Granite, Quartz and Soapstone Countertops
Stone countertops have a solid beauty that's ageless and crosses all style boundaries. Whether you're an ardent traditionalist, love the charm and ease of country living, or prefer lean and clean urban contemporary, chances are that stone will enter into your design scheme in some form.
Lighting, cabinetry and flooring are all important in the kitchen, but many designers say countertops often create the wow factor. Surfaces such as granite, quartz and Corian have eclipsed economical laminate, and homeowners looking for something even more exotic can opt for soapstone countertops, marble and limestone. Here's a look at some of the options:
Granite's durability and beauty are the main reasons for its appeal. Granite is available from sources as diverse as China, India and Quebec. The color selection is virtually unlimited. The price of granite is determined mainly by its coloring and patterning.
Granite is porous, and depending on wear, it should be periodically resealed. Stains should be wiped up promptly.
A polished granite countertop with rich color variations makes a dramatic statement in the kitchen. The integrated sink makes cleanup a snap. Shown: 1-1/4” slab, Golden Beach. Photo courtesy of AKDO
Bold, dark granite countertops at bar height provide the perfect spot to perch while chatting with the cook. This surface is treated with a special protective sealant that enhances its stain protection. Photo courtesy of Cosentino SenSa Granite
This countertop features a unique spin on traditional black granite, incorporating gray and silver hues. The elegant surface highlights the vivid tiled backsplash. Photo courtesy of Walker Zanger
Dark granite adds a touch of luxury in the kitchen. The hard surface is extremely durable, and stands up well to heat and scratches. Shown: granite slab, Blue Opal. Photo courtesy of Innovative Stone
Natural quartz products are composed of more than 90 percent quartz, which is 10 times harder than granite and mixed with a resin. They're nonporous, and many come with a 10-year installed warranty. And for those who may not appreciate the often-inconsistent patterning of granite, quartz is extremely continuous, with no dramatic variations in color or pattern.
While quartz does have seams where pieces are joined, it doesn't have to be sealed and just requires a periodic wipe-down with soapy water. Cosentino's Silestone line has introduced a selection of quartz products with built-in Microban, antibacterial product protection that deters growth of bacteria, mold and fungi.
Quartz countertop reminiscent of exotic crocodile print transforms an island into a dramatic focal point. The surface is created using a cutting-edge embossing technique. Shown: Motivo, in Crocodile. Photo courtesy of Caesarstone - “The Original Quartz Surface”
This stylish quartz countertop, featuring cool gray with flecks of color, is ideal for baking. The surface features built-in antimicrobial protection that deters bacteria, mold and mildew. Shown: Nuit Bleu. Photo courtesy of Cosentino Silestone
Authentic Natural Appearance
Virtually identical to natural stone, this engineered granite countertop is composed of granite, quartz and stone. The surface resists heat, staining, scratches and chemicals. Photo courtesy of Granite Transformations
Soapstone, which comes from Finland, China and Brazil, is quarried like granite and quartz and is composed primarily of magnesite, dolomite, chlorite and talc. It's anywhere from 300 to 400 million years old, and the talc gives it a soft, warm appearance and touch.
Because it's nonporous, it's completely resistant to bacteria growth. It was originally used for masonry heaters and is used for countertops in forensic and science labs because it's impervious to virtually any type of chemical. No sealing is required, so a hot pan can be placed directly on it, and the surface can be used for dough preparation.
For the first month, soapstone should be periodically rubbed with mineral oil to bring out the beauty of the stone and its marbling. Matching sinks can be created, and it can be used as a backsplash or as flooring. Unlike granite or quartz, soapstone doesn't require the extra cost of installing a substrate (countertop support such as a subfloor).
Rich, Resilient Countertops
Rich, beautiful soapstone is a natural in the kitchen: It withstands heat and won't stain. A recessed drainboard is handy for doing dishes and washing produce. Photo courtesy of Vermont Soapstone
Rich soapstone countertops are ideal installed in conjunction with a generous soapstone sink. The surface won’t absorb water and requires minimal maintenance. Photo courtesy of Vermont Soapstone
Strong, Heat-Resistant Surface
Because soapstone is heat resistant, it's ideal around the range: There's a good chance it won't be damaged even if a hot pot is set down accidentally. Photo courtesy of Soapstone International Inc.
Reprinted with permission from NKBA