Learning Center

Find the answers to your home improvement questions.

Travertine Tile Glossary

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Abrasion Resistance

The resistance of a flooring surface to being worn when exposed to repeated contact of an abrasive material or consistent friction of less abrasive materials.

Abrasive Finish

A surface finish that is nonreflective, or flat.

Abrasive Hardness (HA)

A measurement of how a stone wears when subjected to abrasion, typically by high foot traffic.

Absorbed Moisture

Moisture that has been absorbed by a solid material that retains the physical properties almost identical to those of ordinary water that has been exposed to the same pressure and temperatures.

Absorption

The relationship of the weight of the water to the subject which is then expressed in percent.

Accelerator

A substance that is added to mortar, grout, or concrete to increase the rate of hardening and reduces the time required for the substance to firm.

Acid Wash

This treatment is applied to stone in order to reduce the shine of the surface area and create a more rustic appearance. This type of finish shows fewer scratches and wear.

Acid/Acidic

A chemical that has a pH rating which falls below 7.

Acrylic Resin/Plastics

This resin is created by the polymerization of acrylic monomers. It is transparent and resistant to contaminants.

Adhered

When used in reference to stone, the term describes the stone being secured and supported onto an approved backing by an approved bonding agent.

Adhesion

Two surfaces being held together by an adhesive or interlocking action, or by both.

Adhesion Mechanical

Adhesion of two surfaces by interlocking action.

Adhesive

A substance that bonds two materials to one another, also called glue.

Admixture

A substance that may be added to concrete at the installation site, other than cement, water, or aggregate that can modify its properties.

Agglomerated Stone

A manmade substance comprised of resin combined with crushed stone.

Air-entraining

The ability of a substance or process to develop minute air bubbles during the mixing of mortar, cement, or concrete.

Air-entrainment

The locking in of air, in the form of tiny bubble, when concrete or mortar is mixed. (see also Air-entraining and Entrained air)

Alkali

A chemical that effectively neutralized acidic material.

Alabaster

A type of gypsum that has a fine grain and is usually white, the term is often inaccurately applied to marble with a fine grain. Alabaster is easily cut and carved with a knife or saw.

alabaster stone blocks

Alabaster Stone Blocks

Alkaline

A chemical substance that is base, such as carbonate of sodium or potassium. It is often used to neutralize acidic substances.

Antique Finish

A finish that may be created by chemical or mechanical means to achieve a rustic or distressed finish such as would be found in an item that had naturally been allowed to age.

Apron

A piece of trim located under the top of a piece of projected stone.

ASI (Allied Stone Industries)

The Allied Stone Industries is comprised of stone quarries and fabricators, as well as the suppliers of all natural building supplies and the machinery and tools associated with stone.

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Back-buttering

Applying a layer of adhesive, such as glue, to the back of a stone tile before installation in order to ensure the proper coverage of mortar. This process helps prevent future cracking of the tiles.

Backing Rod

Installed at the rear or bottom of a joint, it is a flexible material such as butyl rubber or polyethylene. Sometimes called a filler strip.

Backsplash

A section of wall typically located above a counter and below a cabinet, usually 16-18 inches in height, protected by stone or tile.

travertine backsplash

Travertine Backsplash

Base

The vertical first member over the grade of a completed floor, or the bottom of a stone wall.

Bed Joint

A horizontal joint in stonework, typically filled with sealant or mortar.

Belt Course

The continuous horizontal course that marks a division in the plane of the wall.

Bevel

A sloped surface that follows a horizontal or vertical surface.

Bleed

Staining on a stone surface caused by caulking, oil-based putties, sealing compounds, or corrosive metals.

Blending

Positioning adjacent floor slabs, tiles, stone, or veneer panels properly by color.

Block Cutter

A machine used during quarrying to drill small diameter holes.

Bond

To adhere.

Bonding Agent

A substance that may be applied to a material to create a bond between that material and a subsequent layer.

Book Match Pattern

Laying out the stone elements of a design in order to ensure the patterns match.

Bowing

A curving, or warping, of the wall cladding.

Brick Trowel

Used primarily on brick but is also popular in the 5″ x 11″ size by tile setters using it for terra cotta and quarry tile work. The greater surface area and weight, as compared to a buttering trowel, is advantageous in use with larger tiles.

