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by Jodi Paper
Marble flooring is making a comeback. And it's no wonder. With its strength and durability, and over five-hundred varieties available, the possibilities are virtually limitless.
Of the five senses, our sense of smell is widely thought of as the strongest when it comes to triggering memories. Whether the sweet welcome of homemade cookies baking in the oven, the mustiness of a closet full of moth balls, or the brisk freshness of rain cooling the hot pavement during a summer storm, we all have that particular scent that instantly transports us back to childhood. For Joe Percoco, one whiff of White Carrara marble as it is being sawed through is enough to fuel his olfactory time machine.
Percoco, a professional setter and fabricator, is the second-generation owner of Percoco Marble & Tile in Denver, Colorado. He learned a great deal about the trade and business from his father whom he's worked alongside since he was eight years old. According to Percoco, flooring doesn't get much better than marble. And he should know. With 32 years in the business, Percoco has seen a great deal of change and development in the marble flooring industry. For instance, laying the marble slab in a thick-mortared bed was once an integral part of the installation process. In the 1960's however, a thin-set method was developed and became more popular because it proved to speed up installation by twenty percent, although didn't necessarily hold up as well as thick-mortared. But it is Percoco's ability to combine the old with the new that makes him an expert in the field. "If you can take the old-school methods and combine them with the newer products... [the result will be] exceptional."
Marble is formed when limestone is heated and pressurized within the earth's crust. It consists primarily of calcite and dolomite. Any impurities that are present in the limestone when it goes through its metamorphosis into marble affect the mineral composition, which ultimately gives marble its unique coloring, textures and veining. Green marble, for example, is loaded with serpentine, while red marble is the result of hematite getting into the mix. Yellow marble is full of limonite, and blue marble, diopside. The whiter the marble, the purer the limestone from which it has formed.
Marble has been used as a building material for thousands of years. Dating back to the ancient Greeks and to the Romans, who were the first to cut it into slabs and tiles, the stone makes for a resilient and exquisite flooring material. Quarried all over the world, from Italy to Canada, there are over 500 varieties of marble on the market.
Compared with granite or ceramic tile, marble is a denser and more durable material. And where granite can often give off a harsher, colder feel, marble is warm and soft, ideal in a home or small business setting. Indeed, it is for it's aesthetic qualities that marble is so popular. Brie Pfannenbecker of Connecticut Stone Supply, Inc. finds a natural inherent beauty in a marble's irregularities. "If four people have the same product, the general color [may] be consistent, but the texture, finish and pattern will make it unique." Pfannenbecker wears several hats in the business ? which, like Percoco's is multi-generational ? including sales representative, project manager, and designer. She recommends marble flooring in any application and is partial to tumbled marble because its already distressed appearance gives any room a rustic feel and holds up well under heavy foot traffic.
Contrary to popular belief, the installation of a marble floor does not have to be a complex process, though proper installation does require a good amount of expertise. To begin, Pfannenbecker points out that "any floor is only as good as its sub-floor." It is important to know what material, cement or plywood for example, will be covered over. The thickness of the setting is also a consideration. Percoco maintains that a heavier marble does better with mud-set installation than with a thin set.
Then there is the finish. Marble floors are often thought of as high-maintenance, but ultimately, if it has been installed properly, the attention marble requires depends in large part on the type of finish it receives. A polished finish or a honed finish are among the most popular types. A polished marble floor will have an intense shine to it and makes for a cleaner, more colorful finish. However, polished marble floors are generally quite difficult to maintain, as any damage that occurs, whether a scratch or a smudge, is highly visible against such a fine finish. A honed floor, on the other hand, will appear more matte-like, making it ideal for higher-traffic areas.
John Donatelli of Dansk Marble and Granite Works has seen numerous marble floor installations over the years. He estimates that in 2000-2001, marble flooring comprised about five percent of his business. Now he believes that number has increased to upwards of twenty-five percent. Donatelli notes that the trend seems to be moving toward a more minimal marble, as opposed to those heavily colored or intricately veined.
Whatever the trends, though, the bottom line is that marble, with its naturally wide range of colors and patterns, and its incredible strength and durability, makes for vast flooring possibilities. Joe Percoco sums it up best: "Marble floors are the ultimate flooring... A good, solid marble floor, installed properly, that's ground and flat is the best possible floor you could have."
(Article from Building Stone Magazine)