When it comes to aesthetics, perhaps nothing is more visually appealing than natural stone.  Natural stone was used throughout Classical Rome and Ancient Greece and later adopted by western Europe during the Renaissance and Enlightenment periods. In ancient times stone was valued for its strength and durability.  Today stone is valued less for its strength than for its connotation of class and sophistication.

Natural stone did not become commonplace in American households until fairly recently.  Stone became popular for use in the kitchen a couple of decades ago as a countertop surface. The porous nature of stone and the micro-channels that allow for the dispersion of water throughout had prevented its use where water was present.  In ancient times the Romans ran into similar problems where stone encountered water and they experimented with using olive oil as a sealer.  Later Europeans tried using other types of sealers such as natural resins.  These primitive methods found little success and the use of natural stone remained limited. With the development of several types of modern sealant over the years, stone has found use where it previously had not.

How to maintain natural stone

The ability of water to travel into the stone and deposit contaminants like salt and light acids leads to staining, chemical residue, and cracking.  Thus water can be excluded from stone by the penetration of sealers through the small channels.   Impregnating sealers last the longest as they fully penetrate the stone.  Penetrating sealers only penetrate far enough to anchor the sealer to the stone.  Topical sealer has the shortest lifespan as it only covers the surface of the stone and can make the surface prone to slipping.

While it’s beauty is beyond doubt, stone’s functional superiority in the bathroom is less certain.  Wet conditions make it one of the more challenging environments in your home. Materials must stand up to repeated exposure to water, heat, and steam.  Also, cleaning products containing alcohol, ammonia, and acid can be harmful to natural stone.  Thus, the effective use of sealers is critical to preventing water from penetrating and delivering harmful chemicals.  If you choose wisely and take appropriate measures to care for the stone, it can be a lasting quality choice for your shower and bathroom.

What to consider

Natural stone can be used on countertops, floors, and in showers.  The greater the exposure to water, the more difficult it is for stone to keep its lasting quality.  Use in the shower requires careful selection and treatment with sealers must be made more frequently.  Notwithstanding, you can create a beautiful stone shower that will last and will survive the challenging environment.

The most common types of natural stone used in the bathroom are sandstone, marble, travertine, granite, and onyx.  Beyond differences in appearance, the way these rocks formed in nature and their general structural composition make them quite different in their suitably for bathroom use.  All of these stones require sealing treatments, some more than others. Choosing the right one depends on how much you want to be involved in the care of the bathroom and how often you wish to apply sealer.  Even so, some stones are not suited for use in shower floors and would be best suited for walls, countertops, and floors. For more information about how to choose the perfect natural stone, please visit slabmarket.


Marble is one of the most beautiful natural stones. The veins created from the metamorphosis of impurities into limestone are a big part of marble’s visual appeal. These impurities often consist of iron and while they contribute to the visual appeal they can also lead to staining when they are met with water.  Marble is also considered to be a soft stone, which makes it very absorbent.  This quality makes it especially susceptible to damage from water.  Marble is also easily damaged by the acids in many cleaning products, so if you plan on using it in your bathroom you must be willing to devote the energy to maintain a quality seal.


Onyx is less common as it is quite expensive and is difficult to work with.  Like marble, onyx is especially soft and susceptible to damage from acids.  It is so fragile that onyx usually has a fiberglass backing to add rigidity and strength.  If natural stone requires a great deal of care, then you could say that onyx is high-maintenance.  That rarity also means that onyx is seldom seen and so it makes an especially strong visual statement.  If you are willing to put in the extra effort for upkeep, then this stone can be one of the most stunning of all.


Travertine is a type of limestone and thus has similar properties to marble.  One advantage is that travertine tends to be less expensive than both marble and granite. This stone is durable and comes in a wide array of colors and tones.  Unfortunately, it is very porous just like marble and so it’s especially sensitive to cleaning products that contain acid.  Its relatively low cost, wide variety, and strength still make it a viable option if you’re willing to care for it properly.


Granite is a heavy stone and it is fairly expensive, but of all the stones it is probably the most well-suited for the environment of the bathroom.  Granite does not lose its shine from exposure to water and it responds to sealers extremely well.  When properly treated granite is nearly impervious to water and is also very resistant to scratches and stains.  Its natural beauty and suitability to the wet environment make granite a very good option in the bathroom.


The red, tan, and golden tones of sandstone bring a unique feel to a bathroom that is tough to duplicate.  The texture of this stone is another quality that sets it apart from the others.  Aside from these visual qualities sandstone is not the greatest option.  It is relatively strong but is also very porous which makes it absorbent, leads to staining, and causes it to age prematurely. It can also scratch easily and is slippery when wet.  If you just can’t get over the visual appeal of this stone, then it’s still not the worst choice for your bathroom.

Although natural stone brings certain challenges, it makes a wonderful visual statement and can add value to your bathroom.  Be prepared to regularly clean and dry your stone and avoid using acid-containing products.  A lasting quality sealer must be applied at least every few years.  With this in mind, you can feel confident that one of these natural stones will fit perfectly into your bathroom design.