Imagine yourself sitting barefoot by a babbling brook, with cold water flowing over your toes and the warm summer sun filtering through the trees. You roll up your pants legs and wade into the stream. The stones from the streambed press firmly into the soles of your feet, but the cold of the water feels good on a hot day and the beautiful mottled stones provide a firm footing. Beautiful, hard, and cold, these stones – whose edges have been smoothed by eons of flowing water, capture the kinaesthetic essence of the forest.
In Asia, river stones have for centuries been used to construct footpaths specifically intended for barefoot walking. The paths are painstakingly crafted by setting stones into a bed of concrete. Stones of different shapes are deployed in varying patterns to create different tactile sensations. The firm pressure against the soles of the feet is considered therapeutic in the same manner as a foot massage.
Such paths are common in public parks. Today, we no longer have to spend hours manually laying stones when we want to capture the ambience of a river stream or an Chinese footpath; instead we can purchase river rock tile. River rock tile is a building product in which river stones have been set against a fiber mesh backing for easy installation. Tiles are available from a wide variety of vendors and are generally sold in a 12” x 12” size.
Grout or concrete fill the gaps between the stones. While primarily a flooring product, the tiles can be used in a variety of other applications with proper planning. Some great things about river rock tile:
• It is easy to install
• It is quite durable and long-lived
• It is well-suited for deployment to narrow or odd-shaped areas
• The river stones create an very natural look and feel
• The tile is well-suited to areas that get wet, making it suitable for use in bathrooms, kitchens, laundry rooms, and patios
• It is great for barefoot walking, making it ideal for use around swimming pools and changing room areas
• River rock tile is available with stones in a large variety of shapes, sizes, colors, and textures
As one would expect, river rock tile is quite heavy – much heavier than ceramic tile. While this may not be an issue when the tiles are deployed as flooring, proper planning must be made in situations where the tile will be deployed on horizontal surfaces (as a kitchen backsplash, for example). In such situations it is important to properly secure the river rock tile to the horizontal surface.
When deploying river rock tile as flooring:
• Cut the tile to the desired shape and size using a box cutter or utility knife and plan out how each tile will fit together on the floor – this can be important, as each tile is unique and it is important that they work together
• If there is concern with water seepage (if deploying in a bathroom or kitchen, for example), be sure to put a plastic barrier down before laying the tile
• Use thinset mortar to secure the tile to the subflooring (follow manufacturer instructions to ensure proper use and drying time, of course)
• Fill the tiles in using grout (follow manufacturers recommendations for the product you are using)
• Use stone sealer both before and after applying the grout to the tiles (again, follow manufacturers recommendations)
As mentioned above, additional measures may be required if deploying the tiles to a horizontal surface. In such situations it may be necessary to use nails or an adhesive to secure the tile mesh to the wall. Use river rock tile to bring a summer stream feeling to any area.
Brandee Macrol writes on behalf of Vanbeeks a company which supplies river rocks and patio stones.