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Clearing Up Ambiguous Materials

It can be a challenge trying to keep up with the various materials available for projects. There are man made materials and natural stone materials. Within those main categories are subcategories that differ in specific aspects. There are differences between materials within a category or subcategory. There are also similarities between materials from different categories. In this article we will explore some of the various materials and briefly consider why they are considered to be of a certain classification. As we do, keep in mind that these are not the official classifications. These are simply classes and categories that we are using to help clarify what each material is.

Natural Stone Materials

You don't have to look too far to see that there are many materials that come from the earth. Materials cut right out of mountains and sliced like giant loaves of bread. These materials do not need to be manufactured or created through processes. Rather they are simply cut from a mountain and then "worked" a bit to prepare them for use in a project. For the purpose of our discussion here, we are calling these natural stone materials.

Characteristics of Natural Stone Materials

Although there are several types of natural stone, they share some common attributes. And without getting into too much detail about any of them, we will talk briefly about some of them.

The first characteristic that you will find across the entire spectrum of natural stone is that it is porous. Natural stone has pores that give it certain 'abilities'. For example, a porous material absorbs water and other liquids. The degree of porosity varies from stone to stone, but all natural stone has pores.

Another attribute that is a mark of natural stone is its composition. Natural stone is composed entirely of natural materials. When you think about it, that makes sense because it forms through natural processes without any assistance from humans. They only work the material after it is formed. The formation of what we are referring to as "natural stone" occurs without any help from engineers, chemists, or other very skilled and talented individuals.

Natural Stone Examples

Because there are so many different types of natural stone, it would very difficult for us to produce a complete list of them here. However, we have a list of several natural stone surfaces. The list is as follows:

As you can see from the list above, there are a number of materials that fall into the "natural stone" category. And as we mentioned previously, there are similarities and differences from one stone to the next. But each one is a natural material and is porous and composed of minerals found in nature.

Man Made Materials

As you may have concluded, what we refer to as "man made" materials are formed in a way other than that of the "natural materials" previously mentioned. These materials are brought about through the efforts of very skilled, talented and intelligent humans that have created processes through which materials are produced. What are the characteristics of these kinds of materials?

Characteristics of Man Made Materials

As we mentioned earlier, natural stone material has some attributes that make it what it is. Porosity is one of those attributes. But man made materials do not, for the most part, have these properties. In fact, nearly all of the man made materials we will mention here are non-porous. This trait of man made material means that it will not absorb moisture like natural stone. Water and other liquids that come into contact with man made materials simply stays on the surface until it evaporates, is cleaned up, or chemically bonds the material.

Another trait that is found in man made materials is that they are made to be relatively hard. Natural stone occurs with varying hardness depending on its type. On the other hand, man made material is specifically fashioned to be hard so it will hold up under normal wear and tear and then some.

Examples of Man Made Materials

There are not as many variations of material from the man made group as there are from the natural stone class, but there is a nice selection from which to choose. The following list includes some of the man made materials that are popular for use as hard surfaces.

  • Quartz
  • Solid Surface
  • Porcelain
  • Sintered Stone

Like the list from the natural stone materials, the man made materials vary from one another. So, the natural question that comes up then is which is better, natural or man made materials?

Which Materials Are Better?

In discussing natural stone materials and man made materials, it is only natural to wonder which is better? The answer to that though is not s simple as it may seem. Why? Because preferences vary from one person to the next. That's why there are so many materials from which to choose. Let's look at some things that affect which kinds of materials individuals chose and why they make those choices.

The Amount of Traffic Affects Choice

Not all applications will be used in an environment consisting of the same amount of traffic. For example, the floor of a formal dining room may see less traffic than the main kitchen. The amount of traffic a floor receives will most likely play a role in what material the end user chooses. For high traffic areas, it might be better to have a material that is harder and scratch resistant.

How the Surface Is Used, Location, and Evironmental Factors Are Important

When deciding on a material to use, it is good to think about how the surface will be used. For example, a kitchen countertop will most likely be used for preparing meals. Additionally, kitchens are usually the central location for activity. Thus, choosing a material that is durable and one that will withstand the wear and tear is important to selecting a satisfactory surface.

Another example would be deciding on a material to use for a pool deck surface. The durability may be important, but perhaps a more important factor would be how slippery the surface may become if there is a lot of water on the surface.

Those are just a couple of examples that highlight how the choice of material is affected by other factors like usage, location, and environment. But this serves to illustrate the fact that there is no one material, or material type for that matter, that could be considered better than the others for evey given scenario.

In conclusion, there are several choices of materials from which to choose. Having such a large number of materials that can be chosen in multiple classifications then is important to think about. The fact that there are many kinds of material with descriptions and names that can add ambiguity to the understanding of natural and man made materials. Hopefully we have not only simplified for you the understanding of the differences, but also have clarified why there is no one specific solution that fits every situation.