Kitchen Countertops - Some Durable Choices
People choose all sorts of materials for their kitchen countertops. The number of countertop surface materials continues to grow as new materials are created or discovered. The available choices fall into two main groups; natural and man made. When making the decision as to which material to use, home owners often times look for a material that is durable. In this article we will explore some of the more durable countertop materials in the stone industry.
Durability is Key for Counter Tops
As mentioned in the introduction, durability is an important consideration for most consumers looking for a kitchen countertop. So many set out to find a material that is scratch resistant, stain resistant and that can be easily taken care of. It may surprise some though to find out that there are a number of options that qualify using those requirements. Since durability is a key, let's examine some traits that contribute to a durable stone.
Contributing to Durable Stone
Durability can be thought of from a number of aspects. However, when it comes to a stone kitchen countertop there are a few main ones that seem to always make their way into the conversation. These include:
- Scratch Resistance
- Heat Resistance
- Resilience Against Chipping
- Stain Resistance
- Overall Appearance
It is easy to see why these factors seem to continually come up in the conversation when discussing durability. The first four of them ultimately contribute to the fifth one. And number five is really what it's all about! So let's take a tour of some of the popular durable countertop materials and consider some of the appealing characteristics of each.
Tough Countertop Materials
Durable countertops are available in various kinds of materials. When it comes to "stone countertops" though, they can be broken down into a couple of main categories. They are natural and man made. The natural group represents stone surfaces that are formed naturally without any help from people. Of course, these materials must be cut and shaped, but the idea is that a natural stone material is formed in nature without mans's help. A man made material on the other hand, is one that would not exist if it were not for the actions of humans. As we will see, there are a few in each group.
Natural Stone Choices
In the natural stone group, we have a couple of contenders. Granite and quartzite are both resilient materials and each has some unique characteristics when it comes to visual appeal. Yet, they share a number of features. If you want to consider each of these materials in relation to the other, check out our article Comparing Quartzite With Granite here on our website. Let's look briefly at these natural stone options.
This igneous natural stone has proven to be a very durable material throughout the centuries of its use in numerous applications. Nautral granite is so durable it has been used for constructing statues, monuments, stairs, and even buildings. This durable material can be seen cladding any number of large buildings in metropolitan areas the world over. Granite is one of the choices for many government buildings and public hardscapes. This is true because it is one of the durable options when it comes to natural stone materials.
As mentioned earlier, this natural stone is durable like granite but is different in composition. For one thing, quartzite is a metamorphic rock and not an igneous rock like granite. Quartzite is actually the result of sandstone being heated and compressed so much by natural forces in the Earth that it is transformed into another material. When this happens to sandstone, the product is the stone called quartzite. As you can imagine, that kind of heat and pressure would no doubt yield a material that would be very tough and resilient. And that is precisely how quartzite can be described. The visual appeal of quartzite coupled with its hardness and durability make it the choice of more and more consumers all the time.
Man Made Options
Not all materials used for countertops are made from natural stone. There is a whole branch of countertop surface materials fashioned from materials that are man made. Does that mean these materials are inferior? Not necessarily. In fact, some people prefer materials from this group. So what are some of the durable countertop materials in the man made classification?
One of the engineered materials that many have heard of and perhaps even owned in the past is quartz; also know as engineered quartz. This material is offered by a number of manufacturers and is even made to resemble various natural stone. A number of manufacturers offer quartz surfaces that mimic marble and granite, among other materials. The materials is composed of quartz, a binding agnet (often times it is polymer resin), and coloring pigments. These ingredients are formed into a sheet. The material is then fabricated into countertops. One of the appealing features of engineered quartz is that it is non porous. Therefore, it does not absorb stain causing liquids. Any substance that is left on the surface of quartz can ultimately be treated at the surface level. Some consumers find this very appealing.
When people think of porcelain they usually do not think of countertops, but the truth is that one of the durable man made materials in our discussion is porcelain. Porcelain countertops have not been around as long as some of the other materials, but they are a very real competitor. Porcelain has some of the same traits that we just mentioned with regard to engineered quartz, but it offers other properties that buyers find desirable. For example, porcelain is non porous like quartz but it is much more heat resistant. Because of the way it is made, porcelain can withstand higher temperatures. Additionally, it is very resilient when it comes to chemicals. Porcelain is certainly not indestructible, but it does qualify as a durable material.
Rounding out our consideration of durable materials is sintered stone. This material is one that really is distinct. Sintered stone is not a natural stone in that it requires manufacturing. And yet it is comprised of natural materials and the process that is used to form it is like the one that naturally occurs when natural stone undergoes metamorphosis. The sintering process exposes natural minerals to intense heat and pressure and transforms the ingredients into a solid mass that consists of the same material as stone but with properties that are unlike natural stone. In many ways, sintered stone is like porcelain countertops. But there are differences between the two. One of the key differences is the materials used in the process. Another difference is that porcelain has a pattern on the surface, but it does not extend through the entire body of the slab. A sintered stone slab can be cut in two and the coloring and pattern will extend all the way though the slab.