Renovating a kitchen (or bathroom) can be many things – exciting, satisfying AND for many, it can be a little daunting and confusing with so many selections and decisions to be made. Whether it be a kitchen, bathroom, laundry or other space in the home (or office), stone benchtops are a great option, and that’s why we’ve written this article…

In today’s market there are many different types of stone available, ranging from engineered stone (man made), natural stone (natures gift) and more recently sintered stone and porcelain based products. All of them have their own unique features and benefits, and of course each have different price categories.

ENGINEERED STONE

Man-made, Quartz based stone provides a surface with exceptional properties of heat, stain, scratch and chip resistance. Although each manufacturer has their own “secret recipe” engineered stone is created using around 90-95% natural quartz aggregates, pigments and enhanced polymer resins. The raw materials are then blended together, poured into a mould and compacted under a pressure of 100 tonnes. The slab is then moved to a curing kiln and heated which gives the slabs their strength and solidity. From there the slabs are calibrated, polished and put through rigorous quality control inspection before being sent out to an independent stone mason for fabrication and installation.

rugged_concrete_render

Caesarstone “Rugged Concrete”

Things to keep in mind:

Slab sizes vary from brand to brand with the most common size being around 3.0 x 1.4 metres, so any benchtop longer or wider than this will require a join. Most reputable stone masons will put any joins through a cooktop or sink (where possible) to minimise the join’s visibility.

The most common slab thickness in engineered stone is 20mm, but using various edge profiles (eg laminated or mitred) can be increased to 40 – 100+ mm.

Any slab with a large pattern or veining is best viewed in a larger piece at the supplier’s showroom as smaller samples are often not indicative of the entire slab or the overall look that can be achieved.

Price Range:

A little more expensive than laminate, engineered stone falls into the middle to high price range depending on the brand, colour and style of the slab.

Benefits:

  • Stain, scratch, heat and chip resistant
  • Easy to clean and maintain (no sealing required)
  • Repairable (for consistent coloured slabs)
  • Edges can be mitred to give the effect of a thicker stone or waterfall end
  • Can have detailed edge profiles

Draw Backs:

  • Not UV resistant – not the ideal surface for outdoor areas
  • Long exposure to high heat will leave an etch mark
  • Honed or Matt finishes are a little harder to clean
  • Chipping can occur along edges if not treated carefully

NATURAL STONE

A wide range of natural stone sourced from the finest quarries around the world is available right here in Australia – each piece as unique and individual as you are, and allowing you to make a statement like no other. BUT, selecting the right type of stone for your project is absolutely imperative.

GRANITE

Has long been a popular choice for kitchen benchtops and bathroom vanities alike – and for very good reason. It’s beautiful, can add to the value of your home, and you can choose from a huge variety of colors and patterns. No matter which granite you choose, it’s a natural stone and each piece will be unique, especially the more dramatic, exotic looking varieties.

Magma Gold Granite

Granite “Magma Gold”

Granite can stand up to heavy usage in kitchens and bathrooms, and is also a great choice for outdoors on your patio or other exterior space. (Tip: lighter colors, are good choices for areas in the sun, as they absorb less heat.)

Properly sealed granite resists moisture, bacteria and mold, and with the proper stone care and maintenance, a granite benchtop can last for decades.

Things to keep in mind:

Slab sizes can vary greatly and any benchtop longer or wider than the useable slab will require a join. Most reputable stone masons will put any joins through a cooktop or sink to minimise the join’s visibility as much as possible.

Granite is widely available in 20mm thickness, although a few are also available in 30mm. By using various edge profiles (eg laminated or mitred) a 20mm slab can be increased to give the look of 50 – 100+ mm.

Due to the individual nature of all natural stone, we highly recommend selecting your slab/s directly at the stone yard – not from photo’s or samples in a showroom (which are likely completely different to what is currently available).

Price Range:

Granite has a reputation for being one of the more expensive choices, and although some high-end, exotic granites may be out of your budget, there are mid-range and lower-cost alternatives that compare to other types of slab surfaces. Price should not be your only consideration and can deliver a custom, upmarket look for a surprisingly affordable price.

