When you build a new home or remodel the one you have, the best part is making it yours. You have many decisions in front of you, from the floors to the walls to the countertops, and more. White it can be a fun process, these decisions can also be overwhelming and mistakes costly.
Many factors come into play when making these choices. Let’s start with how you can choose the right countertop.
Natural Stones or Engineered Stones for Your Countertop?
The first thing to understand when looking at stone countertops is that you habe a choice between a variety of natural stones or engineered stone.
Natural stone is just that: 100% organic. It is quarried from the earth in large blocks, cut into slabs, polished, shaped and fabricated, then installed. And because it is natural, it can vary in pattern and color, making each piece literally unique in movement and style.
Let’s go back to your Earth Science class and discuss seven of your natural stone options.
Natural Stone Countertop Options
The hardest and most durable of all the natural stones is granite. It is a light colored igneous rock that is formed when magma slowly cools beneath the earth’s surface, forming large crystals of quartz, feldspar, and mica producing red, pink, gray, or white rock with dark mineral grains visible through the rock. It is found all over the world, and much of the granite in the United States comes from the Upper Midwest.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock that is formed when layers of minerals, fine sediment and the skeletons and shells of marine organisms undergo lithification, a process of compaction and pressure, and gradually become solid rock.
Marble is also very durable, but not quite as hard as granite. It is a metamorphic stone that is formed when limestone is exposed to high temperatures and pressure. In it’s purest form marble is white. It can be classified into four groups: A, B, C and D, which indicate fabrication ability, based on the level of hardness. Marble is typically found in mountainous regions.
Slate is made from a deposit that evolves from a shale-type sedimentary rock made of clay or volcanic ash. It is a fine-grained metamorphic stone which splits easily into thin slabs.
Quartzite is a metamorphic rock comprised of almost all quartz and has been used by humans for over a million years to make tools. Quartzite forms when quartz-rich sandstone has been exposed to high pressure and temperatures, conditions that fuse the quartz grains together to form a hard, dense rock.
Travertine is a form of limestone rock that forms in hot springs and/or caves and is known for its porous appearance caused by carbon dioxide evasion.
Engineered Stone Countertops (Quartz)
Engineered stone, on the other hand, is man-made and is often referred to as quartz.
Although quartz is an engineered stone, it is still mined in quarries all over the world. The difference between quartz and natural stone is that once quartz is extracted from the earth, it is then combined with acrylic resins to create your countertops.
Now that we have explored the types of options available to you, natural stone or engineered, let’s define the key differences between the two.
Differences Between Natural and Engineered Stone Countertops
Usage & Durability
We have briefly described some of the differences in stone varieties and how their unique characteristics may affect the look of your countertops. The next factors to consider are durability and maintenance.
Consider the following as a guide to help you determine which direction to go, consider the following:
No one wants to cry over spilled milk (or wine for that matter), but spillage can be more damaging to some stones than to others. Granite and slate are the least porous and thus more stain-resistant, while limestone and sandstone are quite porous and stain easily. Both quartz and marble are slightly porous and may be subject to stains if the spill isn’t wiped up immediately, and marble can be sensitive to acids on its surface.
The good news is Explore Granite applies a sealer that will increase your stone’s resistance to stains. Travertine, limestone and marble need to be sealed on an annual basis in order to keep its effectiveness. Granite, slate, and quartz need to be resealed at least once every 10 years. Explore includes a 10-year sealer on our jobs, and we also have an optional countertop care program available.
2. Hot pots & pans
How different stones respond to hot pots and pans is an important question. The good news is that many stones are heat resistant such as granite, limestone, slate and quartz, but excessive heat can damage marble and quartz.
3. Chip and scratch resistance
Sometimes we accidentally drop items on our countertops, which, depending on the stone, can cause some damage. As sturdy as these materials are, you might think it’s impossible to dent, scratch or chip stone but that’s not necessarily the case. These surfaces are strong but not always indestructible.
Granite is chip and scratch-resistant, while limestone, marble, and travertine are not as durable and need to be treated with more care. Quartz is hard but also not immune to chipping and scratching.
If you are considering a counter in a high-traffic area such as the kitchen, you should opt for quartzite, granite or quartz, as they are heat, scratch and chip resistant. They also require the least amount of ongoing maintenance.
If a certain look is most important and there is little chance of damaging the stone-like in a bathroom, then consider limestone or marble.
Looks matter when it comes to your new countertops. You need to love how it looks, and admit it, you want any visitors to your home to love how it looks, too.
It also needs to blend nicely with the other elements of the room such as the floor, cabinets, windows, sunlight and any other accents, appliances and fixtures.
Since natural stone is mined from the earth and sliced into slabs with no two slabs alike, its uniqueness can really reflect your personal taste and enhance the overall look and feel. However, to achieve the desired look of many countertops, especially in the kitchen, it may require more than one slab. There is a potential issue with natural stone to consider, the seams where the slabs are joined together. While a cosmetic inconvenience, seams can be an eyesore and real a possibility, but this can be managed by using knowledgeable and professional stone suppliers and skillful counter top installers and fabricators.
Engineered stones, on the other hand, are very consistent in their patterns and overall looks, however. The resin makes the stone susceptible to discoloration when exposed to direct sunlight.
- Uunique appearance with each slab having slightly varying patterns and movement
- Seam alignment
- Your neighbors cannot go and buy your slab
- More consistent look throughout
- May discolor over time due to exposure to direct sunlight.
- Quartz is very popular and an excellent alternative to marble
Budget is a critical factor in choosing your new countertops, and often can be the deciding factor. So how does natural stone compare to engineered stone in price?
Pricing usually depends on the material – or type of stone – and the thickness of the slab. Typically, natural stones are lower in price than quartz, except in the case of rare “exotic” natural stones that only come from certain private quarries which can be very expensive.
For example, granite can start at about $42 per square foot. The thicker the slab, the more durable the piece and the more expensive it is. Marble starts at $82 per square foot, and an engineered stone like quartz can start at $62 per square foot and go all the up to $200 per square foot.
The consumer gets a price based on the total square footage of the countertop and the overall cost of the project.
There’s more than just the stone to consider when looking at your budget. You also need to take into account the installation and factors like the shape of the counter, edges, backsplashes, number of seams, number of slabs and overall complexity of the project.
Is eco-friendliness important to you?
Mining natural stone can have a negative impact one the environment. Along with the noise, dust and vibration mining generates, other negative effects include a disturbance of land, riverbeds or coastal mining areas and vegetation, and the discharge of contaminants into the air and water.
This is a real issue and the stone industry is working at taking better precautions, relying upon technology to help mitigate some of the negative effects. They actively work with various governments to address and implement new policies and procedures to minimize the negative impact. Quartz manufacturers take extra precautions because of the resin additives.
Explore Granite is happy to provide you with information on all of our products and manufacturers.
We understand there are a number of factors to consider when it comes to stone countertops, but the bottom line is only you can decide what’s best for you and your upcoming project.
After you do your due diligence plan and narrow down your choices, and find yourself ready to begin the journey to replace or install new countertops, please allow us to show you samples and answer any questions.
Contact us today with any countertop related questions you may have or if you’re ready to visit our showroom.