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How to Choose a Stone Countertop

By Wendy Wrzos

 

Stone countertops never go out of style. With more choices than ever before, whether you’re renovating your existing kitchen, or building a new home from scratch, here are some things to consider before you decide which stone countertop is right for you.

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Location

If your stone countertop is going to be in a well-loved kitchen, then it should be a quality piece that is durable and stain-resistant. A bathroom countertop, while just as important, can be less practical in its design, and more flexible in the cost. Granite is still the people’s choice for kitchens, but over the last few years, quartz, soapstone, and marble have been steadily gaining in popularity (and it’s worth noting that soapstone is actually the most heat-resistant). 

Cost

Similar in cost, they can average $50-$250 per square foot (plus installation) depending on the quality of the stone, the details you choose during installation, and where it came from.

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Durability

Opinions have changed a bit, and now experts are saying that engineered quartz countertops (a composite actually made of crushed natural quartz and resin) are more durable than granite. The softer stones (marble and soapstone) are denser than the others, which make them just as strong, but slightly more susceptible to scratches and chips.   

Maintenance

If it is a porous stone, then it should be sealed. Apart from collecting stains, the unsealed stone could harbor bacteria, and liquid can seep down causing potential cracks and damage.

Granite, in particular, should be sealed every 6-12 months, whereas quartz (because of the resin that binds it together) doesn’t need to be sealed at all.


Soapstone should be wiped down with mineral oil every now and again, and with marble, it depends on whether it was polished or honed before installation (honed is more porous than polished, so it is best to check with your supplier about any required maintenance). 

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Appearance

This is the fun part, and it all depends on how you want it to look.


If you like everything new and clean, then soapstone probably isn’t your thing. While the gray color is gorgeous to begin with, the surface can become slightly rough over time, and the color will darken. 


Granite and quartz are still the traditional favorites, and come in more colors than you could possibly imagine. Because it’s made in a factory, quartz is more uniform in design, whereas every piece of granite (a natural stone) is completely unique.  
Marble, with its distinctive gray and white veins, is often seen in historical homes, or very modern homes with a nod to vintage design.

Quality

In some things, we get what we pay for, but in countertops, nothing is that straightforward anymore. Popularity can often drive prices up (or down) as can the origin of a material, and how long it takes to ship from another country. Some stones are graded for quality within the industry, but for those that are not, here are a few tips on what to look for:

Thickness: With granite and other stones, the thicker the piece, the better quality, and the more durable it should be — the ideal thickness being about 1.25 inches.

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Absorption: Ask if you can drip some water on the sample to see if the surface absorbs it. (It shouldn't.)

Appearance: Check for cracks, unusual marks, or any repairs.

Check your source: Do online research, ask questions, read reviews, and contact the stone supplier directly if you have any questions.



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