What stone-look flooring is most eco friendly?

Asked by lee kottke
Lenapah, OK

We're building a guest house at our NE Oklahoma ranch.  Limestone is right look but I hear it's too soft and stain absorbent for a practical rough-use and easy care floor.


Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Answered by Polly Osborne, FAIA, LEED AP

Los Angeles, CA

Polly Osborne Architects

August 22, 2011

When considering an eco-friendly flooring, it is important to review the following factors:

  • durability,
  • mining terrain impact,
  • distance from your location,
  • resource conservation, and
  • radon or other toxin issues.

Durabilty is a matter of material hardness and impermeability. That being said, many people have years of happiness with floors of limestone or marble, both materials that stain and are somewhat soft.

Manmade materials, such as concrete or tile can have recycled content to help with resource conservation and can be made to be virtually impervious. Local quarries can give you a local product and allow you to see how they are repairing the land after mining the stone.

Radon is of concern in some areas with natural stone, most specifically granite. You can check with the epa whether this is a concern in your area here


As you said, limestone does stain, but rather pleasantly, and can be sanded clean. Slate also stains, but again, the dirt can be removed.

  • Granite, hard as it is, can still stain, as can most other stone.
  • Sealing any natural stone is a good idea to protect it.

If you want something completely impervious your best solution is porcelain.

  • There are many stone-like porcelains on the market, some with recycled content. 
  • Most of them attempt to look like terrazzo, marble, limestone or travertine. 

Flooring options I'd recommend you consider

It is my understanding that Oklahoma has a number of local quarries, so that is the first place I would explore for a unique material. That also allows you to pick precisely the stones that appeal to you, and possibly get something very special and indigenous to your area.

Another option is to use concrete. Using a high fly-ash concrete incorporates a waste material, fly-ash, which adds strength to the mix.

  • There are many color options to choose from, using integral stains and/or powder “hardeners,” that are thrown on as the concrete is curing.
  • If you are using integral color, you can also “seed” the concrete with stones to increase the organic look, and grind it to bring out the beauty of the stones you have added.
  • Be sure with concrete that you incorporate expansion joints into your design to allow the concrete to crack along the path of your choosing, not its choosing. These expansion joints can be grouted later if you wish.
  • Concrete should also be sealed.

Adobe is enjoying a come back as a flooring option. Here the local soil is mixed to create approximately 30%-50% sand mixture to which Portland cement is added for stability. This creates a much softer feel than concrete, but it might not hold up to your rough use.

Determining the right floor for you

In conclusion, when determining the right floor for you, think local, strong, maybe recycled, and safe.

  • If it extends outside, consider whether it is slippery.
  • If it is a manufactured product it is easy to get information on safety, cleaning and on its durability.

However, a local stone can give you something so special, you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood.

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