Surface Profile

Surface and texture evoke feeling. With natural stone, they can be difficult to specify accurately.

We describe a natural stone’s surface profile by:

  1. Surface finish
  2. Surface roughness

 

Surface Finish

Surface finish refers to the variety of natural, mechanical, or chemical processes that can be applied to natural stone to achieve a certain look (a smooth, foot-worn surface or pineapple-like surface) or physical characteristic (a shiny surface or a non-reflective surface).

Multiple surface finish techniques can be used to produce compound surfaces. Certain surface finish processes can change the color profile of a stone. Keep this in mind when looking for specific colors for your design.

Mountain Hard Limestone Beige / One Stone. Eight different finishes.

Mountain Hard Limestone Beige /
One Stone. Eight different finishes.

Mountain hard limestone beige bush hammered texture swatch

Bush Hammered

Mountain hard limestone beige split face texture swatch

Split-Face

Mountain hard limestone beige graffiato texture swatch

Adze

Mountain hard limestone beige antiqued texture swatch

Antiqued

Mountain hard limestone beige flamed texture swatch

Flamed

Mountain hard limestone beige flamed and tumbled texture swatch

Flamed & Tumbled

Mountain hard limestone beige sandblasted texture swatch

Sandblasted

Mountain hard limestone beige sandblasted and brushed texture swatch

Sandblasted & Brushed

Common Surface Finishes for Natural Stone

We’ve displayed the most common surface finishes for natural stone here in gray-scale format to minimize the effect of the stone’s color. Remember that these can often be applied in combination to produce many other looks.

Acid Washed

Acids can be used to clean the surface of the stone or to change its appearance, depending on the type of acid and the length of its application. Acid wash is an alternative way to achieve an antiqued look. It can also produce similar results to waterjet finishing.

Most significantly, an acid wash can be applied retroactively, meaning you can change the look of already installed stone. Surface Roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”) depending on the process. Acid washes can be applied by hand or automated machine.

Adze

Crushing blows done with old fashioned hand tools create a stark, Stone Age, pleasing contrast to the natural color of a stone face. Adze patterns are generally random. Often used on a split-faced wall surface, adze finishes highlight lintels, sills, and copings. Adze finishes can be used to create various looks, including modern, linear, and rustic.

Honing an adze surface can darken it further to create a stunning surface. Frost flower is a variation of the adze finish. Surface roughness can vary the texture from slick (< 1/64”) to very rough (>2”) depending on the process. Adze finishes can also be produced by a machine, although hand-made adze is generally considered more attractive.

Antiqued

Antiqued stone is tumbled with sand and pebbles to create a weathered, aged finish. The process also stimulates the stone’s additional aging after installation. At times, acid wash is applied to the stone to etch its surface, which generally dulls the color of the stone. The surface can then be brushed with a mechanical wire bush, making it smooth and restoring the color slightly. Surface roughness can vary from smooth (1/64-1/16”) to somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”), depending on the process.

Brushed

A brushed finish is generally made by means of coarse rotary-type wire brushes that take away the softest particles of the stone. The brushing is done by machine. Varying brush coarseness and levels of force can be applied to achieve the desired look. Brushed finishes are low to non-slip. Surface roughness can vary from smooth (1/64 – 1/16”) to very rough (>2”) depending on the process. Leathered and antiqued are special cases of a brushed finish.

Bush Hammered

Bush Hammering generates uniformly distributed craters of different sizes over the surface of the stone. Bush hammering patterns are generally random. Colors often fade to create a soft and delicate look. The overall effect is a rustic look. The surface becomes low or non-slip. Bush hammered finishes come in a number of variations including fine, fine free-form, coarse, and coarse free-form. Surface roughness of the fine variations can be smooth (1/64 – 1/16”) to somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”), depending on the process. Surface roughness of the coarse variations can be somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. Bush hammered finishes can be produced by hand or machine, although the hand-made finish is considered to be more attractive.

Bush Hammered - Fine

Bush Hammered - Fine (free form)
Bush Hammered - Coarse (free form)

Canvas

Canvas finishes are produced by mechanically scouring the surface of the stone in one direction, and then in a perpendicular direction. The created finish is similar to coarse canvas cloth, which can be used to achieve a modern or artistic look. Canvas finishes tend to be low to non-slip. Surface roughness can vary from smooth (1/64 – 1/16”) to somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”), depending on the process.

Carved

A carved finish is created by carving a pattern onto a stone surface. The pattern can be almost any design that lends itself to carving. A carved finish surface generally has no fixed pitching height. Carved patterns can be random or geometric, often used for backdrop panels, wall panels, and column surrounds. Overall surface roughness can vary from rough (1/4-2″) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process, although the surface of individual carve strokes can be smooth (1/64-1/16”). Grooved is a special instance of a carved finish. While carving can be done by machines, hand-carved finishes are generally considered to be more attractive.

