What Material Is Right for You (Quartz, Quartzite, Granite, Marble, Soapstone, Butcherblock)?
As kitchen designers we get to see and learn about a wide range of countertop material. Most times, when we first begin discussing this topic with our clients, they have many questions and the information can be a bit overwhelming. This industry is constantly changing due to rapid technological advancements in man-made materials as well as in the sealants used for natural stone. We recommend doing a little research of your own to get an idea of what you want in your kitchen. This article can be a great starting point and will brief you on our take on what we think are some of the best options out there today.
Natural Stone and man-made are the two types of kitchen countertops. The difference between man-made and natural stone is that, (you guessed it!) natural stone comes directly from Mother Nature. The stone is mined from the earth in quarries and brought in to the US in slab form. A man-made countertop material is engineered in a factory with composite material made up of finely grinded natural stone, color and resin. Throughout this article click on the links to explore the look of each of these surfaces.
In Quartz, also known as engineered stone, the composite material is not made just of quartz but of several different types of ground-up stone that is bound together by stain-resistant polymers. The process to engineer Quartz makes the material very hard and increases the durability. It’s also impervious and requires no maintenance with no need to wax, seal, or oil your counters. Quartz is non-porous and will not stain, though you should still wipe stains soon after they occur. With the advancements in technology in recent years, manufacturers have been able to create beautiful, realistic-looking slabs. Because this is an engineered stone, Quartz is able to be made in a wide variety of colors and striation patterns.
Quartzite is a beautiful, natural stone. It comes in all different styles, colors, and looks. Naturally this stone is very hard and is harder than granite, quartz, and marble. This characteristic makes the material heat resistant and very durable for countertop use. Because quartzite is a natural stone, you must expect and accept natural veining and imperfections. These natural qualities, however, are what make your countertop special and unique. Quartzite varies in permeable value in that typically the lighter and whiter the quartzite, the more permeable it will be. No matter the color, this stone will need to be sealed. The greatest benefit overall of using a quartzite is for the beauty and uniqueness of these stones.
Advancements in hard-wearing sealants have decreased the amount of maintenance needed to protect the stone.
Granite is an excellent choice if you are looking for a natural stone with little maintenance. Granite has been around for decades as a top choice for kitchen countertops and there are important reasons why. This stone has natural properties that make it heat resistant. It’s naturally a very hard stone and will take normal wear and tear well. When the stone is sealed properly it will also become stain resistant and liquids will not penetrate the surface. Granite can have a reputation of being passe’, but the stone’s inimitable elegances are worth a second look. This stone can be quite handsome when paired with the right material choices in the rest of the kitchen.
There are several different types of finishes that can be applied to the surface of the stone that can also have an impact on the durability of the stone. This is a topic worth discussing with your kitchen designer.
Soapstone is a natural, earthy looking stone. This stone has a specific look and feel to it and the unique characteristics of soapstone is what makes it so special. Unlike any other stone, over time, the stone becomes softer and soap-like to the touch. Soapstone is typically dark green, dark blue, or dark charcoal in color with light, subtle veining. This stone has many innate characteristics that are beneficial to employ as your kitchen countertop. It is another highly durable stone and the hardness of the stone makes it red hot heat resistant. It is nonporous so there is no worry about staining this natural countertop. It is also chemically neutral by nature, meaning that, acidic liquids or foods will not penetrate the surface. Although, liquids cannot penetrate the surface to leave stains or cause damage, they will leave dark spots due to light refraction. To maintain a consistent color and prevent splotchy areas from day to day liquids, there is some required maintenance. This maintenance includes wiping it with a thin layer of mineral oil regularly at first, to about once a month or less over time. For those who have an old or new love for Soapstone, the maintenance will be worthwhile.
Butcherblock brings a lot of character to a kitchen. The wood gives a settled in feeling and warmth to the space. It is engineered by pieces of wood glued together that are then sanded and oil-finished or sealed. An oil-finished countertop is great for baking and food preparation. The scratches and scars over time give character to the wood and become part of the charm. It is a good idea to oil butcher block every few months to protect the wood. It is repairable in that you can easily sand out nicks and scratches, then re-oil or re-seal and your countertops will look like new. Unsealed butcher block, however, should not be used for sink areas. The water from the sink will rot the wood over time. Sealed butcher block will give a shiny finish and will help to protect the wood from water and germs. In this case, you can use a cutting board for all food prep as the sealant is not food safe and is not good on knives. Sealed butcher block is nicely used as a countertop for a bar, a desktop, or an island. Adding it to your kitchen is a great way to break up the material in the space while bringing in natural tones. Wood ages nicely so over time your counters will get a beautiful patina. The wood also has natural antibacterial and antimicrobial properties. On another note, keep in mind that wood is not stain or heat resistant.
If that wasn’t enough information, there are several other materials to consider including laminate, Corian, porcelain and even recycled glass. But don’t get overwhelmed! Your kitchen designer will narrow down the choices that best suit your aesthetic and your lifestyle.