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.
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.
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).