If natural stone attracts you for a countertop choice, it is worth your time to really understand the products available. Natural stone is on the high end of the countertop market and some stones are great choices, but we have learned a few things along the way that we would like to share. It is important to remember that this is just a primer; if you are going to make the investment in stone it is recommended that you do some research before buying or take a professional with you when you shop. Keep in mind too that natural stone is just one option of many when considering materials for countertops, bars and shelves.
Cleanability and stain resistance
These are two things to consider for food prep areas in particular. Of all the stones Granite and Marble are the most cleanable, they even ranked better than stainless steel when studied. So they offer a sanitary surface but they don’t fare as well as slate when it comes to resisting acid etching from food and household products. Granite (Siliceous stone family) is good at resisting acid but not bullet proof. And marble (Calcareous stone family) definitely can be acid etched and therefore not the best choice for kitchen use. Slate offers the best acid etching resistance but its softer quality seems to hold it back from being as popular as Granite for kitchen countertops.
Hardness and surface perfection
Natural stone often has imperfections that do not reduce the quality or value of the stone. It is important to understand this before you shop and to have an idea of what you want your countertop to look like 10 or 20 years from now. If perfect to you means a smooth and glossy look then a filled and polished stone is what you may like. Filling occurs at the quarry stage and is not something that can be done by the fabrication shop or the installer. If you are attracted to a more natural look then an unfilled stone would be appropriate. You will be able to see “birthmarks” or pits as well as voids in the fissures. All of these characteristics are visible and evident to the touch when you run your hand over the stone. You may also consider a honed finish for a more matte look. Finally if you love the feeling of a well used home like the one your grandmother had, then you may consider a softer stone like soap stone. You can scratch it with a key and it will wear down in areas with repetitive use.
Some stones are more even in color and linear quality than others. Some are absolutely wild to look at. The natural fissures, color variations, grain, veins, streaks, stylolits , and aggregate size all add to the character and beauty of the stone. How much visual variation you are comfortable with is a very personal choice that should be considered in light of the long product life that stone offers. If you invest in stone you should consider the fact that you may be living with it forever.
Plainly said, stone is cold. This is an advantage when talking about pie crusts in a baking prep area, but a disadvantage when you think about the comfort of an eating bar. Consider the option of combining more than one surface type if you have more than one use in mind. Stone looks beautiful paired with wood, paperstone or other solid surface material.
If you would like to read more about what to expect when you own a natural stone check out the Marble Institute; they have information about many types of stone.
There are many places to source granite, including local stone yards. If you would like to look at some pretty amazing samples online check out this link, Pental Granite and Marble. Enjoy viewing what really feels like the most natural art in the world.