If you’re planning a remodel or new build, you’re all too aware of the sheer amount of material, design and coloring options set in front of you. Even just countertops alone give you more choices than you can nervously tug your collar at — and that’s before even considering cabinets, flooring, paint colors or backsplashes.
So assuming you made your way past the butcher block, finished concrete and solid surface to decide on some form of stone for your countertops, we decided it would be a good idea to put together some pros and cons of our favorite options to help you narrow it down. Plus, we’ll go over a few common pain points and things to keep in mind in terms of maintenance.
Sometimes things are popular for a reason. Granite countertops have become an absolute fixture in the industry space, thanks in no small part to home improvement shows and everyone’s oldie favorite, MTV’s Cribs. The thing with granite, though, is that it’s not just nice to look at, the stuff is incredibly functional for use in the kitchen.
First of all, it’s a very tough material, making it highly resistant to scratching, chipping and high heat. Durability is especially a concern with butcher block or concrete counters, but granite is tougher even than most of its stone peers as well. The biggest maintenance you’ll need to worry about other than regular cleaning, is that they do need to be sealed. We’ll get into that more below.
Quartz countertops are not actually 100% natural like other options on this list. Instead, quartz is an engineered material containing roughly 90% quartz and other natural minerals mixed with resin and pigments. This creates an extremely-tough surface that is in some ways more resilient than actual stone. Quartz can be made to convincingly mimic something like granite or marble or can be mixed into interesting colors and patterns not found in nature.
Where quartz really makes a name for itself is in how low maintenance it is. It cleans very easily, is difficult to stain, very resistant to scratching, and does not need to be sealed like its natural-stone counterparts. This makes quartz a quite attractive choice for those who want to go outside the realm of nature in terms of design and just want something that looks nice without the maintenance or both.
We can’t think of any other material that has exemplified luxury for longer than marble. Gold maybe? Anyway, dating back to ancient times, marble was used to build and line the most important and prestigious buildings in the world. That continues today, as not only is marble still classically opulent, but is still one of the more expensive choices on the market, adding a hint of exclusivity to the mix.
On top of the added expense on average, marble also tends to require a little more care, as it is quite a bit softer stone than something like granite. Also, because marble is more porous on average than granite, it is more sensitive to staining. Especially with lighter shades, owners will want to be especially careful about keeping the surface sealed.
As far as trends go, you can think of soapstone as the equivalent of today’s granite, but back in the 1800s on the East Coast of the U.S., it was used for countertops, to make fireplaces and workbenches for decades, with some installations still lasting to this day. With the modern rustic trend in full swing these days, soapstone is making a comeback as a popular countertop material.
Don’t mistake its resurgence as just being a fad, though. Soapstone has plenty of appealing and practical qualities. Its high density gives it impressive heat insulation properties, and means it does not need to be sealed. Rather, soapstone needs to be oiled with mineral oil regular instead to maintain uniform coloring — or you can let nature take its course and let the natural patina of use show through! Your choice.
Adding another entry into that rustic modern look, slate can offer a unique look and bring an interesting texture to your kitchen. While slate can be honed and polished like other stone on this list, one interesting finish available with this sedimentary rock is a clefted finish. Due to how slate forms with thousands of layers of silt compacted over millennia, slate is split apart from the side, giving it a unique natural texture.
Slate does still need to be sealed and can be a little more susceptible to chipping than something like granite, but it is overall a very durable stone. Especially in tile form, slate can be a bit more affordable than some of the other stone options on this list as well. Add all this to the fact it’s not a stone you see every day, this is becoming a popular option for those looking for something more unique in their homes.
Some Stone Care Basics
Wipe up spills as they happen:
One important thing to keep in mind that applies to most of these stone choices is that they are susceptible to chemical etching from acidic chemicals. Vinegar, wine, coffee, citrus and soda can all etch and stain the surface, so it’s important to always wipe up spills as they happen.
Sealing your stone:
Aside from quartz and soapstone, each of these will need to be sealed regularly using a specially formulated stone sealer. In general, this is recommended every 6-12 months, but that highly depends on use. For more information, be sure to check out our sealing guide here.
Avoid common household cleaners:
Unfortunately, many common household cleaners tend to rely on harsh acidic or alkaline chemicals to clean. This is perfectly fine for many materials, such as porcelain, but on natural stone this can be damaging to the seal at best and etch the stone at worst. We recommend sticking with a pH-neutral cleaner specially formulated for use on natural stone, such as Granite Gold Daily Cleaner®.
Looking to read up on more natural stone care tips? Check out all the other helpful resources we have on our stone care blog, or give our stone care experts with three generations of expertise a call at 1-800-475-STONE. Also, to make sure you get the most out of your investment, be sure to check out our full line of stone care products!