Kitchen countertops, dining tables, or even feature walls present an opportunity to really make a statement and designers most commonly recommend quarts, granite, or marble.
Having a hard time choosing which countertop surface is best for you? Well, it is not surprising considering the large variety of products available in the market nowadays! Let’s us break down the true qualities of the modern day stone countertops – composition/properties, maintenance/sustainability, and costing.
Composition & Characteristic:
Marble – is a metamorphic rock that forms when limestone is subjected to heat and pressure, composed primarily of the mineral Calcite and other foreign minerals, like quartzite, micas, pyrite, iron oxides, and graphite. When metamorphosis happens, the limestone recrystalises to form marble.
A natural material with low impurities level and great variety in terms of veinings, and colour. Most importantly, it has lovely natural pattern from piece to piece, which you don’t get with a lot of artificial materials or even other sort of natural stones.
With technological advancements, there are now more ways to finish stone with different brushing and polishing techniques to achieve multiple types of finishing. A few options are the leather finish, honed finish, or polished finish. But the most popular choices remain polished, which looks glossy, or honed, which appears matte.
Granite – is a coarse or medium-grained intrusive igneous rock that is rich in quartz and feldspar; it is the most common plutonic rock of the Earth’s crust, forming by the cooling of magma (silicate melt) at depth. The term granite is derived from the Latin word granum meaning grain. It is full of small and large grains of crystals. This mineral composition usually gives granite a red, pink, gray, or white color with dark mineral grains visible throughout the rock.
Granite characteristics include strength and durability. This unique and elegant natural stone is one of the oldest, hardest, and strongest stones available. A truly beautiful natural stone with hundreds of colors and patterns to choose from with many countries of origins.
Quartz – is a man-made material comprising of approximately 90% quartz and 10% epoxy binder (resin) and acrylic pigments to give it color. For some designs, small amounts of recycled glass or metallic flecks are added to the mix. The resins also help make these counters stain and scratch resistant—and nonporous, so they never need to be sealed. The components of this material is generally quartz/quartzites - a hard, crystalline mineral composed of silicon and oxygen atoms, created through heating and pressure usually related to tectonic compression.
As Quartz is a manufactured stone, it is often hard to duplicate the veining and pattern look you get from natural materials such as marble or granite. However, with technology advancing, more and more methods of manufacturing are invented to bring about greater variety and range of designs that can very well pass off as natural veining. Due to the resin component in quartz, it is also hardly able to mimic the shine of polished marble or granite.
Maintenance & Sustainability:
While marble may be the most popular representation of luxury living, they do have their weaknesses. Being generally composed of calcium or magnesium carbonate, it reacts with acid. An acidic kitchen liquid like lemon juice or vinegar will cause marble etching, leaving a dull, whitish mark where it has slightly eaten away the surface, even after the marble has been sealed. Common home beverages spillage such as coke, or even various citrus juices, when left unattended can cause serious etching. Moreover, oil drips left over an extended period can sip into marble pieces due to their porousity.
But as long as you choose carefully, know what to expect, and care for white marble countertops, they can be a beautiful, functional choice for that lasts a lifetime.It is also recommended to be resealed yearly with anti-water sealant by professionals.
Granite is a highly durable siliceous stone. Compared to marble, it is more resistant to the acids found in lemons, vinegar, and cleaning products which means most granite do not etch. This is an easy stone to live with and pretty forgiving too.
Most granite are relatively scratch resistant and hardy, being able to resist normal household items such as coins, keys, or even sharp blades. Yes granite is also heat resistant, being able to withstand heat of up to 600 degrees Celsius. Anything short of a blowtorch or hot pans to burning liquids will not affect it. However, these hot items may affect the sealant layer of your granite and cause unwanted dull marks. So, it would be advisable to use trivets and coasters when it come to hot materials. Similar to marble, resealing yearly with anti-water sealant by professionals is recommended.
Quartz in comparison to marble and granite, has the lowest maintenance factor. Unlike natural stone or wood, it never needs to be sealed. Just wipe with soapy water for daily upkeep. Surface stains can be removed with a gentle cleansing scrub. Avoid scouring pads, which can dull the surface, and harsh chemicals that could break down the bonds between the quartz and resins. In terms of heat resistant, quartz will lose out to granite due to the resin component within it as resin when exposed to direct heat can result in colour changes that are irreversible.
In terms of hardness, both quartz and granite are super durable choices. They are both harder than glass and knife blades, which make them great for any sort of tops. The corners do run the risk of chipping, so you may want to choose a rounded edge. Marble on the other hand is softer, making it vulnerable to etches and scratches. However, that makes marble an easier material for repairs and touch-up!
In general, it is a common understanding that quartz is the cheapest material of the three, followed by granite and marble being the most expensive.
However, that may be a misconception as there are quartz in the market that are potentially higher in cost in comparison to certain marble and granite. And it all comes down to the branding, quality, and composition of different quartz. The same applies to marble and granite, being ranked in pricing with regards to purity, origins, composition, supply and demand.
Also, it would be good to take into consideration overtime sealing cost as both granite and marble requires regular re-sealing and re-polishing over the years which can be factored into the long-term cost aspect of the material you choose.
So, at the end of the day, which top will suit your home the best? It all really depends on your personal taste and preferences. If you like a uniform design and want a solid countertop that requires low to no maintenance, then quartz is your choice for the taking. If you want a stone countertop with a natural and consistent appearance, and don’t mind occasional maintenance, then granite is the way to go. If you are all able luxurious beauty and status, and couldn’t care less about maintenance, then marble is the right choice for you.
Whether you decide to go with quartz, granite, or marble, as long as the material is from a trusted brand or manufacturer, it will definitely make a great statement piece within your home interior.