Onyx is a banded stone not unlike agate. It was formed from limestone so it is a soft stone. Color variation comes from dissolving and redepositing of the limestone. Colors of this strikingly luminescent stone vary from white to black and every color in between. The appearance and color of onyx change with the variations in light. This makes it an exciting building material.
Onyx is as old as Biblical times but it was mostly used for jewelry and artist’s carvings. In Egyptian times, onyx was used to make pieces like bowls and other pottery items. Now, thanks to modern technology, onyx has been repurposed. Onyx tiles are now used as backsplashes on kitchen and bathroom counters, as wall tile in bathrooms, kitchens, family rooms, and dens or on shower wall surfaces.
Onyx floor tiles grace bathrooms, kitchens and foyers adding an air of opulence to your home. Because of their extreme color variations onyx can be used to create a focal point such as a bar or fireplace.
Onyx as a choice for building stones must be made carefully. While its color variation is much like marble, this substance is not nearly as hard as marble. Thus it must be handled and cut with care.
Valued for its almost endless variation in color, onyx is one of the most fragile of nature’s stones. Luckily, there are ways to offset this fragility. Onyx stones are often manufactured on a backing made of mesh or fiberglass. This lends tiles strength but the backing can make cutting the stone to fit a designated space tricky and time consuming. The surface on which onyx tiles are mounted must be perfectly even and stable. Otherwise the tiles may crack.
Tiles must be cut to fit using a diamond blade to produce a clean cut that is unlikely to shatter. If you are installing onyx floor tiles, it is important to use a cement backer board at least 5/8 inches thick before installing onyx floor tiles on the floor and ½” on walls.
Because tiles will vary in color and texture greatly even within a box, before you lay wall or floor tiles, lay the tiles out so you can see how they will appear. That way you will avoid “clumping” light or dark tiles together giving a “pinto pony” appearance that is attractive in a horse but not on a wall for floor.
Besides being easily cracked or chipped, onyx tile is also very absorbent. Thus you need to prevent it from soaking up moisture and getting stain marks. Seal liberally with an impregnating sealer especially made for porous stone. If you have done your job properly, water should bead on the stone surface like it would on a well waxed automobile. As soon as onyx tiles no longer beads water, it is time to reseal it.
Onyx is not as durable or easy care as granite, or marble. It requires care and ongoing maintenance. However, onyx tiles are becoming popular for walls, floors and counter tops because of this precious stone’s beauty.