Brick Trowel

Brick Trowel

Brushed Finish

A finishing technique that requires the stone be brushed by a coarse wire brush. This replicates the appearance of natural wear over time.

Brushed Finish Travertine

Brushed Finish Travertine

BSI (Building Stone Institute)

Founded in 1919, the Building Stone Institute is a trade association of fabricators, quarries, dealers, and others who work with natural stone.

Bull Float

A tool used to smooth the surfaces of unformed freshly poured concrete. The tool usually measures 8″x 42″-62″ and is made of wood, magnesium, or aluminum. The attached handle may be between 4 and 16 feet.

Bullnose

The convex rounding of a section of stone trim. Usually used on edges, such as the front of stairs.

Bullnose Tile

Stone tile that has a bullnose edge built in, also known as a cap.

Bush Hammering

Textured surfaces, varying from subtle to rough, created by a mechanical process.

Butt Joint

A square joint between two members.

Buttering

The process of spreading a coating of bonding material, followed by a mortar or adhesive coat, to the back of a tile immediately before the tile is placed.

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Calcareous

A substance that is composed of calcium carbonate.

Calcite

A type of limestone with crystalline qualities which contains no more than 5% magnesium carbonate.

Calcite Streaks

A milky streak found within stone which is made when a small crack is filled with a deposit of calcium. The stone is still structurally sound.

Calibration

This is the first step in finishing a stone tile. Abrasive pads are applied to the face of the stone at high speed and extreme pressure. This allows the stone to be ground into a consistent thickness, which is necessary for tile installation. This process is only applied to dense stone such as marble, limestone, or granite. This term is sometimes incorrectly applied to quartzite and slate.

Calibrated

The process by which cement or stone is machined in order to create a uniform thickness.

Casing

A trim typically used around doors, entryways, or windows.

Caulking

Sealing a joint with an adhesive.

Caulk

A flexible substance which is spread into joints to create a barrier against air and water.

Cement

An adhesive that sets by the process of a chemical reaction. Cement is often mixed with gravel, sand, and water to create concrete.

Cement Backer Unit (C.B.U.)

A material placed between cement flooring and the wooden subflooring to create a moisture barrier and provide support.

Cement Board

Aggregate cement panels that are reinforced on either side with a glass-fiber mesh.

Cement Grout

A mixture of cement, sand, and water that creates a uniformly colored and water resistant substance that can be used to fill the joints between pieces of tile.

Cement Mortar

A mixture of cement, sand, and water which is used to bond tile to a base such as a floor or wall.

Cement, Portland

A hydraulic cement created by crushing hydraulic calcium silicates which contain one or more forms of calcium sulfate as well as other additives.

Cement, White

Portland cement that hydrates to a white paste.

Chamfer

A beveled edge at the junction point created by cutting away the edge where the two surfaces meet at an external angle.

Chat Sawn Finish

A rough finish achieved by sawing with coarse abrasives

Cladding

A stone veneer used as the facing on an interior or exterior wall. It is not meant to be load bearing.

Clast

An individual grain of a rock.

Cleavage

A rock’s ability to break along natural surfaces.

Cleavage Plane

The planes within a stone along which the stone is most likely to break.

Chiseled Edge

The process by which a stone is given an aged appearance by mechanically chipping the edge of the tile.

Chiseled Edge Travertine Tile

Chiseled Edge Travertine Tile

Cleft Finish

Stones that have been separated along the natural seem.

Coefficient of Friction (C.O.F.)

The ability of a surface to resist having another object slide across it.

Cobblestone

A stone large enough to be used in paving, usually made of granite.

Cobblestones

Cobblestones

Compaction

The process of reducing fresh concrete or mortar by centrifugation, vibration, tamping, or a combination of the three. Typically performed to remove voids other than intended air.

Compressive Strength

The maximum resistance of mortar or concrete to axial loading.

Condensation

Water droplets deposited on surfaces whose temperature is below the dew point.

Course

The horizontal range of stone units measuring the length of a wall.

Cove

A tile trim used on baseboards and corners that has one edge that is concave.

Cove Base

A stone molding that is concave in shape.

