WHAT IS YOUR LIFESTYLE?
Think about your lifestyle and anyone in your household that will be using the surface. Will they clean up spills right away? Do you entertain and will a wine glass be left to create a ring? Marble is soft and picks up stains easily while something like an engineered quartz or even natural quartzite are much harder stones that resist chipping, scratches and wear-and-tear.
WHERE IS IT GOING?
Now that you know your capabilities, where is the stone going? Kitchen countertop, bathroom vanity, shower floor and surround, a wall feature? These areas expose the stone to different kinds of traffic, liquids, levels of moisture and heat. Be aware of the stone’s limitations and that you know how to properly care for it. Heat resistance should also be considered if you are placing on the wall behind your cooktop or range.
WHAT DOES IT COST?
Marble and granite are generally similarly priced. Quartzite is more expensive because it is harder to find and quarry. Man-made quartz is comparable with granite and marble but will vary based on the brand and selection. Whiter and more dramatically veined varieties will be more expensive.
Other factors that affect the overall price of your counter tops and why giving a per s.f. price is not an accurate measure of final cost:
Other things to consider:
Marble’s natural beauty is hard to beat. There are many different types of marble varying from white to black. The most popular ones are Carrara, Calacatta, and Statuario. There are also different grades within each type depending on where exactly they were quarried from. The cost can really vary, though on average, marble is about $50-$100/sq ft, but a rare marble could range from $80-$260/sq ft).
All the marbles are very porous (able to absorb liquid). Also, no matter what type it is sensitive to acid. Lemons, wine, vinegar, and other acidic items are not marble’s friend and will cause etching. The acid essentially dissolves an area of your marble surface as it reacts with calcite. However, you can still use marble if you understand its maintenance.
Not be confused with Quartz (which is manmade) Quartzite is a naturally occurring metamorphic rock. Natural quartzite tends to be white or gray with hints of brown and black and can have rust colored spots/streaks. This pairs beautifully with today’s gray, blue, and modern farmhouse trends. Natural quartzite has the look of marble with a bit more luminous, transparent aesthetic. However, it acts like granite in durability and doesn’t scratch or etch like other natural stones. It also withstands heat well, but still ask your stone yard if it is OK above the range! The veining of each stone, which varies from slab to slab, provides some of the most exquisite patterns. Although this makes it seem the perfect stone, its price tag can be prohibitive, although the more common varieties (and if you are open to some rust colored spots) can be comparable to some marbles.
Quartz countertops are an engineered stone made up of loose quartz mineral, mineral pigment, and a binder. Because they’re engineered and make use of resin as their binder, they’re non-porous (aka very resistant to staining), durable, acid-friendly, and generally requires no additional sealing. The gorgeous patterns now on the market have made it the leading material for most home owners. Many emulate marble, quartzite and even concrete. Due to the binder used however, quartz is sensitive to heat and trivets are required. Also, it is not very UV-friendly like natural stone. When placed outside, there’s a high chance that sun exposure will cause fading.
The standard years ago, it has gone a bit out of vogue with the move towards lighter and brighter spaces, however if you find a slab that speaks to you, it can kind of be just as pretty as marble, but without all the upkeep.
Granite typically has a speckled look from crystallized minerals that formed and cooled underneath the earth’s surface. Like marble, there are different levels of granite. You can get a more standard granite for the low, low price of $2/sq ft even, but on average it is similarly priced to marble at $50-$100/sq ft.
Because it is a harder and more scratch-resistant, it’s great for kitchens and areas that will take a beating. If areas do get chipped, repairs are fairly easy and it’s not as porous as marble, so you don’t really have to worry about staining and wiping spills right away. Granite is also one of the more heat-resistant stones so you don’t have to use a trivet, but be careful with slow cookers and such appliances that retain heat for long periods as they might crack your surface.
Porcelain slab countertops are a newcomer, especially in the United States. They are printed with images often to emulate marble. Porcelain is extremely hard and strong, resistant to chipping, scratches, and general wear. However, with enough blunt force, it can chip. Porcelain, because it literally took the heat during manufacturing, has no problems handling hot pots or being put above your professional range and works well in outdoor kitchens with sun, heat and cold.
Because it is thin, you can even install it directly over an existing countertop and it is is a green material that can be recycled for use in other products at the end of its life cycle. But note, not every fabricator can work with it so ask your provider for a recommended fabricator.
There are a few more options in the table above since those are less popular. There is some basic info below:
SOAPSTONE is a talc-based stone that can range from gray to charcoal to black in color with little to no veining. It also happens to be the softest mineral out there. This means that while a lot of people use this as a working kitchen countertop (or science labs in school settings), it is very prone to scratching. Not to worry though because you can erase these scratches with mineral oil, which also acts as its sealant and is great if you want to go for a darker look. It can be a beautiful natural surface, letting the scratching patina and then oil periodically. A less common choice, those who love it swear by it.
SOLID SURFACE materials began with DuPont's Corian. Solid surface countertops are about 33 percent binding resins and 66 percent minerals. Those minerals are a bauxite derivative, aluminium trihydrate (ATH). ATH is a kind of fine, white powder that helps solid surface maintain its smooth consistency. Contrast this with quartz counters, which are about 10 percent resins and the rest minerals. These minerals sometimes include marble and granite industrial waste and even ground-up mirrors and glass. Solid surface is a good mid-range countertop material. Buyers not interested in laminate but still looking for an affordable countertop often gravitate to solid surface. It is one of the few counter materials that a homeowner can resurface with just an orbital sander. While visually it lacks the depth of real stone or even quartz, it does resemble stone far more than laminate does. Solid surface is where a lot of countertop buyers naturally end up after carefully considering its high and low points compared to other materials.
OTHER options are also available, though less popular, they can have wonderful results. Tile is used in other parts of the country and world, and butcher block and green materials like recycled glass and paper stone catch the eye of environmentally savvy buyers. These each lend their own pros and cons but can result in beautiful surfaces. Concrete is also a fun option that allows for great customization. Those on a budget can explore the endless choices of laminate. Metals like Zinc or stainless steel can also be fabulous counter surfaces.
All of these other options involve understanding the maintenance and performance of the material as well as tracking down an experience installer, but the results can be stunning!
Amber Golob Interiors harnesses timeless aesthetics, structure and beauty amid elegance as one of Chicago's premier luxury interior designers. An expert on kitchens and bathrooms, her work embodies modern trends, allowing your life to be rediscovered through intimate definitions of your style.
Live in Chicago or the North Shore?
Schedule a consultation with luxury interior designer, Amber Golob, by contacting her at Amber@AmberGolob.com or calling 773-960-0498.