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Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania / Floors & Counter tops

If granite is the bedrock of stone decor, basalt is a chip off the old block.

Formed millions of years ago when volcanic lava met seawater, basalt is a fine-grained black stone nearly as hard as diamond. And though it isn't found in a rainbow of colors like granite and marble, its durability, strength and unique ability to complement surrounding colors have made it a rock-solid hit in homes and businesses on the West Coast. Now if it could only crack other markets.

Jennifer Pugliano McDowell, an interior designer for Quad Three Group Inc. in Lawrenceville, was thinking about slate flooring in the renovation of an old public bath house as office space at the corner of Butler and 35th streets. Then she found what she thought was a ceramic tile in a directory of construction and architectural products. It had the look of checkerplate steel, which she thought appropriate for a century-old building that once offered mill workers and their families a 10-minute shower or bath for 10 cents.

 

The product turned out to be basalt tile imported from the Czech Republic by Decorative Cast Basalt Sales in Webster Springs, W.Va. McDowell used a combination of the standard and easy-clean tiles in a lobby, hallway and bathrooms of The Bathhouse, which recently won awards for adaptive reuse from Pittsburgh's Historic Review Commission for Lawrenceville Associates LLC, Lawrenceville Corp., Quad Three Group and contractor Greg Mihalko Inc.

PO Box 218
Cowen, WV 26206
304-644-3074

 

"People are 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 Italy.

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 distributors.

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."

Recently, Decorative 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."

 

Contact Us:
Decorative Cast Basalt Flooring
PO Box 218
Cowen, WV 26206

Cellular: 304-644-3074