When choosing a countertop surface for your kitchen, there are a lot of factors to consider. If Natural Stone has made it to the top of your list, read through the list below to determine if its advantages and disadvantages make it a good choice for your family.
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- Sustainability. Mother nature never stops working. So yes, natural stone is a “renewable” resource. However, since it takes thousands of years to create, many industry professionals do not consider natural stone a true green product. It is important to note the stone industry has made huge strides in recent years to adopt responsible quarrying and production practices. Since natural stone countertops can last a lifetime, contain no harmful chemicals and do not emit harmful radiation or gasses, they have a place in the green building movement.
- Heat Resistance. Natural stone countertops will not melt or blister when exposed to heat. They are one of the most heat-resistant countertops on the market. If you take a hot pan out of the oven, you can place it directly on your countertop surface without any harm. Experts do recommend the use of a trivet when using appliances that emit heat for long periods of time, such as crockpots. Since the material is so dense, there is a small possibility heating one area of the top and not the entire thing, could cause the countertop to crack.
- Scratch Resistance. Granite scores a seven on Moh’s scale of hardness. This means that very few minerals are able to scratch it. You can cut on it, but it isn’t recommended since this will dull your knives and possibly leave a metal residue behind that can be difficult to remove. Marble and similar soft stones are a little more prone to scratching. Marble has a hardness of 3 to 5 on Mohs scale. Marble lacks the same durability as granite and it will suffer damage from common kitchen tasks such as cutting. Contact with hot pans and dishes may also damage marble. As a surface, marble is a more suitable choice for low-traffic spots such as bathroom vanities, fireplace surrounds and decorative accents.
- Seams: In a typical kitchen, natural stone (and quartz) countertops will need to have 2-3 seams. Depending on the color of stone you choose, average slab size will vary. A typical expectation can be set at 9 feet by 5 feet. Large islands can typically be done without seams. If you have an L or U shaped layout, expect seams where the countertops angle in a different direction. The good news is that many fabricators will mix custom color epoxy to adhere the seams together which does a great job at disguising them. Expect the seam to be around 1/8-inch thick.
- Undermount Sinks. Undermount sinks are common in stone countertop installations. This allows crumbs and spills to be wiped directly into the sink without being caught on the lip of a surface mount sink. You can consider using several types of sinks including cast iron, stainless steel or solid surface. Fabricators will cut and polish the sink hole to match the shape of your chosen sink.
- Backsplash Options. Coved backsplashes that are common in laminate or Corian countertops are not available with natural stone or quartz. Typically, a separate 4” piece of the stone slab will be adhered on top of your countertop surface. Tile and full-height granite backsplashes are also used.
- Repairs. Natural stone countertops should be repaired by a professional. It is rare to get a crack or chip in your countertops, but if you do, contact the fabricator who installed your countertops to schedule a service call. Most of the time, a color-matched epoxy can be used to fill the void and it will be virtually invisible. In a pinch, you can use superglue to fill a chip. If you use heavy cast iron pans, be careful when placing them into your under-mounted sink. The edge of these cutouts is the most common place to get chips. A more likely scenario, though, is to experience an increased number of broken dishes.
- Sealing. Natural stone is a porous material. Most fabricators will apply a sealer to stone countertops before they are installed which will protect them from absorbing liquids too quickly. Being porous is not necessarily a bad quality. If liquids are left on the surface for long periods of time, they will eventually absorb. But just like they absorb, they will also evaporate. Depending on what the substance is that needs to be removed, you can apply different poultices to speed the process along. However, many will evaporate on their own without the use of chemicals or cleaning products. Other countertop materials such as solid surface and quartz surfacing are non-porous. There are things that can stain them though, such as permanent marker which can be removed from granite.
- Maintenance. Natural Stone countertops are considered to be a low maintenance countertop surface. The likelihood of needing to be repaired or resurfaced is low. Technology for sealers has come a long way over the years, and many will last more than 10 years before needing to be reapplied. When they do need to be reapplied, it is something that most homeowners can do on their own as the process is similar to cleaning. Simply apply the product and wipe off the excess. It is a good idea to ask your installer which sealer was initially applied and use the same kind to reapply. Some sealers don’t play nicely with each other and when mixed, can create a sticky mess.
