. So they need to be processed correctly so that they do have some strength.” However, historically in Italy carrara marble has been considered one of the best work surfaces around, which can be seen in some of the older butcher shops in New Zealand.

Of course, there are still steps you can take to protect your stone and repair it when maintenance is needed. SCE Stone & Design Limited work with a company that provides maintenance and restoration services, including cleaning outside areas and resealing them to repel stains for a period of time. “You could liken it to putting Scotchgard on your couch,” says Parkinson. This way, when you have found the stone materials that you truly love and are fit for purpose, you can be sure they will last for years.

SCE Stone & Design Limited offer a full turnkey service; they will manage the sourcing, fabrication and installation and they have an in-house interior designer who can also provide design consultation.
 

The importance of planning
Nature isn’t always providing what you want at the time you desire or require. Therefore, depending on your project, allowing sufficient time for the selection process is wise. Sourcing the stone can require quite a lot of travelling and waiting – the majority of stones marketed in New Zealand are imported. For this reason, advanced planning is crucial. If you have specific requirements of the final look you want to achieve, Parkinson believes that six months would be a reasonable amount of time to allow for sourcing real stone. “In instances if somebody is looking for a very specific look of material, you may have to wait longer for it to come available and also beat all the other buyers around from the world. But if you’re looking at a man-made material, which is a copy, you can probably get this imported into New Zealand in a couple of months.”

How to make stone last
Natural stone has been used forever as a building product – more so in current time as a veneer with aesthetic significance. It’s important to choose material that is fit for purpose for you and being fully aware of what to expect with use in the future. “For example, the thing with calcium based products is they don’t like acid and they also will absorb oils and fats – but they will not blunt knives and are generally considered aesthetically more beautiful than the harder wearing granites” – something worth noting when selecting materials for the kitchen. “Generally a lot of the most exotic materials in that line can be quite fractious. They’re not strong. So they need to be processed correctly so that they do have some strength.” However, historically in Italy carrara marble has been considered one of the best work surfaces around, which can be seen in some of the older butcher shops in New Zealand.

Of course, there are still steps you can take to protect your stone and repair it when maintenance is needed. SCE Stone & Design Limited work with a company that provides maintenance and restoration services, including cleaning outside areas and resealing them to repel stains for a period of time. “You could liken it to putting Scotchgard on your couch,” says Parkinson. This way, when you have found the stone materials that you truly love and are fit for purpose, you can be sure they will last for years.

SCE Stone & Design Limited offer a full turnkey service; they will manage the sourcing, fabrication and installation and they have an in-house interior designer who can also provide design consultation.
 

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