Frederick M. Hueston, PhD

What a hot and humid day it was going to be in sunny Florida! Too hot to ride the Harley, but a good day to stay in the air conditioning. But the first order of business was a trip to my favorite greasy spoon for a cup of joe and perhaps some ham and eggs. When I don’t go, Flo wonders why I’m not there (LOL). So, I got my old bones out of bed and headed over for some breakfast.

Vein cut Travertine slabs as flooring: what you see is what you get — including natural imperfections.

Above: Vein cut Travertine slabs as flooring: what you see is what you get — including natural imperfections.

Diagram from Natural Stone Institute Dimension Design Manual, V. VIII, Marble and Onyx chapter. Used by permission.

Above: Diagram from Natural Stone Institute Dimension Design Manual, V. VIII, Marble and Onyx chapter. Used by permission.

I walked into the diner and noticed a group of men sitting at one of the tables who I had not seen before. I nodded to them as I walked in, and they completely ignored me. I sat down as Flo was pouring my coffee and I overheard their conversation.  They were talking about a home they were building and discussing some of the complaints the homeowner had. They were talking about cabinet, roofing and other defects and then I heard something that caught my attention. 

One of them mentioned a limestone floor and something about a mismatch. Well, this ole Stone Detective couldn’t resist, so I spun around on my stool and said, “Excuse me, gentleman. I couldn’t help but overhear you say something about some stone?” I told them who I was and handed them my card. They took my card and gave me a look like I was trying to sell them insurance or something. One of them quietly said, “Thanks, buddy,” and I spun back around to flirt with Flo.

I finished my ham and eggs, threw Flo a kiss and said, “See ya tomorrow.” I was headed over to my Woody when I noticed one of the gentlemen following me.  I turned around and he said, “I read your card, looked at your website, and I think we may need your services for this project.” I smiled and told him I would be more than happy to help. He told me that the house they were building was a $22 million project. They installed a vein matched travertine floor, and the customer was complaining that the veins didn’t match. He asked If I could come take a look at it, and I agreed. He gave me the address and I arranged to head over there in about an hour.

Back at home, I finished up replying to some emails (yes, this ole man knows how to use email!), and headed out in the heat to look at this project. 

I arrived at a large house which was still under construction. There were workers all over the place. I had to park the Woody several blocks away and suffer the heat as I walked toward the house.  When I arrived at the site I was meet by the gentleman I saw at the dinner. He greeted me and asked me to follow him.

When we entered the front of the house I immediately noticed the floor. It was a travertine floor built of huge slabs. The veins were matching as if it were one continuous slab. He took me over to a corner of the floor and pointed to two slabs and said, “There’s the mismatch the owner is complaining about.”

 I carefully looked at it, took several phone pics and told him I didn’t see anything unusual with it (see photo). I then explained, “Book matched and vein matched slabs will never match exactly for the following reason. Take a block of stone with veins running through it. Now slice the block into slabs. The slabs that are adjacent to one another will have a mirror image or a continuous vein. But the match isn’t perfect, because the thickness of the saw blade will remove some of the veining, and the slabs will have a slight break in the match (see diagram). In addition, the slabs were separated by a transition strip running in the opposite direction, which can also make it look like it is not continuous (see the Natural Stone Institute Dimension Design Manual, section 7-D-2).

  He thanked me, handed me my check and asked if I could write a report that he could show the homeowner. Sure, I could write a detailed explanation with diagrams, but I cautioned him there’s no guarantee the homeowner would be happy with the answer. 

I wasn’t looking forward to my walk back to the Woody, but the trip was worth it. Another case solved–now back to my office and air conditioning, before I melt!

The Stone Detective is a fictional character created by Dr. Frederick M. Hueston, PhD, written to entertain and educate. Dr. Fred has written over 33 books on stone and tile installations, fabrication and restoration and also serves as an expert for many legal cases across the world. Send your comments to