Your Countertop Guide: Stone
If you’re thinking about building a kitchen in a new home, or renovating a kitchen in an existing home, there is one question that is sure to come up: what countertops should you get? There are plenty of options out there, from tried-and-true marble to high-tech quartz, each type with its own pros and cons. If you don’t want to sweat the small stuff (and who does?), it’s best to compare all three before making a decision. Here’s a breakdown of the three most popular stone countertop materials.
What are Quartz, Marble, and Granite?
Quartz, marble, and granite are all stone materials that are often used to make kitchen countertops. Marble and granite are natural stone – these are mined from a quarry, where huge pieces of stone are cut into manageable slabs, which are then further cut to fit on your kitchen countertop. Marble and granite both have beautiful, natural patterns that are unique to each piece.
Quartz isn’t technically a pure stone, at least not in the form you will use for a countertop. It is mined like marble and granite, but the raw stone is they crushed into a powder then mixed with resin and pigment to create a single, smooth surface. Sometimes, it is referred to as an “engineered stone.”
Quartz vs. Marble vs. Granite
Quartz, marble, and granite are all extremely durable materials. There’s a reason stone is so often used to construct monuments and statues! They’re also all heat-resistant, which makes them great for baking.
Marble is, by far, the softest of all three materials, which means that it can be scratched or chipped the most easily. Granite is the much harder than marble, but it doesn’t hold a candle to the durability and scratch-resistance of quartz. Quartz’ added resin makes it extremely hard to scratch or nick.
To some, an engineered product like quartz is a plus – the added processes involved in creating the stone in turn makes it more durable than natural stone. But, to others, “natural” can be a sticking point. Ask yourself if you would choose laminate floors over hardwood floors. If the answer is no, marble or quartz might be the better option.
Stains & Hygiene
Granite and marble are both porous materials. This means that spilled liquids can potentially seep into the countertops, causing stains. Marble countertops are especially susceptible to stains from acidic liquids, like orange juice, coffee, or wine. Their porous nature also makes these stones more difficult to clean, which can lead to harmful bacteria and germs staying on your counters long after you want them to.
Engineered quartz, though, is not porous. It is extremely difficult to stain, and bacteria have a much more difficult time adhering to the material’s smooth surface.
If you’re set on having granite or marble in your kitchen, prepare for the maintenance. Both stones need to be sealed at installation, which helps prevent stains, and about once every year for the life of the countertops. They also need to be cleaned regularly with soap and water. Beware chemical cleaning products – some can cause stains.
Because quartz isn’t porous, it doesn’t need nearly as much maintenance. Most quartz blends can be safely cleaned with most household cleaning products.
Because marble and granite are natural stone, mined from deposits around the world, every slab is unique. You’ll never have to worry about walking into a friend’s kitchen and seeing the same countertops on their island.
Quartz, on the other hand, is engineered. Although most manufacturers work hard to have a great deal of variety in quartz slabs, inevitably, some slabs will look similar. Quartz also doesn’t have quite the “natural” look that granite or marble has.
While every granite and marble slab is unique, they often have a similar feel because they’re formed in a certain way and mined from only a few places in the world. And while there are many different colors and types of granite and marble available, the variety isn’t endless.
Quartz, on the other hand, can be mixed with a huge variety of pigments, giving you an endless selection of colors, hues, and vein patterns.
Costs for stone materials can vary wildly from place to place and can even vary based on the time of year. However, if you want quality counters, do not cut corners. Stone countertops aren’t inexpensive, but they are worth the investment.
On the low end of the spectrum is granite. Where the granite is sourced from, or highly-prized patterns or colors, will make this stone a little more expensive.
Quartz tends to be in the middle, price wise. For quartz, part of the cost comes down to the manufacturing process. Adding unique colors or asking for specialty veining can drive the price up even more.
But, the king of stone countertop materials is marble. Marble has long been prized for its beauty, enhanced by the subtle veining. Marble is mined at several places around the world, but Italian marble, particularly Carrara, is considered the finest. Expect to pay top dollar for marble pieces from Italy.
So what’s the best material for your countertops?
There’s no one stone countertop material that works for all clients. What your decision often comes down to is what material works best for your major concerns.
In most markets, quartz is the most affordable option. Other perks of this engineered stone are its ease of maintenance and durability. But it simply does not have the natural beauty and high-end look that marble, or even granite, has.
Granite is usually more expensive than quartz but less expensive than marble. It’s also more durable than marble. But the coloration might not be as consistent, and it can’t match the luxurious look of a marble slab.
In the end, marble is marble, and if you’re set on the look of marble, there’s no substitute. It might be a bit more expensive, but if you’re set on marble and it matches your kitchen or bathroom, it’s worth it for your countertop.
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