Common types of damage to pavers
Whether you just installed your pavers or have had them for a while, it pays to know what sort of harm they are open to. It not only lets you know how to deal with the damage but also how to avoid injury to the tiles in the first place. Understanding that your pavers will mostly be harmed by everyday household activities, which may result in spills, scrapes, and even breakage.
When looking at how to protect your pavers, two main things will affect your approach; the type of stone, and where it is installed. The type of stone determines certain important characteristics. Porous stones such as limestone and sandstone, for instance, are more susceptible to staining than granite and travertine. The less porous stones are however more inclined to hold water, which is one of the main causes of cracked pavers. Where the stone is installed on the other hand will decide whether it is exposed to harmful elements such as fire, smoke, and excessive water.
Here are some common types of damage that your paver may be in danger from:
Natural stone has a lot of small holes in them that run like capillaries. These can absorb liquid just like a sponge, and when common oils pool in these tiny spaces, it causes staining. This cannot be removed using normal cleaning, and as a rule of thumb, you cannot use bleach or acidic cleaners on natural stone. For this reason, it becomes imperative that you understand the common causes of staining and how you can prevent them in your home.
Organic stains: These come from naturally occurring sources such as tea, smashed fruit, bird droppings, and pet urine. These cause varied stains that have specialized individual poultices. Pet urine stains on marble and limestone are particularly stubborn.
Oils: This comes from both cooking oils and other oils found in the home such as motor oil and grease. Cooking oil stains are caused by cooked food spilling onto the tiles, and are mainly found in the patio. Motor oil and grease, on the other hand, are mainly found on the driveway or on the walkway, where you are likely to run routine maintenance on your car or bike.
Inorganic stains: These are made when certain household products are not cleaned up quickly. These can cause serious staining that may require a professional to fix. They include paint spills, ink, dyes, water spots (caused by dripping water or ), and even children’s crayons. Fire and smoke are also classified as inorganic staining. These are mostly found on the patio, where a barbeque grill is installed.
Fun fact: One way to reduce the chances of paint staining your natural stone is to use acrylic or latex paints where possible.
Metallic stains: When certain metals change color when exposed to air over a long period of time, thanks to a chemical process called oxidation. If they are in contact with the tiles for a while, this process will cause staining. The most common sources of metallic stains are copper and iron.
Biological stains: These are caused by certain plants such as lichens, algae, and fungi, which cause an unmistakable greenish stain. They grow in places with a lot of moisture in the ground or stagnant pools of water. For this reason, this type of staining is mainly found on the patio near water installations, around pool areas, and outdoors.
Etching occurs when substances with an acid or a base in them are left unattended on the stone’s surface. These eat away at the surface of the pavers and cause them to dull and lose their shine. There is a common misconception that etching requires a strong concentration of the irritant, while in real sense even a weak solution can cause damage. This means substances such as wine, soda, and fruit juices (especially lemon, orange, and pineapple) should be cleaned as soon as spills happen. You should also avoid harsh cleaners especially those that contain ammonia. These will cause noticeable damage to the stone including dents and grooves. It is for this reason that experienced paving professionals will use pH neutral products when cleaning and prepping your pavers.
It is important to note that certain stones are more prone to etching. This is dependent on the amount of calcium in the stone, and pavers with a higher calcium content such as marble and travertine ware more likely to etch than granite.
This is commonly incorrectly identified as a stain. This is because it looks like a white powdery residue on the surface of the pavers. Efflorescence occurs when water permeates the stone from underneath and carries the mineral deposits in the stone to the surface. This is why it is most common in areas that come into contact with a lot of moisture, such as patios, garden walkways, and swimming pool areas.
This is often a seasonal problem that shows up when there is a lot of rain or humidity. It causes a slight discoloration of the tiles but does not affect their durability. The International Association of Certified Home Inspectors has determined that efflorescence could also be indicative of a moisture problem nearby since porous pavers and building material can wick water over quite a distance (Up to 6 miles!)
How to differentiate between etching and staining
Etching has also been mistaken for staining. There are however two major differences between etching and staining. These include:
- The cause. Etching is caused by a chemical reaction that physically changes the surface of the stone while staining is caused by oils settling in the capillaries. Stains do not affect the pavers’ finishing as etching does.
- Staining can be dealt with using poultices which you can make at home using material you can get at your local hardware store. Etching, on the other hand, will require a restoration expert to repair the damage. If you are unsure which one of these is on your tiles, try applying a poultice to lift the “stain”, if this does not work, call an expert.
Sometimes, etching and staining happen together. This is when substances such as tomato juice or coffee spills are left unattended. The acidic content on the spill will cause the etching, while the liquid will be absorbed into the stone, leaving a stain.