Our Guide to Choosing Stone Countertops
Adding a stone countertop to your new kitchen or bathroom can add significant value to the price of your home. But with so many options available, it’s hard to know where to begin.
The stone you pick should be largely based on your own personal tastes, but there are other factors you need to take into account, for instance how frequently you will use the countertop. Since some countertops are more durable than others, the activities you’ll be using it for will help dictate your best option.
Consider these factors to help you determine which stone surface is right for you:
For the most part, homeowners choose stone countertops for their look, durability, and ease of care. While this is largely true, depending on the stone you choose, it might still require occasional maintenance.
Many stone countertops need regular sealing (about once or twice a year) for a variety of reasons. For one, stone that is porous might require a sealant to prevent it from harboring bacteria. Sealing can also help prevent staining and etching in softer materials.
It’s not uncommon for certain stones to chip or indent. To some, imperfections and patinas are desirable and add character, but others find it makes the surface uneven and unworkable, or visually unsightly. Some blemishes can be filled in or sanded down depending on the material, which will require professional care.
While some stones are harder, others are more heat resistant, or more stain resistant. Others still are quite soft, and require a little more preventative care.
As we mentioned earlier, it’s possible for stone to scrape, chip or blemish. While some of these issues are fixable, not all types of stone countertops can be repaired.
Although cosmetic blemishes are not uncommon, most quality slabs will last the lifetime of your house and in general, major damages (like the slab breaking in half) are rare.
To a lot of homeowners, this is the single most important factor when choosing a countertop. For every style, there is a stone countertop to compliment it.
While some people like consistent coloration, others enjoy specks of color and veining. There are also different finishes available depending on the material, allowing homeowners to chose between natural matte finishes, or more glossy ones.
Prices will vary by type of stone, where it originated, the quality of the slab, its rareness, its beauty and pattern, and by its size. Even within the different types of stone prices will vary.
The price of installation also needs to be accounted for, since some stones are harder and more costly to cut, and more difficult to install.
If you’re looking to make a statement, no run-of-the-mill countertop will do. Some homeowners will pick their countertops for the originality factor, and opt for stone they don’t normally see.
Now that you know a little more about what to consider, let’s take a closer look at the different types of stone countertops:
Granite is completely natural, meaning no chemicals or other materials are added before it reaches your counter. In recent years, granite has been the standard of luxury and is highly sought after, even among other stone countertops.
Granite comes in a variety of colors, usually in a blend of oranges, reds, browns, gold & black. Though lighter slabs are not uncommon, granite is usually prized for its darker and bolder colors. Patterns vary by slab, but usually showcase the stone’s characteristic graininess.
Installing granite countertops is a great way to increase the value of your house, and many buyers look for granite as a sign of quality when searching for a new home.
Granite is hard and resilient. Although it’s not quite as strong as quartz, it is more heat resistant.
Since its surface is porous, granite needs to be sealed every 6 months to a year. Vinegar, lemon juice and other acidic materials will discolor the stone and weaken your seal. Also, because it’s porous, regular sanitization is necessary. Otherwise standing water can seep into the stone and harbor bacteria.
Marble is synonymous with elegance and is a homeowner favorite when it comes to flooring and countertops. It’s a chic and timeless staple of classic design that will add an air of sophistication to any home.
People greatly admire the bold veining that is characteristic of marble. Its pattern is larger in scale than stones like granite, which makes for a dramatic statement in large pieces like kitchen islands. Marble is famous for it’s elegant white shades, though it is available in a range of colors.
Marble is strong and rarely chips. It’s very heat resistant and is a favorite surface of many chocolate and pastry makers. Its stunning beauty is also impossible to ignore.
Since it is a porous surface marble does stain easily- even water will leave permanent marks if not treated right away. Almost immediately after installation your marble will begin to patina. While this is an appealing change to many who love the rustic feel of worn marble, if you’re the type who can’t stand little imperfections, marble is not the option for you.
