What is the right choice for you?

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Granite

Granite has a rich beauty that few other countertop materials can match. It is a natural product with a timeless aura and appeal. Granite countertops take a high-quality kitchen to the next level visually and often become the centerpiece of the room. With more than 20 shades of granite to work with, you’ll find one that blends perfectly with your kitchen cabinets, flooring and walls.

Granite is a very hard substance and is not susceptible to scratches. While not ideal to work on because it will dull knife blades, it will take normal wear and tear very well. Granite resists heat too, so its use near a range or cooktop is ideal. When you have to set down a hot pan fast, granite can take the heat without being damaged or weakened. In the bathroom, placing a hair tool on it that is still warm won’t be a problem.

Granite can be very resistant to stains and won’t absorb liquids when it is properly sealed. A good professional installer will be able to seal it correctly so that it maintains its attractive good looks indefinitely, or you can do it yourself.


For all their beauty and durability, granite counters do have a few weaknesses. The most concerning problems can occur when the countertops are not sealed correctly or the sealant wears off without the counters being resealed. Granite is porous. This means that unsealed or poorly sealed counters can absorb wine, juice or oil, producing a stain that might be impossible to remove. A poorly-sealed countertop can also harbor bacteria in its pores.

Some treated granite can go 10 years without being sealed, but many countertops will need to be resealed on a yearly basis. When this is overlooked, it won’t take long for granite countertops to begin to show signs of staining.

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Quartz

Made from one of the hardest minerals on earth, quartz countertops are arguably the most durable option for kitchens. They're also some of the most eye-catching. They come in a wide variety of colors, including fire-engine red and apple green, as well as earthy browns, blacks, and creams, with sparkles and veining for the look of granite or marble. But unlike natural-stone slabs, which are mined, these slabs are engineered in a factory. Their primary ingredient is ground quartz (about 94 percent), combined with polyester resins to bind it and 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. Compare that with granite, the reigning king of high-end countertops, which typically requires a new protective top coat at least once a year.

In the past, the biggest knock against quartz was that it lacked the patterns and color variations you get with natural stone. But that's a moot point now, with all the manufacturers offering multihued slabs with enough flecks, swirls, and random patterning to make them almost indistinguishable from the real thing. They were once available only with a polished finish; now you can get one with a honed, sandblasted, or embossed treatment. So if it's the look of matte limestone, textured slate, or glossy granite that you want, there's a quartz countertop for you. Read on for help picking one to match your budget, your cooking and cleaning needs, and your style.

Granite-like movement in black and gray gives this quartz countertop a bold, traditional look

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Marble

It's good to know what marble is in order to understand how it behaves. It's a metamorphic stone, which is formed when sediment crystallizes under great heat or pressure to form hard rock. Marble is not the hardest of the these stones, however, making it porous and therefore susceptible to staining. Granite is also metamorphic and much harder (no staining), while soapstone is less hard (more staining). Marble is also formed out of calcium carbonate, giving it a chemical structure that reacts easily with acids and leads to etching on the surface.

Due to all this, marble requires some maintenance to keep it pristine, though many prefer the gradually aged surface with etches and stains that blend into the grey veins over time. Think of marble as the jeans of countertops — they will work better and better while wearing and aging gracefully, giving them a unique and organic character