kitchen islands from natural and engineered stone

Opinion: best material for topping kitchen islands


Most often, the same material is chosen for topping the kitchen island as the main kitchen countertop, but it is also possible to combine different materials. Both natural and artificial stone is suitable for kitchen islands. However, artificial stone is more practical in the kitchen and is recommended if the island has a sink and stove. Convenience is key, so the island surface should be resistant to moisture, stains, heat, impact, and easy to clean. It is important that the island is low maintenance and does not cause additional worries.


A particularly desirable characteristics of kitchen island top is low porosity. It is precisely because of low porosity that artificial stone is more often chosen in the kitchen. Non-porous surfaces of artificial stone do not absorb liquids, do not stain, and are hygienic; bacteria, mold and fungi do not proliferate on them. Fruit acids or drops of vinegar will not damage non-porous surfaces. Natural stone, on the other hand, is porous and absorbs liquids, so natural stone countertops in the kitchen require more maintenance. They need to be regularly impregnated. One must be careful not to place or spill certain foods, condiments or liquids on them.


The ideal kitchen island surfacing is scratch-resistant:  on such a surface, you can confidently place tableware and utensils, wipe it with a cloth, or quickly slice bread without using a cutting board. Additionally, the island surface should not be brittle, so accidental bumps with pots, pans, or dishes won't chip the edges. It's great if the island surface is resistant to high temperatures. Then you can place hot pots on it without worry.


In all these respects, artificial stone surfaces are particularly convenient for coating kitchen islands. These materials are non-porous or very little porous, so they won't stain or absorb moisture. The toughest and most durable in the category of artificial stone is sintered stone, also known as ultra-compact surface, and slightly lower on the stairs of hardness standing engineered quartz. Ceramic, porcelain, and a bit softer acrylic solid surface are also excellent choices for the kitchen island surfacing. 


Sintered stone surfaces are resistant to extreme heat, freezing, and scratching. However, the glossy glaze of ultra-compact surfaces in rare cases may change color due to extreme heat, such as when placing a hot pan directly on the island worktop. Glossy sintered surfaces can also be scratched by porcelain knives. In all other respects, ultra-compact surface is a very advanced and durable material. On matte ultra-compact surfaces, you can even set a fire, and it is unlikely that permanent stains will appear. After cleaning the dirty spot, the ultra-compact surface will look like nothing had happened.


Kitchen islands topped with ceramic and porcelain surfaces are also very easy to maintain. Ceramic and porcelain worktops don't stain and are resistant to heat. However, similar to sintered stone, glaze on glossy ceramic and porcelain surfaces may react and change color from very hot pans or pots. Both ceramic and porcelain are scratch-resistant, but the glaze of glossy tops can still be scratched with knives. Matt finishes are not sensitive. Ceramic and porcelain surfaces are almost as hard as engineered quartz. They are also more flexible than quartz, and therefore less brittle. The advantage of this is that it is possible to manufacture very thin ceramic and porcelain slabs (as the material is more resistant to breaking or chipping). 


Another common topping material for a kitchen island is arylic solid surface. Solid surface is convenient when the purpose is to seamlessly integrate the sink into the island countertop, or to add a drop-down side (support) without any visible joining seams. Side facades, most commonly joined at a 45-degree angle, are made from various types of artificial and natural stone. The difference is that between the components of a solid surface island, there are no joining marks. The solid surface island looks completely seamless, regardless of its size or shape. Acrylic stone can be used to manufacture entire island with shelves, drawers, cabinet fronts, integrated LED lighting, and home control panels. This is both luxurious and highly practical option if you spare no expense for your kitchen. Each additional component increases the fabrication cost.


Solid surface is particularly convenient in irregularly shaped or small kitchens, where space-saving solutions are needed, especially if there are angled corners, protruding pipes, or other rounded details. In other words, solid surface can smoothly solve space problems in irregular kitchens. However, acrylic solid surface is less resistant to heat and scratching than other artificial stone materials. But that's not a problem - solid surface islands can easily be renewed. If, after a few years, an island made of solid surface loses its fresh appearance or gets scratched, it can be polished anew. Even more, acrylic stone is easily repairable, so if you accidentally break your solid surface island, or make a hole in it, a professional stone fabricator can "patch" it so well that no marks will be visible.


Choosing natural stone for a kitchen island is a decision you won't regret only if you pay enough attention to its maintenance. If you don't mind the upkeep and hassle, natural stone is a fantastic choice for any project. The most practical natural stone choice for your kitchen island is granite or quartzite. Marble, travertine, or onyx are very sensitive to acidic substances found in food and often used in kitchens, such as fruit acids or vinegar. Extra care should be taken with islands made of these stones. Acids corrode marble, onyx, or travertine more than granite or quartzite, and they change color faster in contact with foods.


Stone impregnators solve the problem of stone absorbency by closing stone pores so that other liquids cannot enter them. Properly impregnated natural stone surfaces no longer absorb water and become like non-porous artificial materials. However, over time, impregnator washes out and evaporates, and re-impregnation is necessary. However, if the kitchen island is actively used for food preparation, it is likely that over time, you will tire of caring for and impregnating natural stone. In that case, it might be better to think in advance and choose artificial stone instead. The variety of colors and patterns in artificial stone is almost endless, allowing you to experiment freely and create a unique kitchen island.


The least practical natural stone for kitchen islands is onyx and gemstone due to their sensitivity, fragility, brittlenes, and other characteristics. It's better to use gemstone slabs for decorating walls or other vertical planes, also those furniture tops that don't come into contact with food or water.

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