Cove Molding

A molding that is concave in shape. Usually found at the sloped junction of a ceiling and wall.

Coverage

The amount of material needed to cover a surface.

Crack

A split in the surface of a floor.

Crazing

Small interconnected cracks in the surface of a finished stone product.

Cross-cut

Cutting a block of stone parallel along the naturally occurring bedding plane. This creates a mottled appearance.

Cure

The chemical reaction by which cement, or another adhesive, reaches its maximum strength. This is typically achieved through heat, condensation, or another catalyst.

Cure Time

The amount of time needed for the adhesive or cement beneath the tile to set and become hard.

Curing

The process of maintaining the proper temperature and humidity around fresh concrete in order to allow it to harden properly.

Curing Blanket

Covering freshly poured concrete with matting, straw, sacks, waterproof paper, or another material.

Curing Compound

A liquid applied to the surface of new concrete to prevent the loss of water. In the case of pigmented compounds it may also be used to reflect heat in order to allow the concrete to develop in a favorable environment.

Curtain Wall

A stone cladding used to protect a building from the elements and held in place by an anchoring system.

Cut Stone

Finished stone that is ready to be put into place.

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Damp Proofing

Applying a compound that is water resistant, usually to the back of a wall or to a stone facing.

Diamond Sawed

The finish achieved by sawing a piece of stone with a diamond toothed gang saw or circular saw.

Dimension Stone

A natural stone used for building that has been cut and finished to manufacturer specifications.

Dolomite

A variety of limestone, crystalline in character, that contains more than 40% magnesium carbonate. Dolomite is available in numerous textures and colors.

Dressing

Occasionally called scabbing, this is the process of preparing blocks for shipment and storage.

Dry Seam

A fracture in a piece of stone that has not healed, this may indicate a plane of weakness.

Dry Set Mortar

A mortar made of cement and applied in a thickness not greater than 3/16″.

Ditra

A substance that is layered and used as a foundation for tile. This protects the subfloor and also allows the tiles to move a tiny amount without being damaged. Also known as an underlayment.

Ditra Antifracture Membrane

Ditra Antifracture Membrane

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Eased Edge

In regards to a slab material this refers to a softened square edge profile rather than the standard sharp edges.

Efflorescence

A powdery white residue, resulting from a deposit of salt, which forms on the surface of brick, stone, or mortar. This is caused by alkalis which have been leached from the masonry and brought to the surface by moisture.

Elevation

Either an exterior or interior drawing of the elements and vertical faces of a structure.

Entrained Air

Small air bubbles incorporated into concrete or mortar during the mixing process. This is usually achieved by using a surface active agent. (See also air entrainment.)

Epoxy Adhesive

An adhesive containing a hardener and epoxy resin that is used to adhere tiles to a surface beneath the tile.

Epoxy Grout

A type of grout containing a hardener and epoxy resin that is used to fill grout lines and to fill joints.

Epoxy Resin

A flexible resin, often used as an adhesive, that us is usually made by the polymerization of an epoxide.

Etched

A decorative pattern usually created by sandblasting or with an abrasive chemical.

Expansion Anchor or Bolt

The anchor, or bolt, expands as it is screwed into a drilled hole.

Expansion-Contraction Joint

A joint located between stone units which contracts or expands with structural movements or temperature changes.

Exposed Face

The visible side of any stone structure.

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Fabricated

Manufactured stone that is ready for installation.

Fabricator

A facility that cuts and customizes stone to specific dimensions.

Face

The surface of the stone that is exposed on a structure.

Fascia

A horizontal, flat, narrow structural element such as the covering between the joint between the eaves and the top of the wall.

Field Stone

Cobbles, boulders, and other loose pieces of rock found in a quarry. They are usually irregularly shaped and rough and may be used for veneers, walkways, garden linings, or freestanding walls.

Field Tile

The tile used for the large areas of floor which are often within a border.

Filling

An expression used to describe the process of filling naturally occurring voids within a stone with synthetic resins or cements.

Fines

The small stone particles, ranging from dust to sand sized material, that result from the processing of stone.

Finish

A protective coating which is applied to the surface of flooring.

Finished Stone

Stone that has been dressed, or finished, on the surface.

Fissure

A thin, irregular opening in the face of the stone.

