✔ A low VOC option – One of the strongest positives is that stone, tile, and grout release few, if any, VOCs or other problematic air emissions. If you are concerned with VOCs, stone, and tile is a good choice.
✔ Be aware of radon – All earth-based products (stone, tile, masonry, concrete, gypsum wallboard, etc.) contain traces of radon, a radioactive gas that occurs naturally in soil and rock. It is the EPA’s most recent view that the amount of radon emitted is generally very small and does not present a health risk.
✔ Check the durability of materials – As a rule, stone and tile are more durable than other finished materials. However, the durability of stone and tile varies according to type and depends upon each material’s hardness and resistance to wear by abrasive substances, water, and physical impacts.
✔ Choose local materials – Stone and tile products, because of their weight, require more energy for transportation than other finish materials for floors and walls. It is preferable to buy products that are quarried and manufactured relatively close to the building site.
✔ Be aware of the post-installation environmental aspects – Toxic air emissions (from uncured adhesives, grout, and terrazzo resins) and airborne irritants such as construction dust should be reduced as much as possible or avoided altogether, thereby reducing the potential for absorption into porous building materials (such as cupboard, wood, carpets, and fabrics) that could later be re-released into the enclosed living spaces.
✔ Consider the environmental aspects of different materials – Each material has different characteristics and impacts. Below is a description of some of the most common stone & tile options:
- Ceramic & Porcelain Tile – Ceramic & Porcelain tile is made from clay, which is a natural and readily available (though finite) resource. It is a durable and low maintenance material. Try to find locally manufactured tiles with a high recycled content. It is one of the most inexpensive stone & tiles options.
- Glass Tile – Glass tile is an excellent green material. Although it is more expensive than many other options, it can be made from 100% recycled content and it is very durable.
- Terrazzo – Terrazzo is an aggregate of glass, stone, and binders. It is a very durable material and can be manufactured with a high recycled glass content and is less expensive than glass. Try to find locally manufactured tiles made with high levels of post-consumer materials.
- Granite – Is a highly durable natural resource. It is very popular because of its natural beauty and the fact it is easy to clean. As with all stone products, it is important to find a granite that was locally mined or salvaged material. Granite has been found to release trace amounts of radon.
- Marble – Marble is not as durable as many other stone options, so it may need a sealant. Look for sealants low in VOCs. It is mined across the US, so try to find the source that is closest to your location.
- Flagstone – Flagstone is usually a type of sandstone, limestone, slate, or quartzite, so locally mined sources can often be found. Flagstone is highly durable but can be more expensive than other options such as granite.
- Soapstone – Soapstone is a fairly durable and easy to clean material, but it scratches more easily than many other stone options. Most soapstone available in the US is imported from Brazil, which requires large amounts of transportation energy. If possible, find a domestic producer.
- Sandstone – Sandstone is a porous stone, so it tends to stain easily. If sealants are used, try to find those that are low in VOCs. Sandstone is primarily quarried in the western US, so it may be difficult to find local sources elsewhere.
- Slate – Slate is a durable material but it scratches easily, so it will usually require sealing. If sealants are used, try to find those that are low in VOCs. Slate is quarried in the eastern US, so local varieties are not available in the rest of the country.