Benefits:

  • Easy to clean and hardwearing
  • Can be used both indoors and outdoors
  • Gives a unique look and feel to your home
  • Can add value to your home
  • Edges can be mitred to give the effect of a thicker stone or waterfall end
  • Can have detailed edge profiles

Draw Backs:

  • Ongoing maintenance is required (ie sealing every year)
  • Cutting directly on your granite top can dull knife blades
  • Edges and corners can be prone to chipping

MARBLE

Is a much softer material than granite, and other similar hard surfaces. On the other hand, it can be an extremely beautiful choice for any kitchen or bathroom. Marble can ensure a timeless and elegant visual appearance.

Elba-Kitchen-BBQ-2-454x454

Marble – “Elba Honed”

Things to keep in mind:

Slab sizes can vary greatly and any benchtop longer or wider than the useable slab will require a join. Most reputable stone masons will put any joins through a cooktop or sink to minimise the join’s visibility as much as possible.

Marble is widely available in 20mm thickness, although a few are also available in 30mm. By using various edge profiles (eg laminated or mitred) a 20mm slab can be increased to give the look of 50 – 100+ mm.

Due to the individual nature of all natural stone, we highly recommend selecting your slab/s directly at the stone yard – not from photo’s or samples in a showroom (which are likely completely different to what is currently available).

Price Range:

Marble has a reputation for being one of the most expensive choices, and although some of the high-end choices may be out of your budget, there are also mid-range selections worth looking at. Price should not be your only consideration and marble will give you a custom, upmarket look for a surprisingly affordable price.

Benefits:

  • It is quite soft but still able to withstand reasonable usage
  • Heat resistant
  • Available in different edge profiles
  • Creates ambiance and elegance to your project
  • Will add value to your project

Draw Backs:

  • Reacts to food acids and can stain
  • Scratches easily
  • Can be expensive
  • Ongoing maintenance is required (ie sealing every year)
  • Edges and corners can be prone to chipping

Whilst marble tops certainly require additional care and consideration if you truly love the natural beauty of marble and are willing to make considerations then the soft nature of the stone can be addressed with extra care.

TRAVERTINE

– is a type of Limestone that is formed under extreme heat and pressure, is very porous, and almost looks like marble. Like granite and marble, Travertine is a beautiful benchtop solution, which has natural veining, which makes it all the more appealing.

TRAVERTINE

Vein Cut Travertine

Things to keep in mind:

Slab sizes vary greatly and any benchtop longer or wider than the useable slab will require a join. Most reputable stone masons will put any joins through a cooktop or sink to minimise the join’s visibility as much as possible.

Travertine is mostly available in 20mm thickness. By using various edge profiles (eg laminated or mitred) a 20mm slab can be increased to give the look of 50 – 100+ mm.

Due to the individual nature of all natural stone, we highly recommend selecting your slab/s directly at the stone yard – not from photo’s or samples in a showroom (which are likely completely different to what is currently available).

and is available in both polished and honed finishes.

Price Range:

Travertine is (for the most part) less expensive than granite and marble types, and comparable to high end engineered stone. Given the style, ambience and value it can add to your home, Travertine is definitely worth considering.

Benefits:

  • It is quite soft but still able to withstand reasonable usage
  • Very good at reflecting light, making the space lighter and brighter
  • Available in different edge profiles
  • Is less expensive than marble and some granites
  • Creates ambiance and elegance to any home
  • Will add value to your home

Draw Backs:

  • Highly reactive to food acids and can stain
  • Highly porous
  • Is soft and prone to scratches and not easily repaired
  • Cannot be in the path of direct or intense heat.
  • Ongoing maintenance is required (ie sealing every year)
  • Edges and corners can be prone to chipping

For any natural stone surface you need to use cleaning products that are designed specifically for natural stone. You should make use of coasters while keeping any beverage cup or glass on your benchtop, and in case of any contact with acidic material like vinegar, juices, wine, etc, wipe the surface with a soft wet cloth in order to clean it.

One Comment on “Not all Stones are Created Equal ~ an Experts Guide to Stone Benchtops

  1. Pingback: COMPACT SURFACES ~ Sintered Stone & Porcelain – CHERENE THOMAS-SMITH

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