Polishing Tiles: How to Take the Edge Off Granite, Marble, Travertine Tiles

Jim Mallery

When you need a finished edge on a piece of granite, marble or travertine tile, you have a couple of choices. You can pay a lot of money to have it polished--or you can do it yourself.

8 Steps to Polishing Granite, Marble, Travertine Tiles

After you have gathered your supplies, all that's left is the polishing. Here are eight steps to guide you:

  1. Know your material. Marble and travertine are soft stones and will sand down relatively rapidly; you have to be careful not to remove too much material. Polishing granite tile, however, will be much more tedious. Be careful of travertine tile edges. Because the material is so porous, it may have unfilled holes or gaps along the edge. If you can't find a solid edge, you may have to get some epoxy filler to repair it.
  2. Firmly clamp the tile to your worktop with the edge you are going to polish overhanging the bench by a half-inch or so. A piece of oak flooring or other dense board makes a good clamp board, as it distributes the pressure over a wide area. Use two clamps on a 12" tile, if possible. (Of course, don't ever clamp directly against the stone.)
  3. Don't think you can hold the tile with one hand and polish with the other. You will be too unsteady and will increase the chance of cracking the tile.
  4. A typical stone tile already will have a slight bevel on the topside edge.
  5. If you are cutting the tiles (with your own, or rented wet saw), make sure to get the smoothest cut, with no blade marks. A small, 7" saw will work, though especially for granite, a larger blade, like 14", will provide a smoother cut. In any case, use clean water in the saw and apply constant gentle pressure to the tile as it moves through the saw.
  6. Use your belt sander for the first step, using 120 or 220 grit paper. If you have cut the edge, so the tile lacks its small bevel, run the belt sander along the top corner at a 45-degree angle a couple of times to build a bevel to match the manufactured edge. Again, if your material is granite or travertine, be careful not to remove too much material. In this step, you are removing any blade marks or roughness.
  7. Switch over to your reciprocating sander. Grits up to 200 will still be removing material. From 400 grit and finer, you are polishing. Work steadily and firmly over the surface, working through each grit of paper: don't skip any. Polish up to 1500 grit, even 3000, if you can find paper that fine. You can wet-sand, but it really doesn't polish better; it just cuts the dust.
  8. You can bull-nose marble tile or travertine. Because of the aggressiveness of a belt sander, you may want to use your reciprocating sander for rounding, using 100 and 200 grit. Then polish it from there with the progressively finer grits.

You might end up covered in dust with a stiff back, but you can also get a nice polished edge on your stone tiles and save yourself a chunk of cash.



About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing, and rebuilding homes.

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