Natural and manufactured or engineered stone continue to be the most popular materials for modern kitchen countertops. The recent runaway favorite granite, however, is seeing increased competition for top spot from manufactured quartz, the top challenger from the rapidly growing manufactured stone category.
A number of less familiar natural stone surfaces like soapstone and limestone are also finding their way into kitchens and bathrooms, as are exotic varieties of natural granite and marble.
Though many people prefer the beauty of natural stone, new engineered stone products, particularly manufactured quartz are providing design options and color choices that are attracting kitchen designers and consumers alike. As well as the huge selection of manufactured stone countertop colors and finishes, new engineered stone products are more resistant to stains and mold because they are non-porous. Structurally, manufactured stone is more flexible and thus more resistant to cracking and harder than many types of natural stone.
11 Types Of Stone Countertops To Choose From!
In our list of 11 types of stone countertops we’ll break it down and look at the 6 most popular natural stone countertop materials and also take a look at 4 of the leading manufactured or engineered stone contenders.
Granite’s reputation as being almost bulletproof and its association with luxury high end kitchens has made it the countertop of choice for many developers over the past two decades. Some familiar patterns such as black and white flecked salt and pepper counters have become so common in new construction they have lost much of their original appeal.
A wider array of colors and patterns are made available in our Granite Countertops product page, click this link here. Granite with vibrant blues, variegated patterns with flowing black veins and patches of red and brown are now more common. As well as increasing the available selection, the popularity of granite has also expanded the supply.
Increased availability of granite, particularly from China and South America has stabilized prices to some extent. Depending on the pattern, color and size of the slab, granite can still run up to $250 per square foot although common patterns and finishes can be found for as little as $75 per square foot or less if you are buying in bulk.
Granite is typically cut and polished then impregnated with a sealant to reduce its porosity and help it resist staining. The stone normally needs to be resealed after 10-15 years depending how heavily it is being used.
It has its ups and downs and the passion you felt the first time you gazed at your kitchen countertops may have faded but that feeling is often replaced by a deep and lasting appreciation for the natural patina and timeless classic look of marble. Marble wears the past like a favorite coat remembering every scalding cook pot, knife nick and salsa mishap.
The biggest pitfall with having marble countertops in the kitchen is that marble is porous and absorbs liquids that cause stains. Acids like wine, vinegar, lemon and tomato juice can eat away the polish and leave the stone discolored in a process called etching. Marble is also relatively susceptible to chips and cracks. If that wasn’t enough, marble is one of the most expensive natural stones available ranging from $125 to $250 per square foot.
For all the potential problems, many people would have nothing less than marble. Marble has been around for thousands of years and it is unlikely to fall out of favor with the next hot trend. For serious baking, its natural coolness makes it a favorite surface for rolling dough.
Marble is also easy to find in many sizes and because it is somewhat softer than granite is easier to fabricate into custom shapes. If your kitchen is a classic showpiece and you feel the small stains and patina that inevitably show up are endearing qualities then marble may be for you.
You probably saw your first soapstone countertop in chemistry class. Although soapstone is non-porous and does not need to be sealed as many natural stone products do, it is normally treated with mineral oil to evenly darken the stone.
Soapstone is relatively soft and can easily be machined to create matching sinks or carved drain boards in the countertop. Although it scratches easily, small scratches are virtually invisible after the application of mineral oil and large scratches or chips can be sanded out with normal sandpaper.
The color choices are limited to various shades of gray with some slightly blue and green hues. The color is usually uniform although some slabs include quartz flecks or subtle veining.
Not to be confused with “quartz”, the common industry term for crushed quartz that is formed into sheets with resin, quartzite is a natural occurring stone. The most popular variety, quartzite super white, looks similar to heavily veined gray and white marble. It does not share marble’s tendency to stain or etch and is similar to granite in its ability to resist scratches and chips.