Flagstone

Thin, fine-grained slabs of stone typically used for paving surfaces such as patios, walks, and driveways. The stone used is often bluestone, slate, or other quartz-based stone.

Flamed Finish

A finishing technique created by applying intense heat to the surface of the stone followed by rapid cooling. This is done to create a rough textured surface.

Flat Trowel

Used with a hawk to transfer mortar from a mortarboard to a wall or other surface. Frequently used for spreading cement onto the float coat and may also be used for spreading mortar on a floor before setting tiles.

Fleuri Cut

A cut parallel to the natural bedding plane made to marble or stone.

Flexural Strength

The force required to break a material when a piece of specific thickness is bent.

Floating Floor Installation

A method of installing flooring where it is not attached to the subflooring. The wooden planks are joined together via a tongue and groove mechanism, although glue may also be used, and the wooden floor then floats above the subflooring.

Floor Tile

A tile which is durable enough to be installed in flooring that is used daily.

Frost Proof Tile

Tile flooring which is resistant to damage that results from freezing and thawing.

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Gang Saw

Also known as a frame saw, this saw is used to cut slabs of a uniform thickness from stone blocks.

Gauged or Gauging

Measuring and grinding stone in order to ensure all pieces are of a uniform thickness.

Grain

1) The primary direction of the mineral composition in stone; also the most likely direction of cleavage. 2) A tiny particle of rock.

Grout

Mortar used to fill grout lines and joints which is available in a number of colors.

Grouting

The process of filling grout lines or joints with grout.

Grouting Float

A trowel which is used to firmly push grout into joints.

Grout Float

Grout Float

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Honed Finish

A smooth finish that may have a matte or satin appearance. This finish is achieved by stopping one step before the end of the polishing process.

Honed Finish Tile

Honed Finish Tile

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Igneous

A volcanic rock, such as granite, which became solid after cooling from its molten state.

Impregnation

A chemical coating that is applied to a piece of stone to prevent stains from penetrating below the surface of the stone.

Impervious Tile

Tile that is water resistant with an absorption rate of no more than 0.5%.

Initial Setting Time

The time needed for freshly mixed mortar, concrete, or cement paste to initially set.

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Joint

The space between installed pieces of stone or between the adjoining material and the dimension stone.

Joint Compound

A compound applied to joints that creates a flawless joining of the two surfaces once it has been sanded.

Joint Filler

Placed in a joint to prevent debris from entering and to provide a base for sealants.

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Kerf

A cut in the edge of the stone where anchors may be inserted.

Keystone

The center stone of an arch which may be embellished with carvings or sculpture.

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Listel or Listello

A small piece of border used as decoration, typically on a wall.

Travertine Listel

Travertine Listel

L Cut

A piece of tile cut into the shape of an L.

Latex-Portland Cement Grout

Portland cement grout which has a latex additive that results in a less permeable and less rigid grout when compared to regular Portland cement grout.

Latex-Portland Cement Mortar

Portland cement with a latex additive used for bonding tile to backup material. This is less rigid than regular Portland cement mortar.

Lime

Specifically refers to calcium oxide. The term may more generally be used to refer to the various forms of quicklime, hydraulic hydrated lime, and hydrated lime.

Limestone

Composed primarily of calcite, this is a sedimentary stone which is found in a variety of colors.

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Marble

A metamorphic stone, this limestone derivative can be polished. It can be etched and polished easily but is still quite durable.

MIA (Marble Institute of America)

An international association the members of which are made up of fabricators, producers, exporters, contractors, distributors, importers, sales agents, and those who sell services and products associated with marble.

Miter

A junction of two units at an angle that is typically 45 degrees.

Modular Ratio

The ratio of elasticity of steel to concrete.

Modulus of Deformation

Elasticity expressed by two time variables; the strain evidenced when the load is first applied and the length of time the load is sustained.

Modulus of Rigidity

The ratio of shearing stress to shearing strain; denoted by the symbol G.

Modulus of Rupture

The load capacity of a beam before a rupture will occur.

Moisture Expansion

A reaction between water, or water vapor, and a ceramic product that increases its volume. This reaction may happen over time but occurs more quickly when the product is exposed to water, or water vapor, at elevated pressures and temperatures.

