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Limestone vs Porcelain

Choosing hard surface material for flooring is filled with options. There are natural stone options and options that include man made materials. In this article we will explore limestone vs porcelain as it is used for hard surfaces. Each of these materials has benefits as well as drawbacks. As we compare these materials we will mention those advantages and disadvantages. We will also look at what to keep in mond when fabricating and installing these surafce types. Finally we will take brief look at what goes into caring for each of these.

What is Limestone

In simple terms, limestone is a natural rock made up of a certain mineral called calcite. Yet the official explanation of what this material is can be seen in the definition provided on wikipedia.org. On that the following description is given:

Limestone is a common type of carbonate sedimentary rock. It is composed mostly of the minerals calcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate (CaCO 3). Limestone forms when these minerals precipitate out of water containing dissolved calcium. This can take place through both biological and nonbiological processes, though biological processes have likely been more important for the last 540 million years.

As that detailed description shows, there is quite a bit of detail in the formation of limestone. Its make up contributes to some of its most prominent properties.

Hardness of Limestone

Limestone has a number of properties on which to expound. However, we will focus on one of the main ones here. That property is its hardness. This property of natural limestone is what determines its durability. Limestone is made up of calcium carbonate. This material is a relatively soft substance as far as minerals go. Calcite comes in at around 3 on the Mohs scale of mineral hardness.

A hardness of 3 means that limestone is somewhat easy to scratch compared with other surface materials. Keep in mind, this relatively soft. After all, limestone is rock and rock is not exactly "soft". But compared with other materials, limestone is considered a soft natural stone.

What is Porcelain?

Porcelain is a man made material that is produced through a process known as sintering. There are many types of materials that form by means of this process; ceramic porcelain is one of those materials. Sintering describes the process by which a material is produced using heat, pressure, and/or others that transforms one material into another. Note how the same website mentioned above, wikipedia.org describes sintering:

Sintering or frittage is the process of compacting and forming a solid mass of material by heat or pressure without melting it to the point of liquefaction.

Sintering is a manufacturing process used with metals, ceramics, plastics, and other materials. The atoms in the materials diffuse across the boundaries of the particles, fusing the particles together and creating one solid piece.

Porcelain's Hardness

In constrast with limestone. Porcelain is very hard. This material registers at around 7 on the Mohs scale. Porcelain is very hard and is scratch resistant. And even though porcelain is a man made material that is technically not a rock, it is very hard nonetheless. In fact, porcelain is harder than limestone.

Comparing Limestone & Porcelain

Both limestone and porcelain are materials used for flooring. These materials are formed or cut into tiles and then used as floor covering materials. That is a commonality these materials share. However, they are actually different materials and thus, they differ in some ways. Let's look at one big one now.

Limestone and porcelain differ in porosity. Limestone is a naturally porous material and porcelain is non-porous. The porosity of a material (or lack thereof) affects its absorbancy. That means that porcelain does not soak up liquids but limestone does. So, when you look at the care and maintenance instructions for limestone, it will include directions for periodic sealing to slow the absorbancy rate. On the other hand, porcelain will not soak up liquids that spill on the surface. At first, the lack of porosity might sound like an advantage. Yet, think about cases where you don't want liquid, like water, standing on a walking surface. For example, a pool deck has the potential for a lot of water. In that scenario, an absorbent, rough surface is desirable. So, deciding whetehr a property or feature of a material is an advantage or a disadvantage really depends on how and where it will be used.

Working With Limestone and Porcelain

Another aspect of comparing limestone with porcelain is in how they are worked. As we mentioned earlier, porcelain is a very hard material and limestone is a relatively soft one. This means cutting these materials during preparation and/or installation would not be the same. For example, porcelain's hardness means it can be brittle if the wrong blade is used to cut it. That's why porcelain blades are recommended for cutting it. On the other hand, limestone is soft and has a tendency to gum up or clog up the area between the blade and stone if the appropriate blade is not used. As a result, there are blades for calcareous stone sold and marketed as marble blades. These blades are designed so that they don't interfere with smooth cutting of softer stone materials like limestone.

Care and Maintenance Comparison

Perhaps one of the most popular questions when considering limestone vs porcelain is the care and maintenance of each of these materials. After all, caring for a surface and maintaining it goes a long way toward getting the most out of the material. Limestone and porcelain are similar in how they are cared for and maintained. For example limestone and porcelain both have the need for regular cleaning and in some cases, stain removal. What each is cleaned with on a daily basis and what is used to remove the stains differs. Yet, the routine is the same. Let's see how cleaning and stain removal differs.

Daily cleaning can be performed with a number of permitted cleaners in the case of porcelain. In the case of limestone though, the proper cleaner must be selected becasue of the fact that limestone is calcareous and if the wrong cleaner is used it can hurt the material. It is recommended that an appropriate limestone safe natural stone cleaner be used for cleaning limestone. The same cleaner may be use for porcelain surfaces. In fact, other cleaners may be used as well. Depending on what you need to remove, you may choose an alternative cleaner type.

One notable difference between caring for limestone and and caring for porcelain is one that we alluded to earlier. That is, limestone is porous and porcelain is not. This means that limestone needs to be sealed periodically to reduce the absorbency of the surface. Porcelain needs no sealing because there are no pores to absorb liquids. Sealing limestone is just a matter of applying any one of several sealers for natural stone and repeating until it no longer absorbs the sealer. Of course, this is a simplified description of how to apply sealer to a limestone surface. You will want to follow the steps on the container of the selaer you choose to use.

As we have seen in this article, limestone and porcelain are two very different materials. Each has its strong points and each has characteristics that should be kept in mind depending on where it will be used. Knowing how the properties of each of these materials affects its uses and how it is cared for contributes to the success of its use. In this way the proper material can be selected depending on what it will be used for.

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