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The Ultimate Glossary of Fabricator Terms and Phrases

You just returned from your local fabricator, all excited about your granite countertop installation.

But as you think back to your conversation with the fabricator, you wonder what some of the terms mean that he mentioned.

What’s a honed finish?

He mentioned something about a bullnose finish. What’s that?

And you faintly remember him referring to slabs.


Never fear, the ultimate glossary is here!

Take a quick look at the terms you may hear and become familiar with some fabricator lingo. You’ll definitely feel a little more at ease!

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W


Acid-Washed Finish
Acid washing is a way to soften the shine on granite. Acid-washed finishes contain small etching marks (pits in the surface). A countertop with an acid washed finish shows fewer scratches and is much more rustic in appearance than a honed finish. Though most stone types can be acid-washed, the most common are marble and limestone.

Pertains to a highly basic, as opposed to acidic, substance; for example, hydrogen or carbonate of sodium or potassium.

A metal fastener used to secure stone to a structure.

Antique Finish
A finish that replicates rusticated or distressed textures produced through a mechanical or chemical means to simulate a natural aging process.

A trim piece found beneath a projecting stone top, stool, or something similar.

An edge or angle where two surfaces meet. For example, moldings and raised edges.

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Back Buttering
The process of applying thinset to the back of tile in order to ensure proper mortar coverage. Prevents hollow areas and future cracking of tiles. Back buttering is also helps to ensure a level installation.

The area located on the wall space between the countertop and upper cabinets.

An igneous, dark-colored rock referred to as granite when fabricated as dimension stone.

1. The top or bottom of a joint, natural bed; surface of stone parallel to its stratification. 2. In granites and marbles, a layer or sheet of the rock mass that is horizontal. Sometimes also applied to the surface of parting between rock sheets. 3. In stratified rocks, the unit layer formed by sedimentation; of variable thickness, and commonly tilted or distorted by subsequent deformation. It generally develops a rock cleavage, parting, or jointing along the planes of stratification.

Bed Joint
A horizontal joint between stones. Bed joints are usually filled with mortar, lead, or sealant.

Belt Course
A continuous horizontal course, making a division in the wall plane.

A sloped surface contiguous with a vertical or horizontal surface.

Biocuttura Tile
Ceramic tiles are fired in a kiln at temperatures around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit. Biocuttura Tiles are fired after the green tile is dried, then fired again after a glaze is applied. Sometimes also called Double Fired.

Contemporary kitchen with granite countertops

Contemporary kitchen with granite countertops

As you look at a glazed tile from the side view, you see two layers: the largest, or body, layer, is called the bisque. The top layer is referred to as the glaze.

Positioning of adjacent floor slabs, or tiles, by their predominant color.

Block Cutter
A machine used for inline drilling of small diameter holes during the quarrying process.

1. To overlap joints in successive courses. 2. Also, to stick or adhere.

Warping or curving of wall cladding.

Brushed Finish
A brushed finish is created by brushing the stone with a coarse rotary-type wire brush.

Bullnose Edge
A convex rounding of a material, to be used in various applications, such as stair tread.

Bush Hammering
A mechanical process producing textured surfaces that vary from subtle to rough.

Butt Joint
An eternal corner formed by two stone panels with one head.

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A crystalline variety of limestone containing less than 5% magnesium carbonate.

First step in the finishing process of a stone tile. Coarse abrasives pads are mounted to the bottom of rotating wheels that under extreme pressure and rotation speed are applied to the face of the stone. This process then grinds the stone to a consistent thickness of ±1 mm tolerance. This is crucial for the installation of tile in a thinset application. Calibration is applicable only to dense stones that can take a honed or polished finish, such as limestone, marble, and granite. The term is often erroneously applied to slates, quartzites, and other cleftface stones, where the precision of the calibration process is not possible. Sawn-back or ground-back techniques are applied to these types of stones, and are correctly called “gauging,” which is not as precision-oriented as calibration.

A volcanic, quartz-based stone with qualities similar to adoquin, but not as dense. Cantera is quarried in Mexico.

