The open plan kitchen-cum-living space trend, where stone flooring flows seamlessly from inside to outdoors, is showing no sign of diminishing. A good installation can look simply stunning, joining the home and garden. But what are the practicalities – and how can a successful installation be guaranteed?
Limestone flooring is ideal for indoors and outside, but you’ll need to ensure that the material chosen will withstand the elements. It should be frost-proof, so that it’s not affected by the freeze/thaw action, which could ‘blow’ and damage the surface. Very pale limestones tend to be more susceptible than darker ones; they also tend to be less dense/durable, more prone to glare and, of course, show up dirt more easily. Adhesives and grouts used will also need to be fit for purpose.
Bear in mind that the limestone flooring outside, along with the grout joint, will age at a different rate to the internal stone, so the areas might end up looking quite different over time. This will be far less obvious with a more rustic stone, in a more mellow shade. One of our best sellers, for outdoor/in settings, is Heritage Tumbled, with its lovely mix of cream, grey and caramel tones.
In terms of size and pattern, consider continuity, flow and where you want the eye to be led. Large sized slabs, with square edges, are very popular but you’ll need a very flat subfloor to ensure that a level surface can be achieved, with no trip hazards. Tumbled and aged limestone flooring is a good option if you need to disguise irregularities. Also, thicker formats are best for outdoors; if you are installing onto a compacted hardcore, 30mm is a good option. If you have a concrete base, you may be able to go with something thinner. Drainage will also need to be considered, to ensure that rain flows off the surface and doesn’t pool in certain areas.
The final consideration is finish. Smooth, honed stones aren’t great options for outdoors, as they tend to be too slippery. Brushed, sandblasted or flamed limestone flooring works really well, as it provides non-slip qualities and, from a distance, it will appear exactly the same as a honed design.
Indoors, your limestone flooring will be sealed to protect it against staining – but should the outdoor stone be sealed too? There are two different schools of thought on this one. If you do seal the surface with a traditional solvent protector and it’s not 100% effective, there is a risk of the freeze/thaw action happening. Moisture may, for example, penetrate the grout joint, become trapped and have nowhere to escape. Some argue that it’s best to leave the stone to breathe and withstand the elements, but this does mean that it will be prone to staining. Water-based sealers offer a good solution, as they protect the surface without creating a film. They can also be applied over residual moisture, whereas solvents can only be applied to a completely dry surface; a tall order in our rather unpredictable climate!
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