The movement toward more natural stone surfaces for kitchen countertops began in the late 80s when laminate was king and outselling simple wood countertops at tremendous rates. However, today’s kitchens are used for more than just cooking and preparing food; they are a living room, dining area, entertainment center, homework space and craft room all rolled into one. The many functions of this room call for a countertop that can accommodate all this and more. It seems like a tall order for one surface, but there are a few products that are up to the challenge.
No doubt about it, marble is incredibly gorgeous; it has more natural graining than most stones and is available in a variety of colors. But it can be soft and more susceptible to acids, so you’ll need to make your selection carefully.
“If our customers choose marble for a kitchen or bath project, we gladly educate them about the characteristics of this material,” says Mike Sorg, owner at Classic Marble & Stone in Hoagland.
Granite, on the other hand, is a durable product, which will stand the test of time. Cutting on it is more likely to dull your knives than damage your countertop, explains Sorg as he runs a set of needle-nosed pliers over the surface of his granite desk. He says that while not impossible, it is quite difficult to hurt a granite surface through scratches, stains and heat. Countertops built from natural elements are extraordinarily strong, breakage is unlikely and normal wear and tear won’t affect these surfaces the way they will a man-made material like laminate.
“I have a granite countertop in my kitchen that is now 22 years old, and it looks no different than what’s in my showroom” says Sorg.
Then there is soapstone. It’s been around for generations (think a chemistry lab table top), but is relatively new to the countertop market in this area, and is slowly becoming a hit. Generally, its black/green color with natural veining is best suited for a rustic or old world decor; it looks 100 years old the day it’s installed. Although the material is relatively soft, applying a quick coat of enhancing oil will disguise most scratches, and heavier damage can be sanded out.
Another product to try for kitchen or bathroom is quartz. As an engineered stone, it contains natural quartz, a resin binder and a variety of pigments, making it a striking addition to any style plan. While not quite as heat resistant as granite, it can be as durable which offers long-term resilience.
One of the best things about all of these products is the range of colors in which they are available. The latest color trends lean more toward a white or gray palette. Then there are the exotic stones which show a lot of variation in both color and pattern. The practice of blending complimentary colors with strong solids, such as black, is popular too. Sorg suggests incorporating a piece that contains lots of movement on a kitchen island, then using a purer, solid color on the outer countertops; it will make a very distinctive room.
When asked whether marble or granite can be reclaimed or reused, Sorg says the simple answer is yes, but not always as easily as one would think. Depending on the project, it can sometimes be more expensive than starting over. Why? Because the initial piece has to be taken apart, and that can cause complications. However, Sorg says he will always attempt what the customer wants. Often it’s the sentimental value that’s really at the root of the request.
When it comes to getting the greatest return on an investment in natural stone countertops, Sorg has a few words of wisdom.
“If someone wants to purchase a granite countertop because they’re considering selling their house, I might steer them toward a piece that is economical and will have greater appeal to the masses,” says Sorg. “That’s a completely different kind of sale than working with a customer who wants to admire their investment and see their dream house come to life.”
Of course, countertops are only one component to a beautiful room, so Sorg says “If you have samples or pictures of your flooring, paint color, cabinets or appliances, bring them with you so that we can help you make the most of your shopping experience with us. We’ll help you choose the right countertop for your budget, your décor and your timeline.”
With all of the options out there, it’s easier than ever to find just the right stone surface for your next kitchen or bathroom project.
Owner(s): Mike Sorg