Cement backer unit. Wood subfloors generally require a CBU for support. CBUs also provide a moisture barrier.

Ceramic Tile
A thin surfacing unit composed of various clays fired to hardness. May be glazed or unglazed.

Chiseled Edge
A process of mechanically chipping the tile edge, giving the stone a rustic, aged appearance.

An exterior covering intended to control the infiltration of weather elements, or for aesthetic purposes.

The ability of a rock mass to break along natural surfaces; a surface of natural parting.

Cleavage Plane
The plane along which a stone may likely break.

Cleft Finish
Natural cleft is the term used to refer to rough-surfaced stones such as slates that are cleaved or separated along a natural seam.

Small, individually tumbled or non-tumbled stones that are placed tightly together to form various interlocking patterns. Used for sidewalks, streets, etc.

There are two COF tests: Static and Dynamic. Most manufacturers will have a rating system that is based on or supported by the American Society for Testing & Materials (ASTM). Many times you can find these ratings on the tile sample or in the product catalog. One rating system measures Slip Resistance, which is measured by its Coefficient of Friction (COF). The higher the COF the more slip resistant the tile. This is important when selecting a floor tile for areas that get wet, such as your shower or bathroom floor. Other ratings listed by the manufacturer might include: scratch resistance, moisture absorption, chemical resistance and breaking strength.

Color Body Porcelain Tile
Technically-advanced glazed porcelain. The porcelain body and surface glaze are colored with the same pigments. The result is a glazed tile with consistent color throughout the body. The tile is fired in a kiln at approimately 2,000 degrees, creating a hard, non-porous, impermeable finish with a low water absorption rate of less than 0.5%.

Column Caps
A decorative piece placed at the top of a column.

A flat stone used as a cap on freestanding walls.

Cove Base
A ceramic floor tile trim that has a rounded finished top like a bullnose to cover up the body of the tile.

Cove Molding
A concave molding, typically found at the sloped or arched junction of a wall and ceiling.

Craftsman Panels

Cross Cut
A process of end-cutting blocks of stone, yielding a less-linear, more rounded, “wavy” pattern.

Cure Time
The time required for the thinset to become hard and set.

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Short for decorative accent piece.

Diamond Sawed
A finish produced by sawing with diamond-toothed circular or gang saw.

An underlayment that provides a solid foundation for the tile, while still allowing for slight movement of the substrate without damage. It also provides a protective waterproof barrier in the event that water penetrates the grout, such as in a bathroom.

Shaping and squaring of blocks for storage and shipment. Sometimes called “scabbing.”

Dry Seam
An unhealed fracture in a stone. May be a plane of weakness.

Dual Finish
Two finishes on one piece of stone, such as thermal and polished.

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Eased Edge
When referring to a slab material, the square edge profile normally has softened edges as opposed to sharp square edges for added safety.

Epoxy Resin
A flexible, usually thermal setting resin. Used as an adhesive.

A decorative surface pattern created most often with abrasive chemicals or sandblasting.

Tiles formed by forcing the clay material through a mold for the desired shape, versus pressing the tile.

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Used in reference to dimension stone, meaning manufactured and ready for installation.

One who customize natural slab stones for specific installations.

Field Tile
When creating a pattern with different ceramic tiles, the more prominent tile that is throughout the largest areas is called the “field tile”.

The filling of natural voids in stone units with cements or synthetic resins and similar materials.

Final surface applied to the face of dimension stone during fabrication.

Granite slabs

Granite slabs in warehouse

The fifth step in the manufacturing of ceramic and porcelain tile. The tiles are fired in the kiln at temperatures around 2000 degrees Fahrenheit.

A hairline opening in the face of stone demonstrating stones natural characteristics; a lineal or non-directional void in the face and crystalline structure of stone that typically is very thin and irregular.

Flagmats are precut pieces of natural stone affixed to a mesh backing. Each piece fits into the next, similar to a puzzle.

Thin stone slabs used to pave surfaces such as walks, driveways, and patios. Generally they are fine-grained bluestone, other quartz-based stone, or slate. Thin slabs of other stones may also be used.

