You’re updating your kitchen and it’s time to choose a material for the benchtop. You’ve wandered the aisles of home improvement stores and stone warehouses. The choices seem endless and the bottom line is that you want to choose something that will stand the test of time. Not only does it need to be durable in order to stand up to all the cooking, chopping and dicing that happens in your kitchen, it needs to have a timeless look that you won’t get tired of while you’re living in the house. Here’s an overview of all of the options out there.
Granite is popular for good reason. Of all the natural stone materials, it is the most durable, requires the least maintenance and it is usually less expensive than other stones. Because it is available in a wide variety of colours, from dark to light, and patterns, from thick veining to minimal veining, you are likely to find a granite that fits your kitchen’s design scheme.
It CAN be expensive though. The cost of granite varies based on the granite you select – if you select a style that’s relatively easy to get, it will be less expensive, but if you fall in love with an exotic slab that needs to be imported, the price will soar. Budget conscious consumers should select a granite that either comes from their home country or is commonly imported.
Granite is not the only natural stone available for your benchtop. The alternatives can, in fact, be dizzying. Marble, soapstone, quartzite, limestone and slate are among the options and they each have their positives and negatives. This opens up an even wider range of design options, from the pure luxury of marble to the clean functionality of soapstone, which you may have seen during your school days on the table tops in your high school chemistry class.
But none of them are as durable as granite. All benchtops, including granite, require maintenance, including being sealed periodically. Many stones like marble, limestone and soapstone are softer than granite. Some stones scratch rather easily, though, in many cases, the scratches can be buffed out. Consider carefully how you will use your benchtop, how much ware they are going to see and how committed you are to maintenance before you select a stone for your kitchen benchtop.
Engineered stone, on the other hand, is virtually foolproof. The beautiful marble floor at your downtown
office building is likely not marble at all, but engineered stone. Many commercial designers select engineered stone for any situation where the stone is going to see heavy traffic and needs to stay looking good. The same technology can be applied to your kitchen benchtop.
And engineered stone is looking better all the time. There was a time when designers shied away from engineered stone because its colour was too uniform and it did not have that natural look that many other benchtop materials do. Times are changing. Manufacturers are getting better and better and mimicking the colours, patterns and veining seen in natural stone. If you love the look of marble or other softer stones, or even something totally different, but you need durability, consider a manufactured stone that mimics the look you’re after.
Concrete is an option too. While you may think its best uses are outside your home as steps or sidewalks, concrete is increasingly finding is way into kitchens. In the past, many concrete benchtops were poured in place, manufacturers and installers are increasingly moving to a pre-cast process. This has enabled the manufacturers to address issues with cracking by forming the concrete in the controlled environment of the factory and using modern reinforcing technology.
And it doesn’t have to be gray. Some of the same technologies that have enabled engineered stone manufacturers to mimic the look of natural stone have enabled concrete manufacturers to vary the appearance, finish, feel and edge finish of concrete benchtops. Concrete is, relatively high maintenance, however. It is inherently porous and many manufacturers recommend sealing four times per year.
Solid Surface materials, such as Corian, are not stone. They are actually a manufactured product made of acrylic, minerals resins and pigments. They are available in a virtually endless array of styles and colours. If stone is what you’re after, manufacturers have, again, done an incredible job of mimicking granite, marble and other natural materials.
But they do have advantages. Solid surface benchtops are completely nonporous and durable. If they do become scratched or marked, the marks can be buffed out because, as the name implies, solid surface materials are the some colour throughout. These features have made solid surface benchtops a popular choice for busy kitchens. They also offer the advantage of a seamless installation. Whereas stone and natural materials have their limits in this area, a solid surface benchtop can, essentially, be as long as you need it to be.
If you carefully consider your design aesthetic and the day-to-day requirements of your kitchen, along with budget, you’ll come up with a material that fits the bill for your benchtops. At the end of the day, it’s your kitchen and you should take this information and choose the stone benchtop that’s right for you.
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