Grinding, Honing, & Polishing

grinding natural stone, lippage removal, honing, northern virginia stone restoration

Every profession uses common terminology. Stone restoration is no different. For floor work here are the three most common terms you will hear:


Grinding – This process is most common in Europe, where the installation process for natural stone floors is a bit different. As the natural stone tile is installed, the grout is placed on all 2-3 sides of the tile. It is then butted up against adjoining tile. This leaves excess grout sticking up out of the tile. It also creates a more solid bond, as there is no worry about jamming the grout all the way to the bottom of the joint. The installation then cures for 5-7 days. Then, a floor machine with rough diamond attachments is run along the the floor. This “grinds” the floor and excess grout down. The result is a perfectly flat floor. It makes the floor easier to clean, as nothing can get stuck in the grout lines, because the grout lines are even with the natural stone. It is also more pleasant to walk across on bare feet. You don’t feel the difference between the grout lines and the natural stone.


In the US, it is associated with poorly installed marble or travertine. If one tile is higher than the adjacent tile, that is called lippage. If there is too much lippage, typically greater than a dime, this is out of specifications. Instead of tearing up the floor, it can be ground down and flattened. After grinding, the floor looks terrible. Additionally, depending on the quality of the install, some grout may have popped out. This is a result of the tile installer failing to push the grout down far enough. This can be easily patched, but may delay the project a day. There is no shine, and there are visible marks from the diamonds cutting the floor down. This leads to the next step honing.


Before discussing honing, let’s discuss the benefits of grinding first:


  1. Gives you a perfectly flat floor, much more pleasant to walk on with bare feet
  2. Makes cleaning easier, there is no chance for dirt to get in the grout lines
  3. When polished, gives a classic mirror like look


Honing – This step gives the floor its clarity. After grinding, there are large cut marks from the diamonds. Honing removes these marks by leaving smaller cut lines. It is similar to using finer sandpaper on wood to get a smoother finish. After grinding, the honing process typically starts at 50 grit. If no grinding is done, the honing process usually starts at 220, and goes to 1800. If you are looking for a “matte”, flat, or semi-gloss finish, honing is required. This removes the scratches and leaves very little to no reflection.


If the stone is honed, the pores are left more open versus honing to a high grit and polishing. This is where a high quality sealer truly makes a difference. We offer premium solvent based sealants preventing staining and watermarks.


Typically, travertine, limestone, and slate are kept at the honed level. This gives a more rustic look for the floor.

Polishing – The final step in most natural stone installations, this gives the stone its reflection, or mirror like finish. Using a polishing compound, the heat and pressure make the top layer of the stone turn into a mirror like finish. While polishing can be the shortest step in duration, it gives the biggest wow factor to a floor.


If you are interested in learning more about grinding, honing, or polishing your floor, give us a call at 571-488-1892. Thank you for reading.