Flamed Finish
A flamed finish is achieved by heating the surface of the stone to extreme temperatures, followed by rapid cooling. The surface of the stone pops and chips leaving a rough, unrefined texture. This process is usually done with granite. Flamed granite has a highly textured surface, making it ideal for areas where slip resistance might be a concern, like shower areas.

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Gang Saw
A mechanical device, also known as a “frame saw,” used to cut stone blocks to slabs of predetermined thickness.

Glazed Porcelain Tile
A colored liquid glaze applied to the surface of a porcelain body. The tile is fired in a kiln at approximately 2000 degrees. The glazing process defines the color and surface texture and produces a hard, non-porous, impermeable tile with a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%.

The fourth step in the manufacturing of ceramic tiles. Glazing liquid is prepared from a glass derivative called frit and colored dyes. The glaze is applied by either a high-pressure spray or is poured directly onto the tile.

A visibly granular, igneous rock; generally ranging in color from near-white through the spectrum of colors, including gold, pink, green and blue, to gray and black. Granite is mostly made up of quartz, mica and feldspar. Granite is the hardest architectural stone, making it ideal for countertops and high-traffic areas.

The material used to fill the joints, or spaces, between tiles.

Gauged and Unguaged
Refers to slate cleft out of blocks into tile. Gauged slate is ground or sawn to produce a more uniform thickness. Ungauged slate is hand-cleft and can have variations in thickness.

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Honed Finish
A flat, matte or satin finish which creates a more informal and softer look. The finish is created by stopping short of the last stage of polishing. A honed finish stains and scratches more easily, and requires more maintenance.

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Igneous Rock
Formed when molten rock (also called lava or magma) cools and hardens. Granite is an example of an igneous rock.

Impervious Tiles
Tiles that have less than .5% moisture absorption. These tiles are frost proof and can be used in exterior areas or on the outside of buildings.

Applying a chemical containing stain inhibitors that penetrates below the surface of the stone.

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The space between tiles that is filled with grout.

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A slot cut into the edge of a stone with a saw blade for insertion of anchors.

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Large Format
Generally refers to tiles with a dimensional length greater than 15 inches.

Ledgestone consists of a pattern of stonework using horizontal joints. The pattern generally consists of individually stacked pieces of stone where the horizontal ledge is more defined than the vertical joins, giving it a rough texture.

The acronym stands for Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. The LEED Green Building Rating System was established by the U.S. Green Building Council. The system defines standards for environmentally responsible, healthier, and more profitable structrues. Points are awarded to new construction and major renovation in five categories: Sustainable Sites, Water Efficiency, Energy & Atmosphere, Materials & Resources, and Indoor Environmental Quality.

A sedimentary rock composed principally of calcite (calcium carbonate), dolomite (double carbonate of calcium and magnesium), or some combination of the two. Limestone is generally softer and less dense than granite and more homogeneous in appearance.

Structurally sound sections of stone cemented and doweled to the back of thin stone units to give greater strength, additional bearing surface, or to increase joint depth.

When one edge of a stone is higher than the edge of an adjacent stone, giving the finished surface an uneven appearance.

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Manufactured Stone
This is a synthetic stone made from natural stone chips suspended in a binder such as cement, epoy resins or polyester. Some of the most popular types of manufactured stone products are those made mostly of quartz. The natural quartz gives the product depth and radiance while at the same time strength and consistency. Manufactured Stone is strong, it has four times the fleural strength of granite, so there’s less chance of chipping or cracking. It’s also called Agglomerate Stone. The most well known agglomerated stone is poured-in-place terrazzo, used in building for thousands of years.

A metamorphic rock possessing a distinctive crystalline texture. Marble is composed principally of calcite and dolomite, singly or in combination. Marble is typically softer than granite, and is available in a wide spectrum of color and veining. A derivative of limestone. It is a metamorphic stone that can be polished. Marble is characteristically soft and easily scratched or etched by acids.

Metamorphic Rock
Rock altered in appearance, density, crystalline structure, and in some cases, mineral composition, by high temperature or intense pressure, or both. Includes slate derived from shale, quartz-based stone from quartzitic sand, and true marble from limestone. Created when other kinds of rocks are changed by great heat and pressure inside the earth. Marble, slate and quartzite are examples of metamorphic rocks.

