One of the hottest trends in home design today is stone kitchen countertops. These durable, heat-resistant, luxurious counters are a beautiful and practical addition to any home. But with all of the different types of natural and engineered stones out there, selecting the right one for your home can seem daunting. It may take a little time to research, but each of these counter materials do have benefits and drawbacks, so it’s important to evaluate which one is right for your needs.
Granite is a common type of igneous (volcanic) rock that forms beautiful crystalline textures. A hard type of rock, granite is well suited for use as a counter in kitchens and bathrooms because it is both heat and scratch resistant. Granite is formed by heat and pressure over hundreds of years, so no two pieces of this natural stone are ever exactly alike. This one-of-a-kind characteristic is particularly appealing to homeowners who want a truly unique space. Granite countertops are available in a wide range of naturally occurring colors and patterns, from neutrals to striking blues and greens. Natural stone countertops like granite do typically increase the value of your home more than engineered stones like quartz as buyers tend to gravitate toward natural materials.
However, despite its prestigious reputation, granite countertops do have several disadvantages. First of all, granite is a relatively porous stone, meaning it has to be chemically sealed to resist stains. The sealing process is simple, but it must occasionally be repeated; some people consider this need for routine maintenance a negative. Secondly, granite tends to be an expensive material. While granite tiles can be used in place of granite slabs to reduce the price of the countertop, not everyone can afford a granite countertop.
Many homeowners are drawn to the luxurious appearance of marble countertops. The distinctive appearance of marble can dramatically increase the value of your house, since it is typically considered a prestigious, sophisticated material. Furthermore marble countertops are the preferred surface for serious bakers as the cool stone is ideal for pie crusts, pastries, and other baked goods. Marble countertops are also available in a huge range of colors from delicate blushes to vibrant blacks, each uniquely formed by nature.
Marble does have some distinct drawbacks as a countertop material. For starters, marble is a much softer stone than granite, so it has a greater tendency to scratch and mar than granite countertops. Additionally, polished marble is vulnerable to etching when acidic liquids are invariably spilled on it. These spots and marks can destroy the finish of your countertop; you can avoid this issue by choosing a honed finish in place of a polished finish, but most homeowners prefer the appearance of polished marble. Finally, marble is a porous, absorbent stone, meaning it tends to stain. While some homeowners like the patina their marble countertops develop over the years, many do consider it a drawback.
You’re likely familiar with soapstone from your high school chemistry lab; those black tables were made from soapstone. Today soapstone is becoming popular in kitchen countertops because of its extreme stain resistance. It is also heat resistant and will not etch.
One drawback to soapstone counters is that they are only available in a limited number of dark colors. Soapstone is generally a grayish color in nature, although it is usually oiled to a black finish for commercial and residential use. Soapstone counters are also vulnerable to scratching. However, soapstone counters can actually be sanded to remove nicks and mars, so this susceptibility to scratching isn’t always seen as a huge shortcoming.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock with qualities similar to marble. Available in a wide range of neutrals and whites, limestone countertops have a smooth appearance, unlike granite. Formed from sand and the shells of aquatic life, limestone frequently includes small fossils and shells; some homeowners particularly value this unique aspect of limestone countertops.
However, like marble, limestone is a soft rock: it tends to stain and scratch easily and is susceptible to etching. Your limestone counter can be sealed to help prevent staining and etching, but limestone is not recommended for high use areas such as kitchens.
Quartz countertops are constructed from an engineered stone made from 93% quartz, pigment, and resin. This stone counter material has many of the same qualities of granite, but without the upkeep issues. Quartz countertops are heat and scratch resistant and will not stain. And, unlike granite, quartz never needs to be sealed. As a man-made material, quartz counters have a uniform color and pattern. Some homeowners do prefer this consistent look to the unique aspects of natural stone. It also means that if a segment of your quartz countertop is damaged, an identical replacement section can be obtained from the manufacturer without concerns about matching.
Although it may seem that quartz countertops are inherently superior, they do have a number of drawbacks. The primary issue is that despite a similar cost, engineered quartz counters don’t increase the value of your home as much as granite countertops do. Home buyers prefer the natural material over the man-made counter, so you’ll want to keep this in mind if you’re remodeling your kitchen as an investment. Additionally, although quartz counters are designed to mimic the natural look of granite, some people believe that quartz lacks the depth and beauty of granite. To be certain which look you prefer, make sure you see samples of both natural and engineered stone. Finally, with quartz your color and pattern options are more limited than with natural stone. There are a large number of colors available, but especially if you’re trying to exactly match your existing color scheme you may prefer the limitless rainbow of natural stone.
Corian is another type of engineered stone similar to quartz. This type of solid surface stone countertop offers most of the advantages of granite and quartz as well as several unique benefits. Like granite and quartz countertops, Corian countertops are heat, stain, and scratch resistant. It is also nonporous, so it will never need to be sealed. Moreover, Corian has the added benefit of being certified kosher. Unlike granite, Corian countertops can also be totally integrated with Corian backsplashes and sinks to create a visually seamless surface.
Nonetheless, Corian also does have disadvantages. It is heat resistant, but only to 212ºF. Higher temperatures will damage your counter, so you’ll almost always need to protect your Corian countertop from hot objects. Also, as with quartz, some individuals prefer the natural look of granite to the uniform and consistent appearance of Corian. Corian countertops are also only available in limited colors and patterns, which some people dislike.
With these advantages and drawbacks in mind, you’re now armed with the information you need to pick the perfect kitchen countertop material for your home. Visit your local stone countertop showroom or installer to see samples and learn more about making your dream of beautiful stone countertops a reality.