Moisture Movement

1) The ability of moisture to move through a porous material. 2)The effect the movement of moisture has on volume change and efflorescence in mortar, hardened cement paste, rock, or concrete.

Moldings

A decorative trim used to cover the transition between one surface and another.

Mortar

A cement mixture that contains water, lime, and sand that is used to join masonry to another surface.

Mosaic

A pattern created with small pieces of a material, typically made of stone, tile, or glass.

Mosaic Tile

Small pieces of tile which are laid together to form designs.

Mounted Tile

Tile that has been pre-mounted by paper, mesh, resin, or another material.

M.S.D.S.

The acronym for Material Safety Data Sheet. This is a required listing of any safety precautions, hazardous ingredients, and first aid information the consumer should be aware of.

Mud

The slang term used for mortar that has been made of cement and sand.

Muriatic Acid

30% hydrochloric acid.

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NTCA (National Tile Contractors Association)

A United States trade association whose membership is made up of contractors. Associate members are comprised of those who supply services and products to the industry.

Natural Bed

Stone set parallel to the way it was discovered in the quarry.

Natural Cleft

Stone separated at a natural seam.

Natural Stone

Stone found in nature such as marble, granite, slate, limestone, sandstone, or travertine.

Non-Slip Tile

Tile that resists having objects slide across it.

Non-staining Mortar

Mortar made of materials that will not stain and that usually have low alkali content.

Notch

A cut in the shape of a V that is made on the head or edge of a stone.

Notched Trowels

Trowels used to apply bonding materials to tile. The trowel may have square teeth or be serrated and come in various sizes. The tooth size determines the depth of the mortar.

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Off Fall

The pieces that remain when a slab of stone has been cut. These are often used for samples or small projects.

Ogee

A reverse curved edged stone molding; convex below and concave above.

Open Time

The time during which a bond coat is able to adhere to tile and bond the tile to another substance.

Organic Adhesive

An organic material which can tire with no additional liquids or powder which cures by evaporation and is used to bond tile to hack-up material.

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Palletizing

A method of stacking stone onto wooden pallets. This method is easily transported and typically arrives in better condition than stone that has not been put onto pallets.

Parging

Applying mortar to the face of a backup material or to the back of stone.

Patina

The changing of the texture or color of a material due to age or exposure to the elements.

Paver

A single piece of stone used as exterior paving.

Paving

Stone that is used as a surface for walkways, patios, or driveways.

pH

A system of measuring alkalinity or acidity irrespective of the alkali or acid involved; a neutral pH is 7.0.

Pilaster

A shallow column or pier projecting from a wall.

Pillowed

A tile finish that creates rounded edge which result in a pillowed look.

Pinholes

Deviations in the surface of a ceramic that resembles pin pricks.

Pitched Stone

A rough stone edge or face that has been cut with a pitching chisel.

Plucked Finish

A finish created by plucking particles out of the surface.

Pointing

The last filling and finishing of mortar joints once they have been raked out.

Polished Finish

A finish that results in a glossy surface that highlights the character and color of the stone. This finish is achieved by polishing the stone with progressively finer heads during the polishing process.

Polished Finish

Polished Finish

Polyethylene

A thermoplastic compound used in creating protective coatings. May also be made into sheet form and then used to protect concrete surfaces as they cure or to protect construction areas.

Porosity

The size and number of pores in stone. Granite is not porous while travertine is quite porous.

P.S.I.

An acronym for pounds per square inch, which is a unit of measurement.

Pointing Trowel

The most extensively used trowel in the tile setting industry. It is used in every phase and comes in sizes ranging from 4″ to 7″. Especially useful in straightening tiles, filling, buttering, placing mortar in small spaces, and marking floated surfaces. The end of the handle may be used to tap tiles into place that have shifted.

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Quarry

Where stone is extracted from the earth.

Quarry Block

A piece of stone, usually rectangular in shape, as it comes from the quarry.

Quartz

One of the hardest minerals found within stones such as granite, quartzite, and sandstone. Quartz may be transparent, colorless, or colored.

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Random Slab

A trimmed slab that may have a varying length and width as long as it is within specified limits.

Reducer Strip/ Reducer

A molding accessory that has one tapered and one grooved edge that forms the shape of a teardrop. This is usually used on fireplaces or doorways or to divide a room.

