Countertop Resource Guide
We’re sharing this information to help clear up some of the misinformation about the different types of countertops available. Having this information at your disposal before your kitchen remodel will help you to make a better informed decision when choosing your material. During the preparation of this guide, I ran across contradictory information from multiple sources. Suffice it to say this is probably part of the reason why it can be so confusing to the consumer. I will try to limit the technology and give you some basic down to earth wisdom. I think if you stay “common sense, middle ground”, you’ll make better choices
Quartzite is a commonly misunderstood and often mislabeled material. It’s a mesomorphic rock that started out as grains of sand. Over time the grains are compressed and stick together to form sandstone. As the sandstone is buried under layers of rock, it compresses with heat, the sand grains fuse together and form a dense durable rock. Think of it as snowflakes to a snowball. This is a mineral quartz not manmade quartz which I’ll give my opinion on its origin in a minute. Quartzite is a hard stone and it rates a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale while granite comes in at 6.5, It’s harder than a knife blade or glass. It will not “etch” from acid based ph products like vinegar or lemon juice.
Porosity levels vary depending on the variety. Taj Mahal for example is highly metamorphosed and the minerals are tightly bonded. White and Calacatta Macaubas are less because they were typically formed under less pressure. Quartzite makes a great countertop material
I first saw this product on the east coast and it is a great substitute for marble. When it appeared on the West coast, I thought the prices were extremely high compared to what was available in the east. Dolomite undergoes the same process in formation as Limestone. It turns into dolomite from exposure to magnesium rich groundwater. It is a great alternative to marble since it is resistant to etching and staining. Over prolonged periods that may happen but for example, my son had Dolomite countertops installed over 4 years ago and they look like they were installed last week….no staining, no etching…2 adults, kids and pets and they look great. This is another good kitchen choice.
A traditional countertop material but misunderstood by a lot of people and more so lately due to the advent of engineered stone…aka “quartz”. Granite used as building materials as far back as 26BC when it was harvested by quarry workers driving wooden stakes into the granite and then soaking them so they would expand and split the granite. In the 1830’s in Aberdeen, Scotland we saw the first steam engine saw, lathe and polishing machine.
Granite is a mix of quartz, feldspar, mica and hornblende (no idea what that is). There is no limit to colors and patterns. It resists scratching and discoloration from heat (more on that later) Available finishes are polished, matte, brushed, flamed and leathered.
Engineered countertops (yes, that’s what they are and not to be confused with quarzite which is natural)
They are 93% actual quartz with resin, glass and dyes. This is a man made product. Varying sources conflict on this point…..not good for outdoor use due to susceptibility to UV rays! There is some differing information on this point. I recommend you use a cover on any outdoor stone installation (BBQ’s and outdoor kitchens) For one it helps keep the stone surface temperature down on those 114 degree days here in Vegas. Secondly, we are constantly pounded by wind and dust so unless you are committed to constantly wiping the top every time you want to use it, cover it. That will also protect it from any possible color changes due to intense sunlight.
Marble is generally not suitable for kitchen countertops. It is a soft material with porosity levels up to 5x that of granite. It will scratch easily and it will stain. It’s composed of Calcite which makes it extremely soft. Colors come from iron oxide, graphite, silica and various sediments. The hardness and stability of marble varies and will have a much greater tendency to fracture or crack while being cut and fabricated.
Limestone,Travertine & Onyx
Great for accents, vertical walls, lighted panels. Very soft, do not put this on a countertop
How Does Heat Affect Countertops
Technically granite will resist up to 450 degrees. Quartz, I have researched with different sources saying anywhere from 150 to 300 degrees. Even at that, it’s not a good idea to put hot pots on your countertop. Remember, your countertops are sealed…..therefore it’s the sealer that you can damage first and that pertains directly to the finish on the stone. So, just because you can, doesn’t mean you should! With a quartz (engineered) countertop, extreme heat can cause the resin in the slab to expand or contract and you could damage the stone. For my money, granite is more heat resistant but I still don’t recommend putting a blazing hot pot on the countertop…. use a trivet or a hot pad or small top made from the countertop material.
Choosing The Best Countertop Material
Granite, quartzite and quartz are all very similar in application. They are hard, resistant to heat and stain and make great countertops. Granite and quartzite are natural. Quartz is engineered and manmade. Typically all these products are priced by two things….color and finish. The more rare the color the higher the price, the higher quality of finish also leads to a higher price.
This is my personal recommendation based on over 20 years of experience with natural stone. As you look through materials you will typically find a slab or product that catches your eye and you’ll make the decision based on the fact that you love the look of the material. That’s how the process goes but I suggest that you balance that with the information given above. Granite, Quartzite, Dolomite and Quartz are all great countertop products and you’ll find the selection you love but for my money, avoid marble in kitchens. Tajo One won’t install it and there’s good reason for that. We know what it will look like after a few months or years and what is required to keep it looking like that magazine cover picture. Best of luck in your search!