Onyx is one of the rarest stone countertop options available, and one of the most gorgeous. Part of its uniqueness is its translucency, which you won’t find in other natural countertops. Onyx is the perfect option if you want a standout, one-of-a-kind design that is sure to impress.
Onyx has a soft, cloudy feel and usually comes in light orange and tan shades, although green, purple, blue and pink options are available. It’s veiny like marble and has a similar feel.
The beauty of onyx is truly unmatched. Since it is semi translucent, it’s often backlit for a soft, inviting and intriguing glow. If you choose onyx, you’ll be the envy of the neighborhood, but it’s rarity comes at a price: onyx is one of the most expensive options out there.
Since onyx is much softer than other options it can be injured and stained quite easily if caution isn’t taken. It requires a lot of maintenance like periodic sealing and constant vigilance, but if you love the look, many homeowners say it’s worth it.
Quartz is becoming increasingly popular in the home for its durability and range of design options. It’s an engineered composite made of natural quartz (usually accounting for 90% or more of the surface), resins and polymers.
Since it is man-made, the color and other details of your countertop can be customized to a certain extent. Being manufactured, you get a more consistent pattern and coloration than with natural stone. This also means your slab will match the sample you’re given in the showroom.
Quartz is one of the most durable options for your countertop. It’s scratch resistant and doesn’t require regular maintenance like sealing. Plus, because it’s nonporous and nonabsorbent it won’t harbor any dangerous bacteria.
Although it’s harder and less likely to be damaged than other stones, repairs are more difficult should you need them. Quartz can sometimes cost a little more than other luxury countertops like granite, though in the long run, cost may be offset by the fact that no regular maintenance is required.
Long-term exposure to sunlight may pose a threat to the color of your quartz, which may fade over time. Quartz is also not as heat resistant as granite, so you will need to take caution with hot pans in the kitchen and with styling tools like curling irons in the bathroom.
Slate countertops are extremely versatile in terms of design. Since the slab itself is relatively clean of details, it’s great for complimenting bold features. Slate works great in any design scheme and will satisfy both modern and traditional tastes.
Slate has one of the most uniform looks for natural stone. It is usually grey, but can contain subtle notes of blue, green or even red. When most people think of slate they’re reminded of chalkboard, which is a dark, nearly black grey.
Since slate is nonporous it requires less maintenance than granite or marble. It also won’t easily stain, chip or scratch, and is incredibly heat resistant- even hot pans are no match for slate. Best of all, it’s one of the more affordable natural stone options.
Although slate is incredibly strong and durable, if it’s not sourced from the right location the integrity of the stone may suffer. (Vermont is the ideal source for slate, though slabs from all across the Northeastern US are also very reliable.) The corners of the slab can be particularly brittle if sourced from a bad location, so it’s recommended they be rounded for safety.
Finally, since the stone is pretty uniform you won’t get the bold patterns you get in stones like marble. However, if you favor a more subtle design, slate may be an ideal choice.
Soapstone countertops are making a comeback these days. Although the stone is quite heavy, DIY-ers appreciate the ease of cutting and installation.
Soapstone has a talc-y, powdery look and feel, and ranges from light to dark grey in color. It has subtle veining, which can be enhanced with mineral oil, and may be pearlescent in spots.
Soapstone is soft to the touch, but is extremely durable. It’s both heat and stain resistant and is nonporous, meaning it doesn’t require regular sealing and won’t harbor bacteria. It’s soft to the touch, however this means it scratches more easily than other stone countertops. However, unlike other surfaces, these imperfections can be sanded out and corrected in a breeze.
Since the color of your soapstone will darken over time, you can’t always predict what it will look like in 5 or 10 years. It will also darken inconsistently on it’s own, so you will need to rub it with mineral oil on occasion for even coloration. While it is possible to keep the stone’s original light grey color, it will require constant cleaning and maintenance on your part.