By Ryan Saroca and David Burckhard
If a home’s heart is its kitchen, then its soul may be its countertops. They’re the surfaces upon which domestic memories are made. There’s no doubt that the workspaces of the busiest place in the house are also one of the first things you and visitors notice. Of all the preferred countertop material available today, stone is the top choice. But even then, which stone type is for you: natural or engineered? Many new and remodeling buyers choose natural stone only because they believe it to be superior in all respects compared to engineered stone. However, a growing number have come to realize the benefits of engineered stone.
Natural stone such as marble, granite, limestone, or soapstone forms deep in the Earth in an eons-long process combining extreme heat and pressure, are extracted from quarries, and then custom cut and finished to fit your kitchen. On the other hand, engineered stone such as that selling under the label of quartz, like granite, contains natural quartz as its main ingredient and is combined with resin and pigments in a process that results in a material similar to granite or other natural stone. Both natural and engineered stone are excellent countertop materials with each having advantages. Typically, when selecting natural or engineered stone, shoppers select, in order, by appearance, by durability, by the ease of maintenance, and by cost.
The look of natural stone in all its forms are as distinct and varied as fingerprints. No two pieces are alike. Variations in color, pattern, veining, textures, and reflectivity are what attracts (or detracts) buyers when selecting natural stone surfaces. This inimitability is a plus for those looking for a unique, never-to-be-reproduced, presentation. However, natural pieces may restrict design choices when it comes to matching colors for instance. With engineered stone, manufacturers can mimic granite, marble, and other natural looks or make pieces with consistent and even patterns and colors. This allows greater choice in selecting for an overall kitchen design and allows expansion possibilities as the material may be available in the future.
Both stone types are among the most durable and appropriate available for counter surfaces. Both resist heat and stand up equally to wear and tear. Natural granite and engineered quartz are especially tough with their high quartz content as they shrug off cuts and abrasions.
Natural stone types, while hard, has various levels of porosity so all require some level of finishing and maintenance. Before use and regularly during its lifetime, natural stone should be sealed to prevent staining and to keep it looking fresh. Certain natural stone finishes such as marble or travertine are nearly impossible to clean once stained so periodic sealing is critical. A major advantage of engineered stone is that its manufacturing process makes it far less porous, so surfaces are smoother and easier to clean and remains clean with little to no sealing.
The price of natural stone has dropped, especially for slabs, and is about the same per square foot as engineered stone, so the cost of material and installation is roughly similar. However, buyers will spend more time searching for the right pieces of natural stone to accommodate their kitchen style while those selecting engineered stone will know the material they chose online or in a showroom will be the same as that installed in their homes.
Moving into the future, new kitchen and remodeling buyers will have even more choices as engineered stone makers expand their inventory and introduce updated stone processing techniques such as those resulting in sintered-surface offerings like Neolith and Dekton come on the market. But as they do, you can bet that DeLeon Realty will stay on top of countertop surface trends and be a reliable source for answers for client’s questions.