Chiseled

Chiseling creates a random surface, somewhat like the texture of linen. Surface roughness can vary from smooth (1/64-1/16”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. In addition to random, other chiseling patterns include rockfaced, pillowed, pineapple and point stalk. Chiseling can be used to achieve various looks, including linear, modern or artistic. While chiseling can be machine-aided, hand-chiseled finishes are generally more attractive.

Flamed

Flamed finishes are created by directly exposing the surface of the stone to a high-temperature flame. Most of the stone’s surface carbon is burned off, creating textured quartzites with gentle coloration. This finish can hide surface imperfections and tone variations. Flaming can also produce significant hue changes. This process can lighten the finish of stone a few shades, creating a more natural, faded appearance. Flaming can be performed by hand or by an automated machine. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to rough (1/4-2″), depending on the process.

Frost Flower

Frost flower is an artistic looking variation of the adze finish. It’s created by manually applying an adze hammer in short strokes and in random directions. The imprint on the surface of the stone yields a pattern similar to that on a winter glass window. Frost flower patterns can be random or geometric, and more commonly used on darker colored stone. Frost flower finish on blue limestone is very common. Surface roughness can vary from smooth (1/64-1/16”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process.

Grooved

A grooved finish is when the stone is machine-carved with linear grooves to direct water in the desired direction. This can be done lightly or quite significantly in-depth. Grooved finishes provide low or non-slip surfaces. Surface roughness can vary from smooth (1/64-1/16”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. Point stalk is a similar finish, which is obtained by chiseling rather than carving.

Honed

Honing makes the surface of natural stone smooth and matted, without or with a limited reflection of light. Honed finishes are created through mechanical grinding and sanding, but not to the point of a glossy finish. Unlike polished finishes, they are not reflective. The surface has a lighter shade, but the overall color and depth of the stone is preserved. Honing can create subtle vein movement rather than dramatic color changes in polished finishes. Honed finishes are used for low-slip high-traffic floors, interior wall covering, exterior finishes, fireplace surrounds, and countertops. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to smooth (1/64-1/16”), depending on the process. Waterjet finishes can provide a similar look to honed but have an even less slippery surface.

Leathered

Leathered is a special case of a brushed finish. A leathered finish is obtained by machine-brushing the stone with a range of brush coarseness. Leathered stone has a textured, pebbly surface with little pits and fissures—similar to the surface of leather. The result is a slightly undulating surface, very soft, warm, and smooth to the touch. A leathered surface has a soft patina but is not reflective. It is a slip-resistant surface, with closed pores, making it easier to maintain. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to smooth (1/6 -1/16”), depending on the process.

Natural

As the name implies, a natural surface finish is simply the way the stone looks when it is excavated or harvested. No additional hand-work or machine-work is involved (except perhaps cleaning it up). Weathered finishes can be a subset of natural if the weathering processes are natural.

Natural Cleft

Natural cleft is a surface finish created by splitting the stone instead of sawing it. Stones like slate, quartzite, and sandstone are naturally formed in layers, which create unique textured faces when the stone is split. Natural cleft stone tiles tend to have an uneven textured surface making it very slip-resistant. It is a great choice for floors in kitchens, bathrooms, and mudrooms, as well as for outdoor patios, walkways, and around swimming pools. Surface roughness can vary from somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. Rockfaced and split-face finishes can have a similar appearance.

Pillowed

A pillowed finish is created when a chisel is used to remove material around the edges of a square or rectangular piece of stone. When installed, stone with a pillowed finish looks natural, as if each square or rectangle is protruding out from the installed surface. Surface roughness can vary from rough (1/4-2″) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. Other patterns produced by chiseling include rockfaced, pineapple and point stalk.  While fabrication can be machine-aided, hand-made versions are generally considered to be more attractive.

Pineapple

A pineapple finish is achieved when chisel indentations are made in the surface of the stone, leaving a pockmarked, rough surface that mimics the skin of a pineapple. Pineapple patterns can be random or geometric. The overall look is artistic. Surface roughness can vary from somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. Other patterns produced by chiseling include rockfaced, pillowed and point stalk. While chiseling can be done by machines, hand-chiseled finishes are generally considered to be more attractive.

Point Stalk

A point stalk finish is created when grooves are chiseled to run in a linear direction. Surface roughness can vary from somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. Other chiseled patterns include rockfaced, pillowed and pineapple. Grooved is a similar finish that is obtained by carving rather than chiseling. While fabrication can be machine-aided, hand-made versions are generally considered more attractive.

