In terms of both character and durability, stone is definitely the gold standard when it comes to benchtop materials.
One of the best things about stone benchtops are their uniqueness: no matter what type of stone you choose, whether it be a sky-blue granite, a solid burgundy quartzite, or a beige travertine-embedded with fossilized shells, each and every rock that comes out of the earth has its very own mineral color, veining, and speckles, all vividly brought to life by the saws and polishing wheels of the stoneworkers.
No two stones will ever be exactly alike
No two stones will ever be exactly alike, so what you get is more like a unique work or art than a mass-produced product.
Another major advantage to stone benchtops is that they are virtually immortal, and in some cases will even outlast the life of your house itself. With only some basic maintenance to avoid staining or water marks, your benchtops can remain as good as new for many, many years.
The following is an outline of the major differences between types of stone, how you can save some money on your stone benchtop, and the basics of stone benchtop maintenance:
Stone Standards: the following rules of thumb will give you a good-looking and long-lasting benchtop.
- Seal with silicone to prevent staining
- Opt for slabs between 12-30+ mm.
- Round edges don’t chip as easily as square ones
- The overhang should be either equal with or slightly beyond the projection of the drawer pulls
Will it hold up?
You don’t need to worry about heat or water, but bumping the edge with a cast-iron skillet will likely chip it.
Will it stain?
Most new benchtops come with sealants applied by the manufacturer, and some even offer lifetime anti-stain warranties. Thanks to improved factory-applied sealants, some stones now come with lifetime anti-stain warranties.
How much maintenance?
Just clean up spills right away with soapy water or stone cleaner. Also reapply sealant periodically (typically every one to three years depending on what type of stone you have).
Where to buy one?
By using a company like Stone-Tech you can choose the exact slab that you want to bring home.
Is Stone the Right Choice for Your Kitchen?
- Uniqueness: no two stones are alike, so the color and pattern you choose will always be completely unique
- Durability: natural stone won’t be affected by heat unlike engineered stone, solid surfacing, laminate, or wood
- Seamless: no seams in between tiles to collect crumbs
- Simple maintenance: just wipe spills immediately and reapply sealant periodically
- Low maintenance: Just wipe up spills as they occur and reapply sealant when required
- Repairability: scratches, cracks, and chips can usually be fixed with a stone restorer. A poultice will remove most stains as well
- Waterproof: stone stands up well to splashing unlike butcher block or a laminate chipboard substrate
- Price: Due to the cost of fabrication, shipping, and quarrying, stone is one of the most expensive benchtop materials.
- Brittleness: If not evenly supported, stone can crack. Your cabinet tops have to be flat and level or covered with plywood that has been shimmed level.
- Not good for DIY: You’ll likely need to hire a pro to shape your edges and make your sink and faucet holes. Also stone slabs tend to weigh 80 kg or more per square metre, so installation will require a large or at least a brawny crew.
- Some are prone to stains: If not resealed periodically, stones like travertine, limestone, and marble will blemish easily
- Vulnerable to acids: citrus fruit, cleaners with bleach or ammonia, or vinegar can etch travertines, limestones, or marbles even if they are sealed.
Not All Stones are Created Equal
Not even the darkest granites are totally immune to stains. The only way you can be sure about how well your stone will hold up against staining is to bring home a sample piece and perform the following test.
First, apply a sealer so you can see how well the stone will hold up once treated. When it’s ready pour a dollop of lemon juice, red wine, olive oil, and ketchup and then leave them overnight. In the morning wipe the surface down and see if any of the dollops leave a stain behind.
Finally, here is an ranking of different types of stone with respect to certain features:
Stone Benchtop Ranking Guide: High to Low
For Scratch Resistance:
- Vermont Slate
For Stain Resistance:
- Vermont Slate
Please note that each particular stone’s resistance varies by source and colour.