So you’ve finally had it with that old tile countertop, have you? That avocado green that has been in the kitchen since the Carter Administration has got to go. But where do you start? Your sister’s hairdresser’s cousin’s best friend from Jersey said you definitely probably need to stay away from (insert meaningless advice here).
Here are some common pieces of advice people will give you that are flat out wrong.
STAY AWAY FROM MARBLE, IT DOESN’T HOLD UP
Tell that to the ancient Greeks and Romans that built everything out of marble. The stuff holds up just fine. What your friend meant to say is that marble is one of the softest materials available, and can be scratched. Also because it is a natural stone it has pores which means it can be stained with red wine, or acidic fluids like orange juice. If yours is a busy house with kids, dogs, and you want your home showroom quality with low maintenance, then marble is the wrong material for you. If it is a low traffic household, you seal your countertops well, you don’t mind a more natural look, and you just love the look of marble, then go for it.
STAY AWAY FROM GRANITE, IT’S JUST SO “OLD FASHION/OUT OF STYLE”
Ha! You couldn’t be more wrong if you tried! Granite is timeless, and it doesn’t have to be a classic design. There are plenty of modern kitchens that use granite. Just remember, like marble it is a natural stone so it has pores that can be stained, so keep the sealant up. On a side note Cosentino does have a treatment called Senguard that they apply to some of their most popular granite colors that gives it a ten year no maintenance warranty. They call these colors their Sensagranite collection.
The appeal of granite, or any other natural stone is that the color is not consistent, so measure carefully, always round up, and overlap the corners (see image). If you need multiple slabs try to buy them in consecutive order, so that the veins match somewhat. And NEVER buy granite from a photo or sample, always see it in person, or send a person you trust to see it for you.
ALWAYS USE (INSERT STONE TYPE HERE) IT NEVER BREAKS
Beware of anyone trying to sell you a stone using the adjectives “unbreakable” “bulletproof” “indestructible”. That person is lying to you and you need to run away, quickly. Unless the stone comes from planet Krypton I don’t want to hear it.
The sad reality is any stone, no matter how durable the claim, or how good the “warranty”, is subject to thermal shock. What this means is the stone is sitting there a nice chilly 77 degrees Fahrenheit, and you pull a hot metal dish out of a 400 degree oven and you put this on the countertop, if there is a microscopic fracture you were unaware of, you can cause that fracture to expand rapidly across the entire countertop. I’ve seen it happen with natural stone, as well as man made. It is a rare occurrence (I’ve only seen it twice in 10 years). To cut the chances of this I always advocate the use of trivets (pot holders), made from the same material as the countertop. They blend in nicely and cost virtually nothing for your contractor to make.
DON’T GO WITH THAT FAUX STUFF IT JUST LOOKS SO FAKE
There are plenty of good reasons to use man made stone, such as quartz composite. It’s durable, it doesn’t stain, and above all the coloring is consistent, so if you need to replace a piece, no worries, you will most likely find a color match. There are even some man made stones out there that are very realistic.
Personally, if I am putting in a man made stone I want it to look man made. I’m not a fan of anything that is almost stone-like or faux marble. I like things like Vetrazzo (recycled glass countertops), certain quartz composite colors like Cemento from Silestone. Although, if I’m putting it in an outdoor kitchen I wouldn’t use a Silestone, Caesarstone, or recycled glass. It’s not the heat that is a problem, but none of those countertops like UV radiation. It makes them weak and they are at high risk of fracture when weakened (see thermal shock above).
The creators of Silestone have come out with a product called Dekton which is a quartz mixed with a porcelain and is warrantied to be outdoors, since porcelain is not vulnerable to UV the way the materials in the other products are. I’ve seen this in action in a professional kitchen. The chefs had to start using cutting boards because the material was dulling their knives too quickly. That’s how durable it is. (notice I did not say bulletproof – but that is about as close as it gets)
MY FINAL ADVICE
Ultimately, like so many decisions in your remodel, your stone choice is all about you. Sometimes the best thing to do is visit a few slab yards, see the slabs, understand the color variance, and fall in love. I’ve seen people look at sample and love it, but when they see the slab they tell me there is too much color, or not enough. At the end of the day it is your home, and what you put in should reflect your personality. Just understand what the material is capable of, and how to take care of it if applicable.