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Eco Outdoor Granite is used as a flooring and walling surface in this bathroom.

Natural stone is a popular material to use in the bathroom due to its ability to add instant visual impact, transforming what once was a utilitarian space into a thing of beauty. Stone has long been used for countertops, however more are considering the material to finish entire bathrooms including the shower.

Natural stone is a suitable material for the shower if you opt for the right type of stone and it’s installed correctly. Here are the top considerations when using natural stone in the shower.

Types of stone to use in the shower

The most common types of natural stone in showers are marble, slate and granite. However, some limestone and travertine are being used in this application. The type of stone you choose will affect the performance and level of maintenance required.

Marble

Marble is a classic choice due to its light colouring and natural veins adding a subtle level of interest. If you’re choosing marble in your shower, you’ll want to choose the highest grade possible for the minimal inclusions and veining. This is because the vein composition is vulnerable to moisture damage. Lower grades of marble typically feature more veining. Very light, white marble can also be subjected to discolouration over time due to its naturally occurring iron content rusting. To avoid this and to preserve the natural beauty of the marble, you’ll need to ensure it is properly sealed and cleaned.

Granite

Granite is a highly durable and dense material that offers an endless array of custom possibilities making it a popular choice for bathrooms. Granite stone is also easier to maintain than some natural stones as it won’t react to acid, ammonia or alcohol. Even still, it’s important to seal the stone to protect its natural beauty and ensure its performance long-term. It may be appropriate to dip seal all six sides of the granite tile when installing in a wet area. You’ll also need to ensure you choose a slip-resistant finish, particularly if you’re installing the granite on the floor of your shower or bathroom.

Slate

Split-stone and slate are also one of the more common natural stones in the shower as they are available in a range of colour tones and sizes, and are considered a cost-effective option. When choosing a type of slate or split-stone, it’s important to consider the quality as some types are known to flake and deteriorate in a wet environment over time. Like granite, you’ll also want to ensure it has a non-slip finish and properly sealed for longevity.

Travertine and Limestone

Bathroom using Dover Antique Limestone on the floor and walls by Michelle Attard Designs
Bathroom using Dover Antique Limestone on the floor and walls by Michelle Attard Designs

Travertine and Limestone in their earthy tones are being used more and more in bathrooms. Both feature a visually striking patina and can be used to complete a contemporary aesthetic or add age and texture for a classic feel. As with granite and slate, there are some finishes that are more slip resistant than others. Also, some types of travertine and limestone will be more porous than others. In general, you’ll want to choose a stone with the lowest water absorption rate to prevent stains from being absorbed and damage. It’s also recommended you seal the stone for a bathroom application.

Understand the maintenance

Some people shy away from using natural stone in a shower or bathroom due to concerns about its upkeep. Truth be told, all material in a wet environment requires regular maintenance. Avoid caring for your porcelain tiles, for example, and your grout will darken and the tile will discolour. This is particularly noticeable in an all-white bathroom.

Most natural stone will require resealing annually. This will depend on the stone type you opt for and the sealer you use. In a wet area, using high quality penetrating sealer is recommended to help repel water from soaking into the stone. It is, however, important to talk to your supplier and a sealing professional about the type of stone you are considering and the individual application.

Some stone such as marble may also benefit from being re-honed or repolished every three to five years. Over time, marble may lose its natural lustre due to regular water exposure and a build-up of calcium deposits.

Cleaning tips for stone

Floor to ceiling, natural limestone stone bathroom
Floor to ceiling, natural limestone stone bathroom

Like any material or surface in the bathroom, it’s appearance and performance long-term greatly comes down to how you care for it.

1. Cleaner the stone weekly

As a general rule, keeping things simple is best for natural stone. Harsh cleaners including vinegar can damage the surface of the stone. Overly soapy cleaners may also build up on the surface and attract dirt. Look for a non-acidic, neutral clearer with a pH of around seven. This will help remove water deposits and soap scum as well as prevent grime and mildew building up.

2. Remove excess water

Excess water and mildew can dull the appearance of your stone over time, especially if you’ve neglected to reseal your material. Removing excess water with a squeegee after your shower can help maintain the natural lustre of the stone.

3. Ensure proper ventilation

Regardless of what stone you choose, ensuring your bathroom and shower is properly ventilated will help prevent mildew and mould growing on the surface or in the grout. After wiping your shower down to remove excess water, open the shower door or window, or keep your fan on to help the stone dry faster.

4. Clean the grout

Grout whether it’s between natural stone or porcelain tiles is prone to mould and mildew growth if not cared for. Simply use a stone-safe grout cleaner that’s non-abrasive and gently lift the grime with a soft nylon brush or a toothbrush for hard to reach areas.