A Closer Look at Kitchen Counter Tops (Part 1: Natural Stone and Natural Stone Blends)

The choices are endless it seems for materials that can be used for kitchen counter tops.  Before making that big decision, there are some important questions that you should consider as discussed earlier here:

http://agirlcandoit.com/2010/06/01/kitchen-countertop-surface-questions/

Keeping these questions in mind, lets take a closer look at the characteristics of the different materials to choose from, starting with what nature has to offer in natural stones and natural stone blends.

Natural Stone:

Granite Still a very popular choice in natural stone

Upside:  durable, easy to keep clean and looks beautiful.  You can cut on it, roll dough on it, and place a hot pot in it

Downside: Can be expensive and prices will vary based upon stone choice and size of slab.  Some varieties are more prone to staining or etching and will require routine sealing.

Soapstone Often referred to as “the original stone countertop,” early settlers in New England relied on the durable material.

Upside:  Acids won’t etch the material and stains can be rubbed out. Can tolerate hot pots.

Downside:  Mineral oil treatment will bring out a darker, richer color but require regular treatment annually.  More prone to scratching than granite and can crack over time.

Marble

Upside:  Because it’s smooth and cool to the touch, marble is the traditional favorite for rolling dough and making pastries.

Downside:  Less durable than granite because it scratches and stains easily.  Sealants must be applied more frequently to prevent stains

Limestone Not the best choice for messy or frequent cooks due to it lack of good stain resistance.

Upside:  It offers a unique weathered look

Downside:  Stains easily due to its more porous nature, so spills must be addressed immediately.

Slate Used for centuries to create stylish weather resistant roofs, slate’s natural beauty and strength are finding their way into the kitchen.

Upside:  Durable, hard and fireproof.   Its beauty will make a statement.  Its low absorption rate keeps stains at bay, though you may want to seal regularly to add a further dose of protection.

Downside:  Requires regular maintenance; certain varieties may be prone to scratching or flaking

Cost of Natural Stone:  About $70-$100 per square foot; top-of-the-line slabs can run upward of $300 per square foot.

Quartz

Silestone The superman of stone, quartz surfacing provides a nearly indestructible material.  This trademarked manufactured stone comprised of typically 90% natural quartz and an epoxy resin is one of the hardest minerals available.

Upside:  It’s durable, non-porous, scratch and stain resistant. Silestone is less expensive than granite and has better color consistency, so what you see is usually what you get.  A hygienic choice since it is not porous.

Downside:  Can be heat sensitive causing it to crack

Cost:  Depending on distribution in your area, expect to pay $45-$125 per square foot.

Lavastone: A new contemporary look that is gaining momentum, this blend is best suited for homeowners craving a natural top in a color well outside the typical range. The enameled material comes in an unlimited pallet of colors. Offered by manufacturers like Pyrolave, it is a glazed volcanic rock.

Upside:  Heat, stain and scratch resistant

Downside:  Cost;  hard to repair because it is formed as a single slab

Cost:  $210 and up per square foot

Have any personal experience with any of these materials?  Please share!

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