Understanding Slate, Marble and Onyx Natural Stone Flooring

Sara Miller
Posted in:
Buying Guides

With so many gorgeous natural stone flooring materials to choose from, how can anyone keep them straight? What’s alluring about natural stone is that each material is its own unique composite – making no two stones exactly alike. Learn the basics about slate, marble, and onyx in order to choose the best, and most beautiful natural stone flooring for your home.


Composite: Slate is unique in that it is composed of thin, dried mud and volcanic ash. The unusual layering gives slate an earthy look of swirled blacks, grays, blues, and reds.

Characteristics: Slate is natural looking and while it may contain a swirled color, is typically gray-based. Slate does not readily absorb most moisture, but can become slippery when wet.

Applications: Rustic in appearance, slate is also flat and moisture-resistant making it a practical stone flooring option for many areas that are susceptible to spills.


Composite: Marble has been used for centuries in some of the most famous and historically important buildings and structures in the world. Marble is formed inside the earth through the recrystallizing of limestone that undergoes an immense amount of pressure.

Characteristics: Marble is available in emerald, silver, browns, hues of white, and more luxurious colors. Marble is strong and beautiful, and is also known for its highly polished and shiny look.

Applications: Highly decorative and beautiful, marble is typically used in refined and formal spaces as well as many high-end bathrooms.


Composite: Onyx is often confused with marble, but actually consists of amber and ivory layers.

Characteristics: Onyx is fragile and requires special care for cleaning and maintenance. Onyx is also one of the only translucent stones.

Applications: Typically expensive, onyx is used in grand foyers, kitchens, bathrooms, and smaller, more detailed home spaces.

From high-end to rustic each type of stone flooring is unique in appearance and application. Consider your budget as well as the room you will be installing slate, marble, or onyx in to choose the stone that’s best for your flooring needs.