Kitchen worktops from natural stone and engineered materials

Opinion: best material for kitchen countertops


Convenience is the key factor in the kitchen, therefore the ideal kitchen countertop should be resistant to moisture, heat and scratching. It should be easy to clean and maintain. It's also important that the worktop material has low porosity (or low absorbency), so that spills don't leave stains. Just the thought that the countertop can stain easily makes one feel anxious when preparing food, pouring drinks, or cleaning vegetables. Most often, the same material is chosen for both, countertop and kitchen island surfacing. If made from porous material, these surfaces will require more maintenance.


Thus, one of the crucial features for the kitchen countertop is its low porosity. Non-porous countertops do not absorb moisture, therefore they are not prone to stains and do not provide a favorable environment for bacteria to grow. You don't have to worry if you spill staining liquids, such as beet juice, red wine, coffee, or carrot juice on a non-porous countertop. After wiping it with a cloth, there will be no stains left. It won't be damaged by fruit acids or vinegar. Such a countertop will be low maintenance, and always look great.


Worktop's resistance to high temperatures is another very desirable feature. If you have a heat resistant worktop, you can put hot pots on it, and not worry if someone else does it accidentally. The ideal kitchen countertop is scratch resistant, so that you can confidently place on it utensils and plates, wipe it with a harsh cloth, or slice a loaf of bread on it whenever you need. Another desirable characteristics of a kitchen worktop is that the edges don't chip when you knock pots, pans or utensils around.


In all these respects, artificial stone countertops are particularly convenient in the kitchen. Artificial stone materials are non-porous or have very low porosity, so countertops made from them are non-staining and do not absorb moisture. The toughest and most resistant in the category of artificial stone is sintered stone and engineered quartz. Sintered stone countertops are insensitive to extreme heat, cold, or scratching. However, the glaze of glossy sintered stone surfaces can react and change color when exposed to extreme heat, for example, if a hot flat-bottomed pan is placed directly on the worktop. Porcelain knives can scratch glossy sintered stone countertops.


Ceramic and porcelain countertops are also excellent choices in the kitchen because they are equally easy to maintain. Ceramics and porcelain are heat resistant, but the glaze on glossy countertops can react and change color from very hot pans or pots. Therefore it is better to choose non-glossy finishes for the kitchen. Ceramics and porcelain are scratch-resistant, but if the countertop is glossy, again, knives can scratch the top layer of glaze over time. The hardness of ceramic and porcelain countertops is similar to that of engineered quartz.


A popular choice in the kitchen is acrylic solid surface countertops. The hi-tec solid surface material is convenient when fabricating countertops that are seamlessly joined with a sink or backsplash. Usually between the solid surface countertop and its other components, there are no gaps or any joining marks. Solid surface furniture pieces look completely integral, regardless of their size or shape. Solid surface is very convenient in irregular or small kitchens to compactly fill the space with the countertop plain, especially if there are angled corners, protruding pipes, or other rounded or irregularly shaped details. In other words, solid surface can smoothly and practically solve the problems of irregular kitchens. Although acrylic solid surface is prone to scratching and less heat resistant than other artificial stone materials, it's not a problem - such countertops are easily repaired and refreshed. 


All types of natural stone also make wonderful kitchen worktops, but specifically in the kitchen, natural stone countertops will require more care than artificial stone countertops. You are likely to get tired of looking after your natural stone countertop very quickly, especially if you install it in a high traffic kitchen zone. First, you will need to impregnate it regularly (at least once or twice a year), and wipe clean every spill and splash as soon as it appears.  Sealing or impregnation protects the stone surface from moisture and liquid absorption, and thus the appearance of stains. If you don't mind the care and hassle, natural stone is a fantastic choice for any project in all other respects. The most practical option for a kitchen from natural stones would be a granite countertop. 


From natural stones, the most practical in the kitchen are granite countertop or quartzite countertop. Marble, travertine, and onyx are very sensitive to acids found in food and commonly used in kitchens, so having countertops made of these stones in the kitchen requires extra caution. Acids corrode them more than granite or quartzite, and marble or onyx will change color faster from acids. Stone is a highly porous material and absorbs liquids, so natural stone countertops in the kitchen need to be regularly impregnated. Stone impregnators temporarily seal the stone pores, preventing other liquids from entering them (until the impregnator washes off or evaporates).

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