Tiles of different sizes that be placed together in a pattern.

Moisture Absorption
As the density of the tile increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb becomes less. Tile density means that, as the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes a stronger tile. Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. As the density of the tile increases, the moisture absorption rate decreases.

Decorative stone deviating from a plane surface by projections, curved profiles, recesses or any combination thereof.

Glazed tile produced by the single-fired method in which the raw tile body and glaze undergo a single pass through the kiln.

Tile size 2 inches by 2 inches and smaller are usually referred to as mosaics and are often used with different colors to create a pattern or decorative inset. Some of these smaller tiles also come in different shapes, such as hexagon.

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Natural Cobbles and Pavers
Natural cobblestone pavers are recognized as some of the oldest paving materials that are still in wide use today. These decorative stones make up some of the best-preserved roads in various parts of the world. Today, they are extensively used in various commercial, residential, and public spaces and rank as among the most preferred paving materials.

Natural Stone
A product of nature. A stone such as granite, marble, limestone, slate, travertine, or sandstone that is formed by nature. A stone not man made or synthetically produced.

Nominal Size
Tile is usually referred to by its nominal size, not its actual size. During the firing process, ceramic tile will shrink, on average, by about 10%. For example a 12″ by 12″ floor tile will actually measure 11-7/8 inches square after the firing process. Currently, the most popular ceramic floor tile are 13″ by 13″, 16″ by 16″ and 18″ by 18″.

Non Vitreous Tiles
Tiles that absorb 7% or more moisture. These tiles are best suited for indoor use.

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A stone molding possessing a reverse curved edge: concave above, convex below.

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The process of stacking stone on wooden pallets, making it more easily moved and transported by modern handling equipment. It generally arrives at its final destination in better condition than unpalletized material.

When the surface of a material has changed in color or texture due to age or exposure to various elements, it is referred to as patina.

A single unit or tile of fabricated stone used as an exterior paving material.

Stone used as a wearing surface, as in patios, walkways, driveways, etc.

The support for a column or statue, consisting of a base, dado, and cap. Based on classical architecture.

PEI Rating
This rating is established by the Porcelain Enamel Institute to rate the resistance of glazed ceramic tile to visible surface abrasion. Commonly referred to as “abrasion resistance”, this is probably the most commonly used industry rating for wear.

Polished Finish
A high-gloss finish achieved on stone by machine-grinding and buffing. Polished surfaces create a beautiful glossy shine from the natural reflection of the stone’s crystals. The shine is accomplished by using progressively finer polishing heads during the polishing process, similar to the way that sandpaper smoothes hardwood furniture.

Porcelain tile is made up of 50% feldspar and is fired at a much higher temperature than regular ceramic tile, thus making porcelain tile much harder and more dense than other tile products. Because of its highly durable make-up, porcelain is more resistant to scratches and can withstand temperature extremes. Because porcelain is non-porous, it is very stain resistant, has very low water absorption ratings (less than 0.5%) and can therefore be used for interior and exterior applications, as well as heavy-use and commercial areas. Because porcelain’s color goes all the way through, small scratches or chips are less noticeable.

The amount and size of the pores in a stone. Examples: travertine is very porous, whereas granite is not.

Prairie Panels
Prairie panels use hand selected pieces of natural stone affixed together in a random blend to form modular panels, allowing a streamlined installation of the stone veneer.

Premium Natural Stone Veneers
Stone veneer is a natural or faux stone made thin enough to be applied to a masonry surface using mortar. The use of stone veneer is an excellent way to add the elegance and beauty of natural stone to almost any project. Some of the more popular applications of are stone for exterior walls, interior stone walls.

The third and most common step in the manufacturing of ceramic and porcelain tile. The clay is pressed or formed into a tile shape. Pressed tiles are referred to as “green tiles” at this stage.

Company or person that quarries and supplies dimension stone to the commercial market.

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The location of an operation where a deposit of stone is extracted from the earth through an open pit or underground mine.

