Stone kitchen countertops – Awesome but bewildering

One of the most prominent features in any new or restyled kitchen is the countertop. Stone tops are very popular these days and you have a lot of options so you really need to educate yourself about features and benefits as well as why prices vary so dramatically in order to make an informed decision in choosing one over another.

Pros & Cons of the 3 most desirable types of stone kitchen countertops:

  • Granite:
    • The traditional standard for a quality countertop, Granite has always been valued as a natural material with random beauty that can’t be duplicated. It’s available in an incredible variety of colours and patterns and a range of price points that may seem confusing at first but is based primarily just on two things: Quartz content and where in the world it came from.
    • Quartz is what makes Granite hard and also what makes it interesting. At some point it becomes so interesting that it’s rare and is priced accordingly. Generally speaking, the more dramatic the colour and pattern, the more remote the region where it is found and therefore the higher the price.
    • Prices run from the most affordable stone top you can buy to, potentially, the most expensive. Fortunately nearly all Granites are named which makes it a little easier to price compare once you find something you like.
    • With the trend toward classic white kitchen cabinets and stainless steel appliances, one of the most sought after Granites is called Super White, a bit of a misnomer since it has wonderful white and grey tones and looks very much like Marble.
    • Granite does require a certain amount of maintenance but this is very easy to do and shouldn’t be a reason to not consider it for your kitchen.
    • Biggest Pro: Natural beauty that cannot be duplicated (Nature’s art)
    • Biggest Con: Perception of maintenance
  • Quartz:
    • Quartz is a solid surface man made material. The proper name is Engineered Stone but it is commonly called Quartz because that is the main material used to produce it.
    • While Quartz has been around for nearly 20 years it wasn’t well known or understood until fairly recently. Today it is the countertop of choice for the majority kitchen renovation projects in Halton and surrounding areas.
    • It is manufactured all over the world and essentially all brands are composed of 97% Quartz and 7% resin and pigment. Pricing is not based exclusively on the brand name but more so on the effort and processes required to produce specific patterns and colours. Basically, the more dramatic or natural the look, the higher the price. Most brands have 3 or more price levels and you pay for an aesthetic difference and not a difference in quality.
    • There are other factors that have an impact on the price. Cambria for instance, which is priced in the upper end of the range, is the only Quartz manufacturer that actually fabricates finished countertops in its Vaughn facility and licenses local Granite companies to look after installation. Virtually all other brands sell full slabs to local independent fabricators and have no direct contact with the end consumer. Cambria’s warranty and customer service are also outstanding.
    • Quartz countertops are virtually maintenance free but do look best if you occasional treat them with a Stone Cleaner & Sealer. These simple to use spray and wipe products are readily available in Canadian Tire or any hardware or building supply store. They are food safe, pleasantly scented and well worth the few minutes it takes to apply them.
    • With so many different brands, patterns and colours to choose from, you should explore all of your options before choosing a Quartz countertop for your kitchen, bathroom, bar or laundry room project.
    • Biggest Pro: Large selection of colours and patterns not available in Nature
    • Biggest Con:

Check out these websites to see some of the most popular brands of Quartz:

 

  • Soapstone:
    • Anyone wanting something a little different with a look and qualities not found in any other countertop materials should consider Soapstone.
    • A purely natural material, Soapstone is available two types:
      • Aesthetic Soapstone familiar to most Canadians as a soft material ideal for carving and sculpting.
      • Architectural Soapstone, a harder, extremely durable, chemically inert material with low thermal conductivity that resists scorching from hot pots and won’t stain. It’s available in wonderfully soft shades of black, green and grey with subtle white veining.
    • Because of its attributes Soapstone has historically been more commonly used in commercial kitchens and labs. Today the same benefits are becoming more appreciated by discerning homeowners and designers in Oakville, Burlington and other upscale kitchen remodeling areas in the GTA.
    • Typically priced in the same range as the higher end of Quartz and more dramatic Granites, Soapstone has the additional benefit of being able to be used out of doors.
    • Biggest Pro: Unique properties that make it ideal for use as a kitchen countertop
    • Biggest Cons: Very limited selection of colours and requires maintenance

 

Quartz and Granite are susceptible to staining and with the exception of Soapstone you can’t put anything hot off of the stove on any of these tops. If you do so with Quartz you can stress the top and risk voiding your warranty. Because Granite is an aggregate of different densities the heat could break out a piece and ruin your top.

 

When investigating your options it’s also important to keep in mind that any stone tops is meant to last indefinitely so don’t let price be the most important criteria in purchasing a product you that will be looking at and using daily for many years.

 

To find out more about any type of stone or other countertop, you are welcome to visit the Coxson-McInnis Kitchen Information and Design Centre on Fairview Street in Burlington. One of our kitchen designers will be happy to show you samples and answer all of you questions.

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