Architects, consultants and project owners could benefit greatly from a better understanding of stone protection solutions, says FILA’s Francesco Pettenon
The Middle East is one of the standout regions that still works on grand, large-scale projects that make use of the best stones, tiles and ceramics. Yet when it comes to knowing how to protect these materials and maintain their beauty over the long term, the lack of knowledge of the benefits and properties of sealers can have negative consequences.
Nothing highlights luxurious a building like a pristine white marble floor, but when no sealer has been applied to the marble and it then becomes stained with yellow internal rust (because the iron from the stone reacts with the mineral salts brought inside the marble by humidity), the developers will look for someone to blame, and to pay for the replacement of the whole floor. Most of the time, the architect or the consultant will bear the blame, unless they have specifically mentioned in the project specifications that a sealer should be applied to each marble slab, on each of the six sides.
Stained stones are worst-case scenarios for prestigious projects, and unfortunately it has happened before in Dubai. Luckily, the architect was not made accountable, since he had clearly specified that the marble should be protected properly. Sadly, his recommendations were not followed, and that led to stained surfaces all over the building. All the stone had to be removed and replaced at great cost, and to reduce expenses the replacement material was plastic, which was not as eye-catching as the pure marble it replaced.
To each their trade, and although architects and consultants know a lot about the different facets of building construction, when it comes to stones and how best to protect them, we have noticed that they are not aware of the latest eco-friendly innovations.
Knowing about and applying these solutions will help protect the stones, but it is also useful information for architects and consultants, which is why we created a project division to support project professionals and advise them on stone protection, sealers and maintenance of the surface.
There has been tremendous progress when it comes to surface protection, and you can find solutions that are solvent-free and emit no, or a very limited amount of, harmful VOCs. As a result, they do not attack the ozone layer and are safe not only for the environment, but also for the workforce applying them and for the people making use of the building.
In kitchens and restaurants, it is also essential to use products that have been certified as safe for contact with foodstuff. Some stain and waterproofing protectors even help you achieve LEED certification. You can therefore find high-quality solutions that help you comply with green building requirements, like Estidama in Abu Dhabi or the Dubai Green Building Regulations. What’s more, the right stone protection preserves the beauty of the material you choose for your project in the long run.
In this region, where weather conditions can be quite extreme, applying protection that prevents stains and discoloration from sand particles, salt, UV rays, water and grease is not a gimmick. The advantages it brings are priceless; the guarantee is that for the next ten years the surfaces of your project will retain their pristine look. This means project quality will remain high, with fewer customer complaints.
Applying protection also helps maintain our planet and our environment – consider that the protected stone will not have to be removed ahead of time and replaced by new, freshly sourced stone. Remember, stone is a natural resource that we should conserve where possible.
Developers have now realised that quality is essential for any project to keep its value in the long term. That is why asset owners and developers want high-quality material to be used, and that is also why architects and consultants must remember to recommend that the material be properly protected and maintained, especially in the harsh climate of the Middle East.
When you use the right protection for marble, granite, tile or ceramics, you ensure that the beauty of each surface is safeguarded, but you must also recommend the proper maintenance solution for each surface. Using the wrong detergent can cause irreversible damage to stone, and can also be quite harmful to the environment. For instance, acidic detergent on marble will eventually alter its appearance, and no product will be able to bring back the natural look of the stone.
It is sad to say, but many maintenance companies are not aware of the properties of the surfaces they are cleaning, and use exactly the same harsh detergent for every surface. Today, the best maintenance products are adapted to each surface and are harmless to the environment; they are non-metallised to prevent water pollution, have a perfectly adapted PH level for each surface, do not contain formaldehyde, hypochlorite, toxic or carcinogenic substances, and are solvent-free.
There’s a lot to take into account when it comes to stone protection and maintenance, and in order to choose the best solution for each surface, it’s worth working with a specialist. They can help you protect the beauty of your project in the long term, and prevent expensive missteps.
Francesco Pettenon is managing director of FILA Surface Care Solutions.