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Natural Stone vs. Engineered Stone: Pros & Cons of Each

By Wendy Wrzos

 

I used to be a purist when it came to choosing stone countertops. I was solidly in the “natural” camp, and I swore I could spot a good fake from across a room. I was one of those people who wouldn’t even consider a countertop made from engineered material. But now things are different. The engineered stone competition has really stepped up its game.

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When we’re looking to purchase kitchen countertops or a piece of stone to use in any project, we want to know which is better: natural stone or engineered stone. While it often comes down to budget and which material we think is the prettiest, there are also some pros and cons you can consider to help you make up your mind between using natural or engineered stone.

Natural Stone — Granite, Marble, Soapstone, Limestone, etc.

Pros

  • Each natural stone is a piece of art. Unique in its beauty, no two pieces are ever the same. Sourced from quarries all over the world, these expansive rocks are mined and then cut into manageable slabs. You could potentially choose which country and region your countertop comes from.

Photo by dreamstime

  • Being a product that forms naturally, it is constantly evolving, and natural stone is a plentiful and sustainable resource. Composed of one pure ingredient, natural stone lessens our environmental footprint, while still supporting local and global industries. It’s also recyclable.

Photo by dreamstime

  • Most natural stones arrive at our home pre-treated with a sealant because natural stone is porous. The only maintenance required is wiping up any spills, and reapplying a sealant every 6-12 months. Take care of it right, and natural stone should last a lifetime, but a professional can repair chips and scratches quite easily.
  • Natural stone still has a higher resale value than engineered stone, which an important consideration if you’re renovating and plan to sell your home in the near future.

Photo by dreamstime

Cons

  • Natural stones are extremely heavy, and some cabinets and floors might need structural reinforcement before installation.

Photo by dreamstime

  • Because of the natural element, the sample you see in a showroom may not be the exact piece that you get. Veining, brightness, and color can vary quite a bit, depending on where on the slab your countertop is cut from, and also how the cut is made. If you can, visit the stone supplier, or ask for detailed photographs of the slab that your countertop is coming from.

Photo by dreamstime

  • Depending on its origin and the rarity of the stone, natural stone can be the most expensive option.

Engineered Stone — Quartz, Silestone, etc.

Pros

  • You know exactly what you’re getting with a engineered stone. The sample you see is exactly what will be installed. No surprises.
  • As the quality creeps up, so does the cost, but engineered stone is usually priced about mid-range. The cost of engineered stone is almost always lower than that of high-end natural stone.

  • Because of their composition (crushed natural stone and polymer resin), engineered stones never need sealing, and are virtually spill-proof.
  • New engineered stone products are being developed all the time, and you have nearly unlimited options when it comes to colors, styles, and patterns.

Cons

  • The resin in some engineered stones can swell or contract if subjected to sudden temperature changes, causing permanent damage. Although engineered stone is heat-resistant, it’s still recommended that you protect an engineered stone surface with a trivet or cloth before putting any hot cookware on it.

Photo by dreamstime

  • Occasionally the uniformity and color of engineered stone appears to be too perfect, creating a decidedly unnatural appearance.

  • It’s not easy to chip or scratch engineered stone, but if it does happen, it can be quite difficult to repair. Also, seams can be more noticeable with engineered stones than with natural stones, so if you’re having engineered stone installed, ask where they’ll be placed and why before you go ahead with the installation process.

When deciding between natural and engineered stone countertops, the choice ultimately comes down to personal preferences and needs. If you consider all the factors outlined here, the decision should become less difficult.

Photo by dreamstime



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