QUESTIONI have problems with some marble tiles that I have purchased from a company. I bought it because the seller has said they are first choice tiles. The tiles that I have received have numerous chips along the edges of the tiles and corners. The seller says they are due to voids in the stone and they are perfectly fine to be used. All the tilers that I have spoken did not want to lay them because they will look bad when laid. What would be described as a first choice tile? Will these be considered first choice even with these chips and voids within the tiles?
ANSWERANSWER - There is no industry standard for defining what is first choice natural stone. Unlike ceramic tile that defines Second Grade tiles as tiles meet the ANSI A137.1 requirements other than for facial defects, natural stone does not have any definitions for anything other than standard grade materials.
Many importers or quarries of natural stone have differentiated certain types of stones as first quality or premium quality that they charge more for that category of stone. It is an arbitrary classification that they subjectively define for their product. Generally speaking it is a stone that is more consistent in sizing, in color variation, and in the case of travertine stones they will have less voids or fill within the stone.
I would not expect a stone that has chips to be considered first quality, or for that matter, I would not expect a standard quality stone to have chips. If the stone is sold as an unfilled travertine then you should expect voids, although some travertine stones have more or less voids, and those with less voids are considered better quality. If the stone is sold as a filled material, then it should not have any voids.
For each geological classification of natural stone there is an ASTM standard that defines what a standard grade building stone of that respective category should be in terms of its physical properties. Anything less than that should not be considered for building uses. The Marble Institute of America (MIA) defines what are reasonable tolerances for natural stone in terms of dimensional sizes, warpage, quality of the stone, and quality of workmanship. The supplier of the stone should provide test data to their clients demonstrating that the product they are selling does meet industry standards.