In the Countertop Surfacing industry there are a growing number of products being used regularly in residential construction. Some are natural materials that have been around for centuries while a number of man-made surfaces have been introduced over the last decade. There are three key factors to consider: budget, appearance and practicality. To help consumers get all the information they need to weigh out before making their decision we asked our friend Alex Rogers from AGS Stone to break down all the different countertop surfacing options currently in the market below!
Granite is one of the most common countertop surfaces and its use in construction dates back thousands of years. It is an igneous rock that is mainly comprised of quartz and feldspar, along with small traces of mica. Granite is extremely durable and can be used in both indoor and outdoor applications. It is offered in a variety of colors and patterns ranging from tighter, more consistent movement to large and dramatic veining. A highly versatile material, granite is used in other applications as well including wall cladding and flooring. Mined in countries around the world, it has price points for every budget.
Marble is another natural material that has been used in construction for millennia. It is a metamorphic rock made up of recrystallized calcite and/or dolomite. Marble by nature is a softer stone, which is sought after for its rich colors and distinct patterns. Marble pricing can range higher than many granite color options. Marble offers timeless beauty best exemplified by old world architecture. Marble will age, etch, weather, and in some cases stain. The risk of staining can be minimized with proper sealing. Etching, however, can occur whether the material is properly sealed or not. Wiping up spills shortly after they occur can minimize the risk. Some marble color selections are offered in a honed finish. This finish type is less likely to reveal minor etch marks and scratches over a polished finish. Properly maintained, a marble surface will last many lifetimes.
Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that is composed almost entirely of quartz. The interlocking crystalline structure of quartzite makes it a hard, tough and durable material. While having a similar appearance to marble, there are distinct differences. Quartzite is harder and less porous than marble and will never etch due to its mineral composition. Distinctly different materials, quartzite is often confused with an engineered product commonly referred to as Quartz. In terms of budget, this material will start at a higher price point than lower level granite selections. Lighter colors and subtle patterns often associated with marble are preferred by many designers and homeowners today. For those who prefer the look of marble but prefer a harder surface that will not etch, quartzite is an attractive option.
Over the past decade an engineered product commonly referred to as Quartz has dramatically increased in popularity. Quartz is a man-made product comprised of natural quartz aggregate, dies, epoxies, and resins. It is stain and etch resistant. However, it is not resistant to high heat and direct sun exposure. There are a number of quartz manufacturers in the market today. Pompeii Quartz has increased in popularity because they offer a wide variety of colors and patterns for every budget. Some consumers will find quartz more attractive than its natural stone counterparts because of its minimal maintenance requirements.
Porcelain is a material that has been around for centuries and is used to manufacture a variety of products including tableware, jewelry and tile. Recent technological advancements in manufacturing have led to the ability to produce large format porcelain panels in various thicknesses. The ability to produce large panels combined with high resolution image transfer enables manufacturers to produce slabs that look nearly identical to their natural stone counterparts with several important differences. Based on its composition, porcelain will not stain or etch and is both heat and UV resistant. It can be used in both indoor and outdoor applications and will not require any maintenance beyond general cleaning. The most common thicknesses offered today are 6 and 12 millimeter (approximately ¼” and ½”.) It is ideal for both countertop and wall cladding applications. The North American countertop market often prefers 3 CM (approximately 1-1/4”) material thickness. To achieve a similar look, porcelain can be mitered to make it look thicker. SapienStone is an Italian manufacturer that has successfully penetrated both the European and US markets. They offer a variety of color options and are known for their attractive designs and material quality.
Innovative, eco-friendly products have greatly impacted the surface industry. Recycled glass is combined with bonding agents such as cement or resin to form unique and environmentally friendly surface options that compare favorably in performance to natural materials such as marble. Vetrazzo is a leading manufacturer of recycled glass surfaces. They produce a number of handcrafted surface materials that can be used in a variety of applications including countertops, fireplace fascia, tub decks, shower surrounds and wall cladding. The material is similar to marble in that it should be sealed to avoid staining. Etching can occur and acidic products including vinegar, red wine, lemon juice spills should be wiped up right away. Whether you wish to support a healthy planet or introduce a unique handmade material into your design, recycled glass is an attractive option.
Now that there are so many options available, consumers must decide what works best for them. By educating yourself on the different countertop surfaces you can find the perfect material that suits your lifestyle. To learn more about about the different countertop options available to you, contact or visit your local UMI!