It is very resistant to heat and won’t easily mar from contact with hot pots or hair tools. It doesn’t scratch or chip easily and liquids like oil cleaners, wine, tomato juice and vinegar that normally leave a stain on natural stone do not soak in to slate.
Although the color and pattern selection is more subtle than granite, slate is available in many shades of black, gray and brown. Slate fits well where splashes of color are featured elsewhere in your kitchen decor. At $50 to $65 per square foot, the price of slate is one of the lowest for natural stone countertops which makes it a top performing budget minded option.
Limestone is another natural stone that is finding its way into the kitchen. As a sedimentary stone it is relatively soft and porous. It requires proper sealing and maintenance to stay stain free, but the beautiful almost creamy appearance of limestone leads some people to believe it is worth the effort.
7. Engineered Stone
Engineered or manufactured stone surfaces are becoming the go-to product for hard wearing floors, walls and countertops. From shopping centers to schools and hospitals to hotels, anywhere that gets heavy traffic or constant wear but still needs to keep looking great you’ll find engineered stone. For kitchen counters, engineered stone combines all the stain and heat resistance capability of the best natural stone options and surpasses them in structural strength.
While engineered stone has been criticized as being too uniform and lacking the earthy beauty that comes from the organic patterns and flaws in natural stone, new designs and manufacturing processes now offer more choices. Engineered stone is made from crushed stone bound together with resin. A common composition includes approximately 66% by volume crushed stone (93% by weight) and 34% resin. The resin can also include colorants. Here are some of the most popular engineered stone countertop materials on the market.
Quartz or manufactured quartz or agglomerated quartz is gaining favor among many designers and is closing the gap with granite as the most popular kitchen countertop material. Quartz consistently matched granite’s performance on tests for stain, scratch and heat resistance. When comparing the long term cost of quartz and granite, quartz pulls ahead as the low maintenance champion. Quartz has also been winning high profile fans including the likes of home style diva, Martha Stewart.
Manufactured quartz can be designed to look like marble without the high cost and relatively poor durability. It can also be pigmented in any number of colors from brown to dark green, blue and red.
Different sized grains and additional varieties of ground stone are used to produce a variety of patterns. Silestone, one North America’s leading quartz countertop manufacturers has more than 100 different colors and patterns to choose from. Quartz is highly resistance to scratches, stains and chips.
9. Engineered Granite
Granite is a relative newcomer to the manufactured stone countertop market. As well as a standalone, it has been finding its way into mixtures with quartz, sand and other stone in various manufactured stone products.
10. Engineered Marble
Santa Margherita Marble in Verona, Italy is the world leader in manufactured marble surfaces. They use a variety of the best available Italian marbles in different sized flakes, grains and chips to create dazzling manufactured marble surfaces in 30 different colors. Check out our marble countertops color selection.
Most concrete counters have moved from pour-in-place to pre-cast. The controlled environment of the factory allows more variety of design, better use of modern reinforcing technology and custom finishing with an array of stains and texture options. In the hands of a craftsman there is almost no finish or design that can’t be accomplished using concrete.
Concrete falls into the category of manufactured stone in that it contains a large proportion of rock and sand held together by a binding agent. Typically cement is used as the binding agent although some mixes now include polymer resin in the mix as well.
Concrete’s reputation as a not-quite-perfect kitchen countertop material is evolving and it is finding a home in many modern kitchens. The addition of polymer resin prevents staining and cracking which had been a problem in the past due to concrete’s natural shrinkage over time.
Many new concrete countertop products have a smooth feel, lustrous finish and come in a variety of classic edge profiles. Custom designed countertops incorporate polished granite, glass, brass inlay, tile and a variety of texturing techniques that give the appearance of roughhewn timber or natural stone.
To Wrap This Up!
So there you have it, the types of stone countertops you can choose from!
Natural and manufactured stone make beautiful, long lasting countertops that you will be proud to own. Despite the pros and cons of any type of stone you may be considering for your kitchen countertops, most designers recommend you do your homework, look over the options and then go with what you love.