Relief

A raised embossing or carving above a background plane.

Resin

A chemical substance used in some coating processes that is clear or translucent.

Rough Sawn

A finish that is produced by using a gang sawing process.

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Sample

A piece of stone that shows the general color range, finish, and markings of a specific type of stone.

Sandblasted

A matte surface finish created by applying a steady flow of water and sand under pressure.

Saw-Cut Refined Finish

A matte finish created by processing the stone after the initial cote to remove the heaviest saw marks but without creating a honed finish. Granite, limestone, and marble may be purchased with this finish.

Sawed Edge

An edge that has been cleanly cut with a blade or saw.

Sawed Face

A flooring surface created by using a saw to cut the tile or slab. The texture can vary from rough to smooth and the specific texture is typically named from the type of material used in sawing such as sand, shot, or diamond.

Screed

Leveling mortar in a mortar bed by using a straightedge.

Sealer

A coat that is applied to the surface of a floor prior to the application of other coats in order to prevent subsequent coats from seeping into the flooring. May also be applied at the end of the process as a protective measure.

Sealant

An elastic adhesive compound used to seal the joints of stone veneer.

Sealing

1) The process of making a veneer joint watertight with sealant. 2) Applying a substance to limit or prevent staining.

Sedimentary

Rocks formed from sediments that have crystallized such as limestone and sandstone.

Slab

A piece of quarry block that has been cut lengthwise prior to fabrication.

Slurry

A mixture of water and any insoluble material such as clay, Portland cement, or slag.

Spacer

A small device used to evenly space tiles during installation. May be shaped as a cross, T, or Y.

Split-Faced Stone

Stone that has been removed from the quarry and cut to a specific height in large chunks and then sliced to expose the natural cleft. This creates a moderately rough texture.

Spacing Mix

A dry or damp mixture of one part extra-fine sand and one part Portland cement. Used as a filler between joints of mounted ceramic mosaic tiles to maintain an even spacing during installation.

Substrate

The surface upon which stone tile is placed.

Straight 90 Degree Edge

One of the two types of edges available for a floor tile made of natural stone. This edge creates a polished and modern look.

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TCA (Tile Council of America)

An organizations of manufacturers who serve the ceramic tile industry. Programs promote tile use, the improvement of industry standards, the development of new installation techniques and methods, and the publication of an annual handbook. Many of these methods can also be used to set stone tile as well.

Texture

The quality of the stone surface independent of color.

Textured Finish

A rough finish on the surface of the tile.

Thermal Finish

A surface treatment created by applying intense heat flaming.

Thin Stone

Dimension stone units that are less than two inches thick.

Thin-Set Mortar

A thin layer of adhesive spread onto a surface onto which tile is laid.

Threshold

Alternatively known as a saddle, it is the flat strip of stone that is projected above the floor between the jambs of a door.

Tile

A thin stone unit of uniform size usually less than 3/4″ thick.

Tolerance

The dimensional allowance during the fabrication process.

Translucence

The ability of marble to transmit light.

Travertine

A type of limestone that is created when minerals dissolve in ground water and are then deposited on the surface. Because of its density it may also be classified as a type of marble.

Tread

A flat stone that is used as the top surface of a step.

Trim

The framing of openings on the exterior or interior of a building including picture rails, baseboards, casings, and cornices.

Tumbled Finish

A weathered finish created by tumbling stone with steel bearings, sand, or pebbles. Both limestone and marble are ideal candidates for this type of finish.

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Unit

A piece of thin dimension or fabricated cubic stone.

Undercut

A cut that creates an overhanging part.

Unsanded Grout

A product with a Portland cement base that is mixed onsite with water and then spread over the tiled area to fill the joints with a grout float. Then a sponge is used to remove excess grout from the surface while leaving the remaining grout in the joints to cure. This process is usually used during natural stone installations because of its ability to fill small joints without scratching soft stones.

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Vapor Barrier

A waterproof material placed under concrete floor slabs that have been placed on grade.

Vein

A layer of mineral material that differs from the surrounding formation.

Vein Cut

A cut into stone perpendicular to the bedding plane.

Vein Cut Travertine

Vein Cut Travertine

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