Your countertops are the centerpiece of your home. Not only do countertops tend to be a visual focal point, but they’re also critical workspaces. Allowing you to move from one job to the next easily and comfortably, countertops are one of the most important features in your kitchen.
While you’ve got many options when it comes to choosing a countertop surface, most of those can be divided into one of three groups: natural stone, engineered stone, and solid surface. What is engineered stone? How is it different from natural stone? Are man made stone countertops as versatile as natural stone countertops? We answer all your questions as we explain the differences between these popular countertop materials and help you make the best decision for your space.
Solid Surface Countertops
Solid surface countertops have a strong, non-porous surface that, once installed, has no or minimal seams. They’re an affordable, attractive countertop that is both durable and budget-friendly. You won’t need to seal it periodically or worry about stains: It’s hardy and ready to use right away!
Solid surface countertops are made using acrylics or a similar material that is liquified and mixed with pigment, resin, and mineral dust and set in a mold. The resulting countertop is typically about two to three centimeters thick without noticeable creases or seams. Different pieces can be joined easily, and sinks or backsplashes can be added easily.
The resulting non-porous surface is durable and attractive, needing no additional sealants or stain-proofing. Solid surface countertops are budget-friendly, too, making them a great option for those looking for affordable upgrades.
While you might be more familiar with granite, marble, and other stone countertops, there are many great reasons that solid surface countertops have been popular for generations. First, they’re durable. These hard-wearing countertops are ideally suited to everyday use. They’re even heat-resistant, although you should continue to use trivets or hot pads to avoid your countertop coming into contact with hot pots or appliances.
Solid surface countertops are also attractive with a consistent appearance and virtually invisible or non-existent seams. You can find them in every color of the rainbow and numerous designs, patterns, and styles. You can even have them customized with sparkles, speckles, veins, or solid colors. While the patterns can lack the depth of marble or other stones, they are an excellent alternative that can mimic natural stone.
Convenient to install, solid surface countertops require no special tools or materials, making them an excellent choice for homeowners on a budget. The countertops are less expensive, too, than many other types of countertops, with solid surface countertops costing significantly less than quartz, granite, or marble.
Finally, solid surface countertops are hygienic. Their seamless, non-porous surface blocks bacteria, stains, dirt, and debris. You can easily clean and sanitize them, and they’re versatile enough for use in home or commercial kitchens and bathrooms as well as bars and other spaces.
Solid surface countertops are strong and durable, but they’re not indestructible. Avoid cutting directly on the countertop surface, which can lead to scratches or other damage. You should also avoid putting hot cookware or appliances directly on the countertop without a hot pad or trivet.
Use dish soap or another mild cleanser along with water and a soft cloth to wipe down countertops after use. Avoid harsh chemicals, abrasive cleaners, drain cleaners, paint removers, and other products not made for that purpose.
Engineered Stone Countertops
One of the more environmentally friendly choices for countertops, engineered stone is a popular alternative to more conventional granite and marble countertops.
Engineered stone is made with resin or adhesive mixed with crushed stone. Because it’s commonly made using quartz crystals, these countertops may also be called quartz countertops. Engineered stone is ideally suited for demanding applications and has an impermeable surface that resists acid and is non-absorptive. While you might be comparing another type of engineered stone vs quartz, most engineered stones, including quartz, are similar.
Quartz and other engineered stone countertops are extremely versatile. They can be designed with a variety of edges, shapes, and corner details for a custom look to your kitchen or bathroom. They are heat- and stain-resistant. As with solid surface countertops, engineered stone has a consistent pattern and can be designed to resist bacteria. They’re incredibly strong and can be designed to closely mimic marble or limestone with a natural-looking color and texture. Engineered stone is also a greener choice, and it can be made using recycled or upcycled materials.
You won’t need to reseal your quartz or engineered stone countertop, but you will need to take a few precautions when cleaning it to keep it strong and intact.
Use a mild dishwashing liquid, warm water, and a soft cloth to wipe it down after each use. Rinse with water and dry thoroughly with a clean, dry soft cloth. Avoid harsh cleansers, including those that contain lemon or vinegar, which can affect the countertop’s surface, and wipe up spills immediately, especially if they’re coffee, wine, vinegar, or grease.
Natural Stone Countertops
We’re often asked, “Is granite natural stone?” The answer is “yes.” Granite, marble, and soapstone are some of the most popular natural stone countertops. These surfaces are made with real stone sliced into slabs. It has a smooth, hard, glossy surface. While natural stone is strong and durable, it needs to be sealed to protect it from stains and moisture-related damage.
Natural stone is mined directly from the source and cut into the desired shape for countertops or other applications.
Few surfaces can compare to the strength of natural stone, and its beauty is unparalleled. This stone is natural, rather than engineered or mimicked in other materials, no two slabs are alike. You might notice subtle variations in color, veining, and other aspects, but these only add to the beauty and appeal of the stone.
If you’re comparing natural stone vs engineered stone countertops, cost might be a consideration. Installing granite and marble countertops can be pricier than solid surface or engineered stone countertops, they can also be more cost-effective over time. With good care, natural stone is highly durable and can last a lifetime. Natural stone countertops have a timeless appeal
They have a timeless appeal and can last forever, which means they can boost your home’s value.
As with other countertop surfaces, natural stone should be cleaned using a mild detergent, water, and a soft cloth. However, it’s also porous, which means that it can absorb stains and discolorations. Wipe up spills immediately, and use only products designed for the stone you have. You should also avoid putting cookware and hot appliances directly on the stone to reduce the risk of thermal shock. Use a hot pad or trivet.
For the best results, you’ll also need to periodically reseal your countertop. Sealing protects the porous surface from stains.
Choosing the Right Countertop for Your Space
As you can see, you’ve got many options for your new countertops. Solid surface countertops are durable and budget-friendly. Engineered stone countertops are also durable and eco-friendly. Natural stone countertops are the most luxurious countertops and can last a lifetime, but they require a little extra TLC. Consider your preferences and needs as you weigh your options.