What Is Engineered Stone?

The term “engineered stone” refers to a composite slab of stone that is generally made from around 90% crushed quartz and which is bound together using a polymer resin.

The extra 10% is generally made up of extra materials like metals, mirrors, shells, or coloured glass which are added in for aesthetic reasons.

This material can be used anywhere that other slab stones like marble or granite are used, but for the most part people choose engineered stone for their bathroom and kitchen benchtops.

A Popular Composite Stone Product

This sort of composite stone product is starting to become more and more popular and is sometimes even preferred to natural stone slabs because the man-made version can actually be more resilient.

If you compare it to unsealed granite, for example, engineered stone is much more stain resistant because it is 100% non-porous, meaning that anything spilled on the surface of your countertops will never penetrate past the surface and so spills will never set into the countertops themselves.

On top of being easier to maintain this also makes engineered stone safer and less prone to develop harmful bacteria.

Engineered Stone Slabs Are Strong

Engineered stone slabs like these are also much more uniformly structured than natural ones, making them stronger and less prone to cracking despite the fact that it is crushed stone sealed together rather than a single solid piece.

However the fact that it is crushed stone bound together, and in this sense is not solid, does not mean that it is no solid in the sense of being stone all the way through.

Make sure that you get a solid slab of stone – albeit composite or engineered: even though the composite slab is only 90% stone, you still want to get the same type of stone all the way through, as opposed to wooden or MDF benchtops with a thin stone laminate on the surface.

Getting a solid slab (again, either engineered or not) is important for your benchtop’s durability.

There is a wide variety of different composite stones available in various shades and styles so that you can find something to compliment your existing (or projected) decor.

And in addition to quartz engineered stones, they are also made from silestone, caesarstone, and smartstone, among others.

All are made with exceptional care and attention to detail and at least one is sure to catch your eye.

To get a first-hand impression for yourself, feel free to come visit our showroom to see just what we mean.

UPDATE (October 2023)

Engineered stone, traditionally contains a high percentage of silica because it’s made up mostly of quartz. However, there have been concerns about the health impacts of respirable crystalline silica dust, especially for workers who cut, grind, or polish these surfaces, leading to the need for low-silica alternatives.

Manufacturers who aim to produce engineered stone with lower silica content can follow several strategies:

Alternative Fillers: Use alternative non-silica minerals or materials to replace a portion or all of the quartz filler. This can include materials like marble, metal flakes, recycled glass, etc. The goal is to maintain the desired properties (strength, durability, appearance) while reducing silica content.

Resin Content: By increasing the amount of resin in the mixture, the silica content, by definition, will decrease. However, there’s a limit to this approach, as too much resin can compromise the mechanical properties of the final product.

Enhanced Compaction: Techniques such as vibrocompression under vacuum can be employed to increase the density of the engineered stone, thereby allowing for a smaller amount of quartz to be used.

Silica-Coating: In some experimental setups, quartz particles are coated with non-silica materials. This reduces the amount of respirable silica that can become airborne during cutting or polishing, although the overall silica content of the material might remain the same.

Engineered Porosity: Introducing controlled porosity can reduce the overall amount of silica, but this can also affect the material’s mechanical and aesthetic properties.

Alternative Production Methods: Nano-cemented materials or geopolymers might be used to produce engineered stone-like surfaces with much lower silica content.

Safety During Manufacturing: While reducing the silica content in the stone is one approach, ensuring that workers are protected during manufacturing, cutting, and installation is equally crucial. This can include wet-working methods to reduce dust, proper ventilation, and appropriate personal protective equipment.

Manufacturers aiming to introduce low-silica engineered stones need to strike a balance between maintaining the aesthetic and functional qualities of their product, ensuring worker safety, and meeting any regulatory requirements.