Quarry Block
A rectangular piece of rough stone as it comes from a quarry, frequently dressed (scabbed) or wire-sawed for shipment.

A silicon dioxide mineral that occurs in colorless and transparent or colored hexagonal crystals or in crystalline masses. One of the hardest minerals that compose stones such as sandstone, granite, and quartzite.

A highly hardened, typically metamorphosed member of the sandstone group. Quartzite contains a minimum of 95% free silica. Quartzite can look similar to slate, but is actually harder and denser. Also available in slabs.

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Rectified Edge
Rectification is a process wherein tiles are ground on each side to create a final precise final dimension.

Granite edge samples

Granite edge samples

Red Body
The color of the body is determined by the color of the clay used by the manufacturer. The body of a red body tile will be red in color. The quality of the tile is more related to the quality of the manufacturer rather than the color of the body.

A chemical product used in some coating processes.

The exposed portion of a stone between its outer face and a window or door set into an opening.

The most pronounced direction of splitting or cleavage of stone. Though rift and grain may be obscure, as in some granites, they are important in both quarrying and processing stone.

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A finishing process of blasting the surface of stone with sand, yielding a rough, porous finish.

Sanded Grout
There are two types of grout commonly used in home installations: Portland cement based, and epoxy based. Both may have sand added to provide additional strength to the tile joint. Sanded grout is recommended for tile joints 1/8th of an inch and larger.

A sedimentary rock composed mostly of mineral and rock fragments. Sandstone contains a minimum of 60% free silica. Sandstone is a soft, loose-knit stone with a natural, rustic look.

Saw Cut Refined Finish
Saw cut refined offers a matte finish. After initial cutting, the stone is processed to remove the heaviest saw marks but not enough to achieve a honed finish. You can order and purchase granite, marble and limestone this way.

Sawed Edge
A clean-cut edge most often achieved by cutting with a diamond blade, gang saw, or wire saw.

Sawed Face
A finish obtained from the process used in producing blocks, slabs, or other units of building stone. It varies in texture from smooth to rough, and is typically named for the type of material used in sawing, e.g. diamond, sand, chat, and shot.

An elastic adhesive compound used to seal stone veneer joints.

1. To make a veneer joint watertight with an elastic adhesive compound. 2. Application of a treatment to retard staining.

Rocks formed of sediments laid down in successive strata or layers. The materials of which they are formed are derived from preexisting rocks or the skeletal remains of sea creatures. Formed from biological deposits that have undergone consolidation and crystallization. Limestone and sandstone are sedimentary.

Semi Vitreous Tiles
Tiles that absorb 3% to 7% moisture. They are applicable for indoor use only.

The trade of installing tile and stone.

Shade Variation
Shade variation is inherent in all fired ceramic products and certain tiles will show greater variation within their dye lots. Shade variation is usually listed on the back label of each sample with a rating of low, moderate, high or random rating.

A piece of plastic or other non-corrosive, non-staining material used to hold joints to size.

Large, thin, flat pieces of stone cut from large blocks of stone. Usually 2 centimeters (¾ inch) or 3 centimeters (1-¼ inch) thick. Slabs can be fabricated into kitchen countertops or used as cladding on vertical surfaces.

A micro crystalline metamorphic rock commonly derived from shale. Slate is mostly composed of mica, chlorite and quartz. Slates are predominantly available in cleft-finished tiles and are ideal for use in exterior, non-freeze settings.

A talc-rich stone with a “soapy” feel, often used for hearths, tabletops, kitchen countertops, farmhouse sinks, chemical-resistant laboratory tops and stove facings. Soapstone is known for its heat, chemical and stain-resistant properties. It is highly recommended to use a stone enhancer and sealer on soapstone.

Split Faced Stone
Stone on which the face has been broken to an approximate plane. Split-faced gives you a rough texture, but not as abrasive as flamed. Split faced stone is typically achieved by hand cutting and chiseling at the quarry, exposing the natural cleft of the stone. This finish is primarily done on slate.

Square Foot
The unit of measure that most tile is sold by.

