Natural Stone Finishes

Natural Stone Finishes

September 16, 2014

Just as important as it is to choose a material that suits the function of a particular project, it’s equally important to select the appropriate finish for the material. When it comes to natural stone, the surface finish helps to dictate the functional characteristics of the material. For example, a honed surface will provide slip-resistance, whereas a polished surface will be highly reflective. Finish can also go a long way in affecting the color of natural stone. Some finishes will intensify the color while others will soften it.

Here is a primer reviewing the three basic categories of natural stone finishes: polished, honed, and textured.


Polishing a natural stone finish involves grinding, sanding, and buffing the stone to a high-gloss, mirror-like surface. It can only be done on crystallized stones, such as marble and granite for example, and it’s a very popular selection for stone finishing. A polished finish is very smooth and reflective. Polished surfaces are commonly found used as interior and exterior wall cladding, fireplace surrounds and kitchen and bath countertops (both residential and commercial). It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid placing polished finishes in areas with high foot traffic, as its reflective nature makes it more prone to scratches. On the other hand, the polish that coats the marble does offer some stain resistance. But it can get extremely slippery when it’s wet, so think twice before using polished stone on areas like the bathroom floor.

White Quartzite

Sleek and sophisticated polished White Quartzite covers this Boston area countertop by Venegas and Company. Photo via Houzz.


Honed finishes still involve grinding and sanding, but not to the point of a glossy finish. Unlike polished finishes, they’re not reflective. Rather, honed finishes are a satin smooth surface that reflects very little light. Honed finishes have been popular throughout Europe for some time. But we’re really just now beginning to see this style of finish more here in the U.S. Honing creates a more “natural” look that appeals to those who prefer an aged patina or a look that’s less formal than a polished finish. Honed surfaces are best for high-traffic areas such as flooring, interior wall covering, exterior finishes, fireplace surrounds, plus counter- and table-tops—and for good reasons. They’re typically a bit easier to maintain. Depending on the level of “grit” used for the honing process, the surface may be easier to care for than polished surfaces. Since color is the result of light reflection, and polished surfaces provide more reflection, a honed countertop likely appears more dull in color, with less dramatic variation. It’s a great choice for homeowners who desire a subtle vein movement to their stone rather than dramatic color changes. Another good reason to choose a honed surface is that etching isn’t as noticeable as it is on a polished surface.

Black Honed Granite

A beautiful honed black granite hearth by Oak Hill Architects. Photo via Houzz 


There are several types of finishes that offer texture. In general, a textured finish is one that’s rough or uneven. One definite “pro” of choosing textured stone is to create slip resistance. It’s also a great way to add distinctive personality to a project. Here are but a few of the most common types of textured finishes:

Brushed: This finish is obtained by brushing the stone with a coarse rotary-type wire brush.

Antique: Antique finish replicates rusticated or distressed textures. Produced through chemical or mechanical means to simulate naturally occuring effects of the aging process.

Flamed: The stone is subjected to the high temperatures of a flame or torch, burning off most of the carbon content. What’s left behind is textured quartzite with very gentle colorations. Flamed finishes are popular for outdoor use where slip resistance is an issue.

Chiseled: Looking somewhat like the texture of linen, chiseling creates fine grooves positioned closely together and parallel to the edges.

Bush Hammered: To achieve this industrial-styled look, a hydraulic bush is hammered into the surface of the stone. It creates a large number of close and small indents. The result is an evenly textured surface that’s ideal for non-slip characteristics in high-traffic applications.

Tumbled: Commonly used for natural stone tiles, tumbling involves placing stones in a solution of sand, water, and mild acid, which creates an “old world” look that’s weathered and warm.

Tumbled Marble Backsplash

Tumbled marble backsplash by Divine Kitchens, LLC; photo via Houzz

We’d love to help you determine the best finish for your upcoming project. Stop by either of our Marble and Granite showroom locations.  Our natural stone experts will show you around and answer any questions you might have about the various finishes, their uses and recommended applications. Feel free to give us a call at 877-39-STONE.


Show Comments