Sandstone Flooring Pros and Cons

Sandstone coloured patio paving stones
David Freund/E+/Getty Images

Sandstone is a beautiful natural floor covering choice that is popular for its distinctive style. Mirroring the look of beach and desert sand, the golds, reds, browns, and tans of this often multicolored stone are the perfect decorative touch in numerous architectural applications. At the same time, the fact that it is natural means that its properties are not controlled by a manufacturer, which can cause problems when it is used in certain environments.

Sandstone Flooring Pros

The Beauty Of Nature: There is an ineffable quality to natural materials that is obvious in sandstone flooring. Ranging in color from medium tone whites to multicolored maelstroms, all of the way back to charcoal and black, sandstone can cover vast stretches of hues, and yet it always has a feeling of earth and rock that can be missing in many of its competing imitators.

Durability Of Stone: Sandstone, is quarried from the cores of mountains, and as such, it is hard as a rock. It may not match slate or granite for durability, but it is still strong, powerful, and can last for decades if properly cared for. At the same time, it lends that inherent mountainous power to any space in which it is used.

Unique Pieces: Because sandstone is formed from nature itself the colors, patterns, and hues found in any individual piece are completely unique and different. When sandstone is quarried it comes out in giant slabs which are processed and refined down into smaller pieces.

That means that every piece of tile in every sandstone floor is one random cog in a great masterpiece of mountainous nature that stretches across the world.

Textures: Sandstone, being a rock, comes from the mountain naturally craggy and jagged. In flooring tiles, this is leveled out in a process called “gauging” where the tile becomes even enough to walk on without hurting your feet.

However, you have many options with sandstone flooring, as this process can be increased to hone the tiles into smooth surfaces or even polish them flat and glistening.

Natural and Eco-Friendly: Because sandstone flooring is a product of the earth, it is all natural, and biodegradable. However, some manufacturing companies use more responsible quarrying techniques than others.
Replacement Tiles: Sandstone is a rock, so it’s fairly hard. But sometimes a gap in the substrate or a sharp drop from a heavy object can cause a crack or chip in an individual piece. Luckily, if this happens sandstone flooring tiles can be removed and replaced with relative ease. You just have to make sure that you save a few tiles from the original installation so that they match the repaired floor. 

Sandstone Flooring Cons

Water Absorption: Sandstone flooring is known for being a relatively porous material, even among natural stone surface coverings. It can have an absorption rate of between 1% - 6% which leaves it vulnerable to damage from liquid stains, mold, micro-bacteria, and even warping in extreme cases. For this reason, it is generally not used in bathrooms, kitchens, subgrade rooms, or exterior locations.

Scratches: Sandstone flooring is a rock, but it’s a relatively soft rock. That means that it is subject to scratches and dents over time from claws, high heels, and accidents that send things crashing into the floor.

Polished Can Be Slippery: There are different finishes that you can get when purchasing sandstone flooring tiles. Honed is perfectly flat, and while it has some traction it can be slippery when it gets wet. If the material is appropriate for polishing, then polished sandstone can be a particularly dangerous slipping hazard, especially in areas where water may be present.  

Staining: The high absorption rate of sandstone means that colored liquids can penetrate down into the material. If they are not caught early enough on, these can cause permanent stains that are dimensionally infective of the sandstone.

At the same time stone is an alkaline, which means that when it comes in contact with acids such as soap, it will have a chemical reaction in the form of a stain.
Weathering And Age: The way a sandstone floor looks when it is installed will not be the way that it will look 10 years down the line, even with perfect maintenance. The material is just too soft, and natural foot falls, the wind, and atmosphere will take its toll, causing the different tiles to discolor.

Some people consider this a drawback. At the same time, the personality that a stone and sandstone floor can take on over the years is often the main reason to purchase such materials. It is just important to know how the floor will evolve over time, and if more permanent solutions are required then man made materials can often be a close replacement.