Stone Tile
Natural stone tile includes granite, travertine, marble, slate and quartzite and can range in size from 1″ X 1″ and smaller, to greater than 24″ X 24″. Typical natural stone floor tile sizes are 12″ X 12″, 16″ X 16″ and 18″ X 18″.

Straight 90-Degree Edge
One of two types of edges for natural stone floor tile. A polished straight 90 degree edge creates a more modern and clean look.

The surface on which stone tile is laid. The process for installing a ceramic floor begins with the preparation of the tile foundation, or what’s called the substrate. Common materials used as tile substrates in home installations include concrete, plywood, and drywall.

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A pattern for a repetitive marking or fabricating operation.

A flooring surface of marble or granite chips in a cementitious or resinous matrix, which is ground and finished after setting.

The surface quality of stone, independent of color.

Textured Finish
A rough surface finish.

A cement based adhesive that is applied to the surface with a notched or grooved trowel. The tile is then placed into the thinset and pressed firmly into place.

Through Body Porcelain Tile
A solid porcelain tile possessing no surface glaze. The color pigments are consistent throughout the body of the tile, from top to bottom. The tile is fired in a kiln at approximately 2000 degrees, creating a hard, non-porous, impermeable tile with a water absorption rate of less than 0.5%.

A thin modular stone unit, generally less than ¾” thick.

Tile Density
As the weight or the density of the tile increases, it becomes stronger. Moisture absorption means that, as the density of the tile increases, the amount of moisture that tile can absorb becomes less. Tile density and moisture absorption have an indirect relationship to each other. Thus, as the density of the tile increases, the moisture absorption rate decreases.

Dimensional allowance in the fabrication process.

The ability of many lighter-colored marbles and onyxes to transmit light.

A type of crystalline or micro crystalline limestone with a distinctive layered structure. Some layers contain pores and cavities which create an open texture. Depending on the product selected, pores in travertine may be filled or unfilled. Travertine is available in warm, earth tones, making it one of the most popular stones for interior and exterior flooring.

A flat stone used as the top walking surface on steps.

Granite slabs

Granite slabs

The framing or edging of openings and other features on the interior or exterior of a building, including baseboards, picture rails, cornices, and casings.

Tumbled Finish
A weathered, aging finished created when the stone is tumbled with sand, pebbles, or steel bearings. A tumbled finish delivers a smooth or slightly pitted surface, wikth broken or rounded edges and corners. There are several methods used to achieve the tumbled look. 3/8” thick tiles can be tumbled in a machine to achieve the desired look, or 3cm tiles can be tumbled and then split, creating two tiles that are tumbled on one side. Marble and limestone make excellent candidates for a tumbled finish.

Tumbled Stone
Marble, travertine, and slate tumbled in a solution of water, sand and river rock, producing tiles with an old-world, weathered, aged look.

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Unsanded Grout
A dry, Portland cement-based product that is mixed with water onsite. The grout mixture is spread over the tiled area with a grout float to fill in all the joints. A sponge is then used to remove excess grout from the surface of the tile while leaving the grout in the joints to cure. Unsanded grout is most commonly used in natural stone installations because it is able to fill the small joints more easily and won’t scratch soft stones like sanded grout.

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A layer, seam, or narrow irregular body of mineral material different from the surrounding formation.

Vein Cut
The opposite of cross-cutting, where the vein in the stone is shown as a linear pattern.

Vitreous Tile
A tile with less than 3% water absorption. These tiles are usually frostproof and ideal for most wet areas, such as pools and spas.

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An interior veneer of stone covering the lower portion of an interior wall.

Water Jet Finish
A surface treatment performed by using water under extreme high pressure.

The practice of filling minor surface imperfections such as voids or sand holes with melted shellac or certain polyester compounds.

Natural alteration by either chemical or mechanical processes due to the action of constituents of the atmosphere, soil, surface waters, and other ground waters, or by temperature changes.

Wire Sawing
A method of cutting stone by passing a twisted, multistrand wire over the stone. The wire can either be immersed in a slurry of abrasive material or be fitted with spaced industrial diamond blocks.

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