Today’s column comes from the deepest of a rabbit hole I fell down while researching what kind of countertop material I would like if I ever remodeled my kitchen, which seems less likely given the difficulty of this decision.
If you’ve done this before, you too have faced a myriad of options: quartz, quartzite, granite, marble, soapstone, butcher block, concrete, ceramic tile, Corian, stainless steel. I surely miss it.
Fortunately, I got professional help to narrow down my options. In an unusually practical move, I enlisted a designer to help create a plan before tearing up my kitchen and relegating my husband and I to microwave dinners in the bathroom and washing dishes. with the pipe.
Define your project
Like any good plan, this one started by defining the problem: I want change. My 20 year old kitchen, although in good condition, has the same brownish-blackish granite that I have had in every kitchen in every home I have owned since the 1990s. This granite (Santa Cecelia) and others like him were the coveted choice at the time. It was a good race, but I’m ready for a lighter look.
What I don’t want to do is replace or remodel my medium brown kitchen cabinets, which match the cabinets throughout the house. Fortunately, the designer, Sally Ward, agreed. We’ll keep the cabinets and general kitchen layout, but replace the dark granite countertops with something light, replace the vintage hardware with something more contemporary, and replace some, but not all, of the appliances that are on their last the legs.
She gave homework. She sent me links to read about countertop materials and gave me names of stone suppliers to visit. “All of our design decisions are going to come down to what you choose for your countertops,” Ward said. No pressure.
Natural or artificial
I quickly understood that the world of countertops is divided into two camps: natural stone and manufactured materials. In the world of natural stone you will find quartzite, granite, marble and soapstone. In the world of engineering, there are quartz, ceramic tile, concrete, and solid surface products like Corian.
Because most homeowners want glowing countertops today, Ward said, “I’m usually between two options: engineered quartz or quartzite. I rarely use granite, and I avoid marble in a kitchen because it scratches, stains and can show water marks.
Because I knew I wanted stone or something like it, I ruled out stainless steel, ceramic tile, wood, and concrete, and limited my search to quartz and quartzite. It took a minute to figure them out. Quartz counters, which look natural, are actually made from quartz particles and resin. Quartzite, which looks manufactured, is actually a natural stone.
I visited two stone warehouses, where I walked past hundreds of slabs the size of billboards. They were arranged on their edges like dominoes.
Choose the material first
At OHM International Stone Warehouse, I spoke to General Manager John Frew, who has been in the stone business for over 25 years. Of the slabs he sells, Frew estimated that half are quartz, 25% granite due to its relatively lower prices, 15% quartzite and 5% marble.
Her advice to clients: “Choose the material that suits you, then choose your look.
At the end of my excursion, I was leaning towards quartzite because it had options with warm undertones that would work with my existing cabinetry. My neighbor, however, recently remodeled her kitchen and chose quartz. Her kitchen is wonderful.
“I never thought I would buy quartz,” she told me, “but I couldn’t find quartzite that was white enough.” Now she loves it.
For those venturing down that rabbit hole, here’s a quick rundown of the best natural stone and cast stone options:
QUARTZ: The most popular choice for countertops today, engineered quartz, which carries brand names such as Caesarstone, Pompeii, Silestone and Cambria, is durable, easy to maintain, looks like stone and, since it’s made, can come in just about any format. Color.
Ideal for high traffic kitchens, quartz resists chips, scratches and stains. “You can cook whatever you want, and it stays pristine,” my neighbor said. It is not cheaper than natural stone. In fact, it may cost more.
The downside is that due to its resin base, prolonged exposure to sunlight can cause it to yellow (so not good for outdoor kitchens), and you can’t place a hot pan in it like you would with granite or quartzite.
QUARTZITE: This hard natural stone can give the appearance of marble and the hardness of granite, making it a top choice for kitchens. It resists scratching, chipping and etching. Although there are many colors and patterns, the lighter versions often have shades of gray, cream, gold or taupe.
If you’re used to putting a stockpot or serving platter on your counter, this is a good choice. Like other natural stones, quartzite requires periodic sealing, an easy process that homeowners can do themselves.
MARBLE: Although classic and beautiful, marble is softer than granite, quartzite or quartz. Most experts steer customers away from marble in the kitchen because it’s unforgiving: it stains easily and attacks if anything acidic, like lemon or tomato juice, gets on it.
GRANITE: This natural stone is the workhorse of the kitchen. It is as strong as quartzite and still popular because it is generally less expensive. It remains a good choice for outdoor kitchens.
SOAPSTONE: A softer stone, which comes in shades from medium gray to black, soapstone makes a dramatic statement but will show fingerprints, watermarks and grease, making it less desirable for a kitchen, but could be a new choice for a bar.
Marni Jameson is the author of six books on home and lifestyle. She can be reached at www.marnijameson.com.
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