- Price. There are a lot of variables such as edge profile, total square footage, backsplash, etc. Don’t be fooled by the stereotype that all natural stone is expensive. Though natural stone countertops are not considered “low range” in pricing, there are a lot of affordable options that will start at around $35-$55 per square foot. Do be careful when comparing pricing between different companies. Make sure you are comparing apples to apples. Your final quote should include material, fabrication and installation.
- Exotic Options. If you are looking for something truly unique, consider an exotic natural stone. As with most things in life, price is determined by supply and demand. Some quarries are not easily accessible and/or only able to be quarried for short periods of time throughout the year. If these circumstances exist in a quarry with gorgeous stone, the price will be driven upward. Some granites reach over $400 per square foot.
- Colors Available. With all natural stones, including granite, we are limited to the colors and patterns mother nature produces. You won’t find a lot of solid patterns or bright colors, but both do exist. Also, watch for a large range of color and pattern within the same color of stone. It’s always a good idea to view the exact slab(s) that will be fabricated for your kitchen to make sure they are what you expected to see from the sample. Another factor is that many exotic types of naturals have huge flowing waves, and a small sample will not be an accurate representation of the whole slab. Natural stone is not considered one of the countertop surface options with a wide range of colors. You will find a wider range of options with laminate, solid surface and quartz.
- Stain Resistance. In general, darker granites are very dense and sometimes don’t even require a sealer. Lighter stones are more porous and may require multiple coats of sealer to be considered stain resistant. Either way, if properly treated, granite is a stain-resistant countertop surface.
- Resistance to Chemicals. Granite countertops are very resistant to chemicals. Acids and bases will not harm the material. Do be careful of repeated use, though, as some chemicals will wash away the sealer over time, causing the need for re-sealing before the recommended time.
Quartz VS. Quartzite:
Quartz and quartzite are two popular choices for countertops, but they are not the same material. They offer differences in looks, durability, care and price that you should know about before making your selection.
Quartzite is a naturally occurring metamorphic rock. It is created when sandstone is subjected to extreme heat and pressure caused by tectonic plate compression in the crust of the earth. The stone is mined and sawn into slabs which are later precisely cut to become countertops. The tops are polished and sealed for beauty and durability.
Quartz countertops are often called engineered countertops because they are fabricated from natural silicon dioxide and synthetic materials. Loose quartz makes up about 93 percent of the material. It is blended with a binder and pigment and formed into countertops.
Here is a comparison of quartz and quartzite that will help you decide which material is right for your bathroom or kitchen countertops project.
Appearance: It’s impossible to say that one material is more attractive than the other, since beauty is subjective for each of us. Quartzite is generally found in white to gray. Pink and red hues are a result of iron oxide in the stone.
Yellow, blue, green and orange quartzite results from the presence of other minerals. Regardless of the color, the quartzite will have streaking caused by varying degrees of pressure in its formation and the random presence of iron oxide or other minerals.
Quartz, because pigment can be added, is available in a much wider range of colors for you to consider. The way the countertop material is formulated gives it the appearance of natural stone such as granite or marble.
The bottom line in appearance is that if you want natural stone, quartzite is your choice. If you’d like a more diverse selection of colors and patterns to consider, you’ll find it in quartz.
Hardness and Durability: Quartzite is harder than granite, so it is quite durable. It withstands heat very well. Quartz is hard too, but not quite as hard as quartzite. The resin used in manufacturing quartz countertops is a plastic, so it is prone to melting in heat above 300 degrees Fahrenheit.
Where quartz has an advantage over quartzite is that it is less prone to denting and chipping because it is more flexible. Both countertop materials can be scratched by sharp objects, and a cutting board should be used.
Countertop Maintenance: Quartz requires very little maintenance. It wipes clean with a damp cloth. Abrasive cleaners should not be used on quartz, and they really aren’t needed. Ease of maintenance is the main advantage quartz countertops have over quartzite. In any event, as with all countertops, it is advisable to use cleaners designed for your type of surface.
Quartzite requires quite a bit more TLC. It must be sealed before use and re-sealed one or two times per year. Without a proper seal, stains can penetrate into the stone. This is a weakness shared by all natural stone including granite and marble. When properly sealed, quartzite cleanup is easy.