Choosing Countertops: Natural Stone

Natural stone is a classic choice for kitchen countertops, but it does require maintenance.

Marble, soapstone and Jerusalem stone are just some of the natural stones used for kitchen countertops. Bakers love to knead dough on cold marble, but designers recommend it be used sparingly as a countertop material because it's soft, stains easily and chips. Soapstone won't crack like other stones, but it will dent if it gets hit with something hard. The dents, says Jennifer Gilmer, of Jennifer Gilmer Kitchen & Bath, Ltd. in Chevy Chase, Md., give it a used, stressed look that some people really like. It comes in many colors and gives the room a soft, warm feel. Jerusalem stone (which does come from Jerusalem) looks like limestone but is as durable as granite.

Design Tip: Create a baking center by installing a low counter (30"-33") and topping it with marble or granite. The lower height gives better leverage for kneading and rolling.

Maintenance: Clean natural stone countertops with liquid detergent and water. Seal marble annually. Apply mineral oil to soapstone every other week for the first year to help the stone oxidize evenly; apply every other month thereafter. Jerusalem stone requires annual sealing.

Cost: From $75-$200/lin. ft., installed.

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