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Natural Stone 101

Natural stone is sexy.  There, I’ve said it.  If you want a countertop that makes a unique statement with lots of movement and natural variations I recommend natural stone.

 

granite countertop detail, oil rubbed bronze handle, white cabinets
Granite is a natural stone that blends perfectly with so many styles. Photo by Mike Spallholz Photography

 

A big part of your new kitchen investment lies in the countertop material you decide to use. It’s definitely one of the key players both in terms of function and aesthetics.  It is your work surface and it is one of the most visible features of your kitchen.   In terms of user friendliness and durability it usually comes down to natural stone or man made products such as quartz. There’s nothing wrong with the other options, I love them too in the right applications, but if you’re looking to personalize your kitchen and be, wait for it, DIFFERENT, go natural.   When I say natural stone I mean granite, quartzite, marble, limestone, soapstone, slate and onyx.  There are a variety of choices that can be used in various applications.  So what’s the difference and what’s the best option for you?

 

Dorado soapstone by Latera Architectural Surfaces

Soapstone–  This is a very viable option for both indoor and outdoor countertops.  It’s unaffected by heat, acid and alkalis.  It’s also non-porous which means it is inherently antibacterial and won’t stain. On the other hand it is soft and can scratch but can be sanded and repaired.  Colors are pretty much limited to greys, greens, blues and blacks with subtle lighter veining.  Like with all natural stone, price is largely determined by how close you are to the source (quarry or port).  You can expect to pay at least as much as you would for granite in most places.

Backlit onyx is a dramatic backsplash for this bar! Source
Backlit onyx is a dramatic backsplash for this bar! Source

Onyx– The biggest appeal of onyx is its beauty.  It’s absolutely gorgeous! If it’s a statement you’re after this could be it.  It’s found in a variety of colors,  known for its translucent quality and is frequently enhanced with back lighting. It’s not particularly durable but could be a good choice for a dramatic powder room or bar top.  This is also one of the most expensive of the natural stone choices.

Granite– This is the natural stone that you are probably the most familiar with.  It is found in a wide variety of patterns and colors.  It is typically heat resistant and non porous although less so than quartzite.  This stone is usually offered at various price levels, 1 being the most inexpensive and easy to come by and 5 being at the pricier end.  

Quartzite– Not to be confused with quartz which is a man-made product, quartzite is the Rolls Royce of natural stone tops.  It’s the ultimate in both beauty and durability which is why it is so expensive.  It is also extremely hard, requiring a diamond saw to fabricate.

white quartzite counter Marble of the World
white quartzite counter Marble of the World

Marble-At the moment, nothing is more popular than the look of white Calacatta marble.  It is beautiful but sadly it is not the best choice for your kitchen countertop.  Marble is porous which means it will stain and etch.  If you throw caution to the wind and decide to use it anyway, make sure you seal it regularly and  just expect it to season with time like something you’d find in an old French bistro. Oui?

Limestone countertop with honed finish features 50 million year old fossils
Limestone countertop with honed finish features 50 million year old fossils Green River Stone Co.

Limestone–  This is a very “Florida” look, great for floors and walls but it’s going to require maintenance if you decide to use it for a countertop..  It is very porous and must be maintained regularly with a sealer.  I do love the look of embedded shells and fossils you can get with some limestone. Choices include beiges to soft browns.

Slate-This is another stone that’s great for flooring and exterior as well as interior applications. It can be rustic or modern and is usually found in dark colors like blacks and grays. 

There you have it, natural stone 101.  I’d like to thank the folks at MIA+BSI: The Natural Stone Institute who sponsored this post.  You can find more info at  www.usenaturalstone.com.  

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Gloria Graham-Sollecito

Gloria is a kitchen and bath cabinetry designer with AKBD certification from the National Kitchen & Bath Association. She has also served on the Florida Treasure Coast Chapter's Board of Directors as the VP of Communications. Her work has appeared on This Old House as well as in Florida Design Magazine, K+BB Magazine and the Palm Beach Post. She is co-author of The Complete Idiots Guide to Remodeling Your Kitchen, Illustrated, as well as a freelanced writer contributing occasionally to the Sun Sentinel in the area of kitchen design. She is a proud member of the Blanco Design Council and the illustrious Brizo Blogger 19.

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