in awe when they come in, and I think the tile has a lot to do with
it," McDowell said. "It picks up the colors of its surroundings -- the
refinished red oak woodwork and blue-tinted glass."
McDowell also liked the fact
that the tile is a natural "green" product and doesn't require any
finish or sealer. And like granite, its "sister" stone, it's nearly
impossible to scratch.
Those are some of the tile's
best selling points, says Bob Chericalo, 59, president of Decorative
Cast Basalt Sales. Chericalo, who grew up in Pitcairn, discovered
basalt tile about 12 years ago while working in sales for CBP
Engineering in Washington, Pa.
While CBP sells basalt as an
abrasive industrial material, Chericalo was taken with its look and
durability as flooring. For more than 70 years, workers in the spa town
of Marianske Lazne in the Czech Republic have been making cast basalt
tiles. Using high-grade columnar basalt quarried nearby, workers smelt
it at 2,400 degrees and pour it into molds. Ladling gives the standard
tiles a swirling, circular pattern and annealing in a furnace for up to
21 hours gives them a shiny, textured surface flecked with shades of
green, red and bronze.
"It has a European look and
is used widely in churches and cathedrals," Chericalo said.
Some of the patterned tiles
have more of an industrial/commercial look, complementing modern homes
and the stainless steel appliances popular now in kitchens.
"The trend today is to get
something commercial that no one else has," Chericalo said.
Cast basalt tile and outdoor
pavers already have caught on in high-end homes in Colorado, California
and other Western states, where basalt deposits are found naturally and
the stone is more familiar. But basalt makes barely a chip in the
world's floor tile market, which is dominated by Spain, Mexico and
In terms of price, basalt
tile is comparable to granite and marble, retailing for $9 to $18 a
square foot for small quantities, less for large projects. Chericalo,
who is mainly a wholesaler, is trying to get the word out and find
In Washington state, his
distributor is Ed Mantz, a former flooring and equipment dealer who
came on board after using basalt tile throughout the house he and his
wife Vicky built in Bellevue, Wash. As part of a radiant heating
system, it covers the entire main floor except for the bedrooms.
"We were looking for
something relatively maintenance-free since we entertain a lot," Mantz
said. "You can decorate around it. It goes with everything."
Cast Basalt Sales began offering slab basalt for use in countertops,
vanities and other items. Available in sheets up to 5 by 10 feet, it
comes in a honed, polished or rough finish. The natural cut is
particularly attractive, Chericalo said, with small black fissures @
random that look like leaves running through the various tiles. Please
view the about us page for more details.
Mihalko, the contractor who
installed basalt tile in The Bathhouse, is looking forward to using it
in other jobs, including the Mediterranean-style kitchen of his own
house in Ben Avon.
"It looks great. I don't
think there's anything like it."