Polished

Stones are polished by the repeated application of abrasive treatments. The polishing is done by machine. This technique produces a shiny surface, with almost zero porosity, therefore improving wear resistance. Polished finishes highlight the color and markings of natural stone. Polished surfaces are commonly used in interior and exterior wall cladding, fireplace surrounds, and countertops. This finish is not recommended for high-traffic areas since polishing reduces slip and scratch resistance. Surface roughness is always slick (< 1/64”). A honed finish can create a less or non-reflective look similar to polished.

Rock Faced

A rustic finish for veneer stone created with a split or chiseled face, and dressed along the stone’s perimeter to produce convex projection. This finish is most often used on the sawn edge of the stone to make it look like a natural cleft or split-face surface. It’s created with a hammer and chisel, across the face of the stone, resulting in a natural look. Surface roughness can vary from rough (1/4-2″) to very rough (>2”) depending on the process. Other chiseled patterns include point stalk, pillowed and pineapple. While fabrication can be machine-aided, hand-made versions are generally considered to be more attractive.

Sandblasted

A sandblasted finish is produced by striking the stone surface at high velocities with an abrasive material (sand) to produce a matte-textured weathered look. This machine-process generates very small craters which can highlight the color of the stone. Sandblasting creates an overall natural look. A fine particle sandblasting process produces a darker finish, whereas a coarse particle sandblasting process produces a lighter finish. Sandblasting improves slip resistance. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”), depending on the abrasive material used and the process.

Sawn

Sawn finishes are created by using a gang saw or block cutter machine. The process creates an irregular surface with small furrows and undulations. A sawn finish makes the color of the stone appear lighter and gives the stone a matte tone. Sawn finishes can be used to create a modern look. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to smooth (1/64-1/16”), depending on the process. Some fabricators will take the sawn side of the slab and apply a second finish, such a polished, honed or leathered to achieve a customized look.

Scratched

As the name implies, scratched finishes are produced by scratching the surface of the stone. This can be done by hand or by machine. They can be random or geometric. Scratching can be done before or after applying other surface finishes, which can produce a number of looks, including modern, worn, and antique. Surface roughness can vary from smooth (1/64 – 1/16”) to somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”), depending on the process.

Split-faced

Split-faced stone has been broken by a hydraulic splitter to a specific size, producing a natural look. This finish is mostly used for veneer. It exhibits a natural, quarry texture with untrimmed edges. Split-faced stone generally has a flat back and uneven front surface. The surface evenness varies with the stone type. Faces can be convex, concave or flat. Split-faced finishes come in a number of variations including flat-plane and rough-plane. Flat-plane surface roughness can vary from somewhat rough (1/16-1/4”) to rough (1/4-2″). Rough-plane surface roughness can vary from rough to very rough (>2”). While fabrication can be machine-made, hand-made versions are generally considered more attractive. Rockfaced finishes can look similar to split-faced.

Tumbled

A tumble finish can be created by using sand, pebbles, and water abrasion to create an aged appearance. This is a machine-process. Tumbled finishes can give the impression of having been walked on for centuries. It looks weathered and scuffed. The edges of the stone are rough and chipped. The tumbling process stimulates further aging after installation. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to rough (1/4-2″), depending on the process.

Waterjet

Waterjet finishes are created when a high-pressure jet of water is applied to the stone surface in order to wash out the softer particles. This process creates a more uniform, textured finish and allows more of the natural color to show. The resulting surface can resemble a flamed finish in roughness, but unlike flaming, the method does not change the color of the stone. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to smooth (1/64-1/16”), depending on the process. There is also a version of waterjet which resembles a honed finish but with a less slippery surface. Waterjet finishes are produces by automated machines.

Weathered

As the name implies, weathered is a natural alteration of stone due to climate, weather, soil contact, surface waters, or groundwater. Weathered stone has a natural grooved or textured look. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to very rough (>2”), depending on the process. Antiqued and sand blasted finishes can look similar to weathered stone.

Worn

A Worn surface is created by repeated abrasion over a long time. The tops of cobblestones exhibit a worn surface after a few years or traffic. It is softer to the touch than the original surface and often shinier. Surface roughness can vary from slick (< 1/64”) to rough (1/4-2″), depending on the process.

Surface Roughness

Surface roughness refers to the variation in roughness of the stone’s surface, as measured in inches. Texture roughness will vary according to exactly how the surface finish was created (for example, the size of the chisel used in a mechanical process or how long the stone was exposed to natural weathering). Texture roughness not only affects the look of the stone, but also its slipperiness and other suitability properties. Most surface finishes can be produced in varying texture roughness.

Surface Variation > 2 inch
Surface Variation 1/4 - 2 inch
Surface Variation 1/16 - 1/4 inch
Surface Variation 1/64 - 1/16 inch
Surface Variation < 1/64 inch

Even though they are closely related, surface finish and texture roughness can be specified independently in a stone curation specification to achieve specific design goals. A growing trend in natural stone design is to use different products, with different surfaces, textures, and colors in a single design pattern.