Which countertop should you choose? – Stone countertops in the kitchen
The countertop is the most demanding kitchen surface in terms of quality and choice of materials. On the one hand, a countertop must be durable, but on the other hand, it should be aesthetically pleasing as well. The selection of available materials is endless and when making your choice, it pays to take one’s lifestyle into account. Next, we will take a closer look at natural stone countertops with a luxurious touch.
Countertops made of high-pressure laminate are among the most popular ones, because they are easy to clean and hardwearing. Those who prefer wood will make their decision in favour of oiled oak.
Others who appreciate the beauty and look of stone will opt for natural stone or manmade, engineered stone.
It is countertops made of artificial stone that have the highest resistance to mechanical, thermal, and chemical damage and to other factors with a potentially damaging effect. Manmade stone is a durable, hardwearing material. Certain types of engineered stone do not suffer any damage even when a two-kilo metal ball gets dropped on their surface from a height of 1.55 m. This means that products made of manmade stone can take on fluctuating temperatures, acids, alkalis as well as an irritated homeowner.
Kerrock, Corian, Avonite and LG Hi-Macs are composite materials. These products are manufactured of natural minerals and specialty acrylic resin. This combination has lots of advantages over other options. Due to their containing natural minerals, such materials are hard, highly resistant to blows and damage, and do not absorb moisture or dirt, thus excluding the development of stains, discolorations, fungi and mold.
However, those who are in favour of completely natural materials with their unique beauty and patterns should opt for granite. Quartz is your material of choice if you like solid colors: it offers limitless kitchen design possibilities due to its wide selection of colors and technical properties achieved by special-purpose processing.
Marble, a natural stone with sophisticated and timeless beauty, is the perfect choice for those who appreciate a luxurious touch – it is unquestionably a unique material pleasing to the eyes and to the touch.
However, with natural stone countertops, one must exercise extra caution and follow maintenance instructions. Some types of stone can be easily damaged. Kitchen surfaces are constantly exposed to water, salts, organic substances and cleaning agents.
While natural stone countertops are impressive and elegant, and also durable, one must certainly know their properties very well. Let’s take a closer look at these materials.
Quickly remove any liquids spilled on granite surfaces
Granite is a volcanic rock formed from cooled magma. Due to its natural origin, granite is available in unique colors, and the shade and pattern of each individual formation is one-of-a-kind. This natural rock is mined in different places over the world and the type of rock found in one region differs slightly from others in terms of its structure and color spectrum.
Sometimes granite displays subtle pink, red or brown undertones, or comes in various shades of grey and black, but very rarely it may even have a whitish or bluish hue.
Due to its volcanic origin, it is highly resistant to high temperatures. Because it has excellent resistance to cold and heat, granite is an excellent material for kitchens – you can place hot pots, pans and ovenware straight on the countertop.
Granite has minimum porosity, but can still absorb a small amount of liquids. Light-colored granite absorbs more liquids and thus tends to stain more easily than dark granite. To prevent staining, remove any liquids spilled on granite surfaces as quickly as possible.
Although granite is a natural material, it is not completely unbreakable and can be damaged. Still, proper maintenance helps ensure that in a home setting, granite surfaces last virtually forever. A granite countertop is easy to clean: it is sufficient to wipe it clean with a damp cloth, although granite surfaces require special products to be applied once or twice a year.
The prices for less expensive granite countertops start from 80 euro/m² (grey and less colorful stones), while more exclusive ones may cost as much as 380 euro/m².
Marble’s greatest enemies are scratches and acids
Marble is a rock, most commonly calcite or dolomite, that forms when carbonate minerals are subjected to the heat and pressure of metamorphism. Over the course of billions of years, limestone became crystallized deep in the earth and later marble mountains rose from the sea. The most well-known marble mining region is in the Carrara Mountains, Italy.
Marble is the best known and most appreciated metamorphic rock, its beauty highlighted by unique veins and bold color combinations. Pure marble, consisting of mineral calcite, is white. Its veiny, patchy or patterned look is the result of impurities in the rock mass.
The color spectrum created as a result of these impurities is wide, ranging from grey and pink to green, brown and black shades.
For those who love the presence of natural white rock, there are not many alternatives besides marble. The sophisticated look of this material lasts for many years to come, while marble is a classical and timeless choice for kitchen countertops.
However, you should know a couple of things before opting for this highly appreciated interior design material. A marble countertop requires great caution and extensive care. Being softer and more porous than granite, it is easily scratched and stained. Particular caution is required when handling red wine, coffee, tea, oils and juices, for example.
Also, acidic fruit, such as lemon, may damage the surface or color of marble. Still, on the Swedish market, white marble is the most popular material for kitchen countertops and diligent customers are able to keep their countertops in perfect condition for decades.
Therefore, to avoid liquids from being absorbed by marble, always use coasters when placing cups or glasses on its surface.
While neutral, or mildly acidic or alkaline detergents are suitable for the maintenance of granite and quartz, acidic agents should be avoided in the daily cleaning of marble.
Quartz does not tolerate rapid heat changes well
Quartz (or composite granite) is an excellent alternative to natural rocks. This manmade material consists of 93% natural minerals. To achieve the desired color and consistency, it is combined with resin binder and colorants. When compared with quartz and granite countertops, their properties are quite similar, but not identical.
For example, one advantage of quartz is its uniform structure and wide selection of colors that allows for a personalized kitchen design. White quartz is particularly popular among numerous other light-colored options, because there is no other pure white stone of natural origin available (for example, granite).
Quartz has excellent physical properties, being hardwearing and durable. When compared to granite and ceramics, the latter still have a somewhat stronger surface structure. Keeping in mind that it is a manmade material, it is manufactured so as to keep its porosity and absorption level close to zero. So, it is not only waterproof and resistant to liquids, but also highly hygienic.
When properly maintained, quartz retains its beauty and qualities for decades to come. Still, keep in mind that quartz is not completely heat-resistant and may crack as a result of thermal shock. The latter may also cause visible heat damage (for example, traces of hot cookware). This is caused by resin in the composition of quartz melting at high temperatures. For example, when placing hot objects on surfaces containing mirror flecks, using trivets is highly recommended.
Generally, quartz countertops are easy to maintain. When used indoors, polished surfaces do not require impregnation. To clean quartz surfaces, use warm water and soap.
Text by: Margit Aedla, TM aed & köök
Photos by: 123RF