Stone countertops serve not only an aesthetic purpose, but also a practical one. Understanding the material that makes up your countertop is essential to ensuring you choose the finish that is right for you. This guide will walk you through the various choices of stone countertops available, as well as basic maintenance that will keep your countertop looking brand new for years to come.
The word marble derives from the Ancient Greeks, meaning “shining stone”. It has been used by humans for millennia for many different uses in construction. However, its most known use is that of breathtaking sculptures such as Michelangelo's David. While still used in sculpture, today we more commonly see marble in floors and stairs and of course in beautiful countertops.
Marble is a metamorphic rock. This means that to become what it is, it had to undergo a tremendous amount of heat and pressure deep within the earth’s crust. Marble starts off as a limestone or dolomite rock, and while all this heat and pressure is happening, the stone has many fossilized materials in it that begin to crystallize. If any different minerals are also present during this process, you get a variety of different colours. The more of the mineral the more concentrated the colour will be. For instance, pure calcite marble is white. Get a little or a lot of serpentine in there, you get green. After a few million or so years, the rock has transformed or, metamorphosed into marble.
The first uses of marble dates back thousands of years to ancient Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. This trend would continue throughout our history as the qualities of this stone continued to show, most notably its beauty and incredible resiliency. Littered throughout history are buildings, monuments and sculptures that are made entirely of this wondrous stone. The Parthenon, built in 4th century B.C. is still a standing testament to the incredible longevity of marble. Michelangelo’s David, the red marble floor of the basilica of Saint Paul in Rome, the Taj Mahal. these are but a few wonders molded from marble by deft hands.
Used by both the Greeks and Romans, as well as artificers in India, Asia and the Middle East, marble has become a cultural symbol of fine taste, tradition and elegance. While white marble can be a wonderful neutral pallet, marble also has a wide range of colour making it a favourite for all designers, artists and decorators. Many towns are named after marble, and countless museums around the world proudly display it. In a word, marble is timeless, and a welcome sight for any bathroom vanity.
The word granite comes from the Latin granum, meaning grain, in reference to the coarse-grained structure of the stone. Granite is durable, attractive and versatile. These factors are the reason granite is one of the most widely used construction stones in all facets of life. As cutting technology advanced in the 19th century, the possibilities opened wide for the use of granite. Here is some information to help you get to know this stone.
Granite is an igneous rock. Igneous or magmatic rock is formed from the cooling and solidification of magma or lava. This process leaves an incredibly hard stone that is second in hardness only to diamond. As with most stone formation, the presence of other materials can cause crystallization in the stone, this forms more crystalline rocks. Without these materials, you get a more natural glass look. Because of this process, granite is resistant to blistering, scratching, cracking and scorching. Making it an excellent choice for countertops. Granites are predominately white, pink or gray in colour depending on the minerology of the section of formed granite. This process makes granite much less porous than other stones leading to a very high resistance to water damage.
First use of granite in a major work of construction is the Red Pyramid of Egypt in about the 27th century B.C. The Ancient Egyptians continued to use granite in other pyramids including a sarcophagus in The Great Pyramid of Giza 3rd century B.C. How the Egyptians could work and shape granite is still a largely debated topic. They faced the same problems as everyone else prior to the 19th century, how to manipulate such an extremely strong stone? The breakthrough for cutting granite came with the invention of steam-powered cutting techniques. Granite was first used during this time as a tool for monuments and grave stones, but as time and cutting technology advanced, so too did the uses for the stone.
Since technology has advanced the efficiency in which we can cut, shape, and transport granite, the market has become massive. Commercially, granite is one of the most popular building materials and is found in bridges, paving, monuments, tile flooring, stair treads, polished countertops and many others. Granite is considered a prestige material and conveys a look of elegance as well as structural integrity. Granite’s beautiful look, extreme toughness and durability, as well as a nice variety of colour options make it a truly great choice.
The word quartz comes from an Ancient Greek word meaning “icy cold”. Initially thought to be super-cooled ice we now know that quartz is a rock mineral and has a crystalline quality to it. There are many different varieties of quartz including many semi-precious gemstones. Quartz is an incredibly versatile, beautiful and colourful mineral. Here is some helpful information about this mineral.
Quartz is formed mainly from molten magma. The quartz crystallizes because of silicates which is a chemical compound containing the anionic silicon compound. Silicates constitute the majority of the earth’s crust and produce thousands of silicates based minerals. Amongst this plethora of silicates, quartz is by far the most predominant and is the second most abundant mineral on earth. Quartz is found in every rock group and in almost every single mineral environment. Despite its abundance, its huge variety still makes it extremely sought after.
Quartz has been used all throughout history as far back as we can go. In its gemstone form it has been in jewelry such as Jade in Asia and carvings, gems and crystal vases all throughout Europe and the Middle East. In rock form, it is in the earliest of stone tools found by archaeologists. As electrical technology came along quartz crystals were needed in electronic components and are used in computer chips. In modern kitchen countertops, quartz is crushed, bound together with adhesive and formed into their shapes.
Today, quartz has become a leading countertop material. It is impervious to stains, and stands up to acidic foods better than other stones. It is extremely scratch and chip resistant, has low maintenance and is considered a green option. With the ability to shape thickness and size with computers and machines, as well as mimicking stone veins and imperfections, quartz is quickly becoming the choice with all the benefits and none of the faults.
Solid surface is the name for an engineered stone-based material designed for seamless countertops. The different looks and colours of solid surface are nearly unlimited, allowing for one of the most versatile products on the market.
Solid surface is created using a combination of marble dust, bauxite, acrylic, epoxy or polyester resins and pigments. The compound is chemically cured and then cut into sheets or shapes and sanded. A surface fabricator machine is used for the molding of specific shapes, which are in turn cut and routered. The colour and look of the product can be changed and manipulated depending on desired result.
Conceptualized in 1967 by Corian, solid surface was designed to imitate the natural stone look but with none of the porous high maintenance problems. With its ability to completely seal any joints and with the non-porous material, solid surface quickly became the go to for hospitals and kitchens and bathrooms. Being able to easily clean a surface with no risk of bacteria growing in any imperfections or pores made solid surface a wonderful substitute for previous products. Since its inception multiple companies have added their similar products in a very fast-growing market.
Solid surface while imitating the look of natural stone has limited the potential shortcomings of stone. While still durable, solid surface can be molded easier and with the colour throughout the product, refinishing is an option. These traits are the reason this product is being picked up more and more frequently by new developments, hospitals, airports, public buildings, and homes. This countertop does it call and has the versatility to look both in texture and colour just the way you want it to.