While some finishes are traditionally suited for particular applications, it ultimately comes down to the stone application, personal preference, lifestyle, and expectations. Quartzite and granite are incredibly scratch and etch resistant types of stone and since finish does not impact durability of the material, for the sake of this conversation let’s focus on the “softer materials”, such as marble. When deciding between honed or polished, neither one is better than the other, just different. Before a decision is made, it is important to ask yourself a few questions and become familiar with all options before deciding which finish is best for you and your family.
What are your expectations and what is your lifestyle like?
Are you the type of person that feels most at ease in a bright, pristine space, with a high gloss finish? Or do you find comfort in the history and character, such as patina in the case of natural stone, of your surroundings and perhaps drawn more to eggshell type paint finishes and a less reflective space? Neither scenario is wrong, it just comes down to which you prefer. Note that while we recommend treating all natural stone with a sealer prior to installation (and then once a year after that in areas that see normal usage, and less frequently for those areas used less often), it is inevitable that all natural stone will change slightly over time. Some call it wear, we call it memories.
According to the Marble Institute of America, a polished finish has a glossy surface that reflects light, emphasizes color and veins of the material. After a stone is polished, the details, colors, hues, and vein structure show more prominently, putting more of an emphasis on these characteristics of the stone. A honed finish is a satin, smooth surface with relatively little reflection of light.
A high polish will bring color to its fullest because it will ultimately reflect the light; conversely, a honed finish will always appear lighter. By honing a polished stone, the depth, hues, and veins that were once very prevalent may be reduced. The degree of honing depends on the stone, but may vary from light to heavy.
If you are in love with the look of marble, but are not keen on seeing the inherent characteristics associated with use of marble over time, such as patina, then a honed finish should be considered. Because of the matte composition of the honed finish, you are less likely to see normal wear over time that come from use, as opposed to a polished finish where there will be more of a contrast.
When sealed, both honed and polished finishes are stain resistant, but there is no such thing as a stain proof sealer. If stains are high on your list of concerns, there are a few things to be considered.
The process in which a stone is polished helps to close natural pores and create a protective barrier. Adding a sealer to the equation creates an additional layer of security. Whereas a honed finish does not have a protective polished barrier; therefore, the sealer fills in the natural pores. Because of this process, a honed material has less protection from stains than a polished material; however a proper sealer will provide stain resistance and a honed finished is more forgiving to the appearance of etch marks.
Having a sealer does not mean that liquids, especially acidic ones like soda or tomato sauce, should be left on countertops overnight, but it does mean that there will be more time to clean up the spills before a permanent mark is made.
Some methods of sealing, such as Clearstone,can protect your natural stone from staining and etching for up to ten years. Designer, Traci Connell mentioned in a recent article posted in Modern Luxury Dallas that she used Clearstone to seal her Bianco Lasa Vena Oro honed marble from Aria Stone Gallery for a recent project with a growing family in Dallas.
What is the application of the stone and what is the space like?
After taking into account your personal preference, there are a few things you should consider when choosing a stone for a certain application. Are you using the stone for a countertop workspace? Wall art application? Flooring or backsplash?
As mentioned above, the matte composition of a honed stone camouflages normal wear, since it does not have a highly reflective surface such as polished, making it better suited for high traffic and heavily used areas, such as countertops and workspaces. Also, the matte, smooth surface is less slippery when wet, making it a safer choice for bathroom flooring and staircases.
Given that polished stone is highly reflective, whereas honed is not, if you have a smaller room that has an abundance of natural light, these reflections may make the space appear larger both on vertical and horizontal applications.