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Reinforcing Stone Slabs

Natural stone is a remarkably strong material. So is material that is engineered by people. In fact, nearly all materials in the stone industry are strong materials. Building facades, floor tiles, wall panels, and even countertop slabs, each is made to be extremely strong. However, the larger the surface area gets the heavier the material becomes. Add to that the fact that there are some occasions where part of the original surface area is removed or cut out of the piece. The point is there are reasons for reinforcing materials used in the stone industry. If it is not done properly, it can weaken the material. For example, oxide jacking (a.k.a. rust burst) weakens materials from the inside out. In this article we will look at the common ways that materials in the stone industry are reinforced. Additionally, we will consider why this is wise choice.

We alluded to it earlier, but there are many materials used in the stone industry. Of course, natural stone is one type of material. But there are others too. Here is a list of some of the more commonly used materials in architecture and building design and construction and links to get more information:

This article will not go into a large degree of detail about any specific material or technique. Rather, it will simply describe the techniques as they are explained by the Marble Institute of America. Let's look at each of four methods of reinforcing stone slabs and surfaces.

Applying Fiberglass Stone Mesh

The first way of reinforcing stone that we will look at is fiberglass mesh. This technique for reinforcing materials is simple and is normally completed by the one sawing the slabs. How is it done? To reinforce materials using fiberglass mesh, the mesh is adhered to the back of the material using an epoxy or polyester resin. The increases the soundness of the slab; as do the other techniques we will discuss.

Fiberglass Mesh Available

Stone Countertop Rodding

The second technique that we consider in this article is rodding. This technique is used to reinforce material that has narrow strips that span areas lacking sufficient support. For example, a countertop that has a sink hole cut out. Typically these surfaces have a narrow strip right in front of the sink. Of course, farmhouse style sinks are missing this piece of material altogether, but other sink styles have it. Cooktops also have this feature. These areas of material are significantly weaker than before the sink or cooktop hole is cut out. As result, reinforcement is often needed.

Rodding a countertop consists of cutting a few channels in the underneath side of the material being rodded. The channels are fitted with rodding made of carbon, fiberglass, or even steel (as long as it is properly prepared first). The rodding is then embedded in epoxy to keep it in place. This technique is often complete using the first technique we described earlier.

Seaming With Splines

Our third technique for reinforcing material is the technique of using splines. This technique is mostly used to reinforce seams in countertops. This method is performed by using a "key" made from stainless or steel. Commonly, a large washer is used as the spline key. The key is fully embedded into slots that are cut into edges of the material where two pieces are bonded together as a seam. the spline key connects the two edges. This type of reinforcement is designed to strengthen the seam. keeping the seams tight and the two pieces of stone as close as possible is important to a great looking project.

Liner Blocking

The fourth and final reinforcement technique that we will take a look at here is the use of liner blocks. Liner blocks work in a very similar way to the spline key technique above. However, instead of the reinforcement being inside a slot that is cut into the edge, the strength is on the bottom.

To use liner blocks on seams, you bond blocks of stone (either the same kind or a different kind) to the underneath side of the surface material. The blocks are positioned so that they span from one side of the seam to the other. Thus, the blocks add support to the surface beneath which they are affixed. This technique is not as common as the others, but it is one of the methods used for reinforcing materials used in the stone industry.