Natural Stone Offers Unique Choices for Kitchen Counter Tops

Stone countertop

Natural Stone a Popular Trend in Kitchen Counter Tops

When refurbishing an existing kitchen or designing a new kitchen, kitchen counter tops are at the heart of the design decor. Natural stone is the hands-down material of choice, available in nearly countless colors and styles; with granite counter tops highest in demand.

Natural Stone; Popular, but Expensive

Whether granite, slate or quartz, marble or soapstone, natural stone counter tops are available at a significantly high cost, ranging from under $50 per square foot to well over $300 per square foot and up for exclusive designer lines.

Natural stone counter tops are best left in professional hands when it comes to installation or kitchen counter top replacement. Once base cabinetry has been prepared, a custom wood template is made as a pattern. Custom cutting of the stone slab for a perfect fit is done using a special diamond saw.

One simple slip-up can necessitate replacing the first counter top with a second natural stone slab; a very costly mistake indeed for the majority of homeowners attempting do it yourself kitchen counter tops projects on their own.

Pros and Cons of the Different Natural Stone Options

Granite kitchen counter tops: granite is a very hard material, highly resistant to impact, scratching, and staining when properly maintained with regular cleaning, polishing, and sealing.

While darker granites from the Middle East may be harder than lighter granites, all are considered highly durable; lighter granites tend to be slightly more susceptible to staining, due to the higher content of Orthoclase minerals.

Natural quartz kitchen counter tops: quartz is the 4th hardest mineral in existence, making it a very durable material for a custom kitchen counter top. Unlike granite or other stone, quartz kitchen counter tops are highly resistant to permanent staining from wine, lemon juice, fruits and vegetables, soda and tea.

Marble kitchen counter tops: marble is a softer natural stone which may require extra care to keep its exquisite beauty. It is easy to scratch and soil, but as long as damage or staining is not too extensive, marble can easily be restored to its original finish.

While granite needs frequent resealing (1 to 2 times per year), marble may need even more resealing to maintain a durable, protective finish.

Soapstone kitchen counter top: soapstone has been a popular choice material not only for counter tops, but for thousands of years has been used to fashion goblets, sculptures, fireplaces, ovens and tabletops.

Soapstone was popular with early colonial settlers in North America for crude sinks. It is a unique material in the fact that acid and alkaline compounds will not affect it like granite, marble or slate. And, it has been proven highly durable under long-term heavy use conditions.

Slate kitchen counter tops: slate holds up very well under heavy kitchen use demands. It is unaffected by hot pots and pans, and is naturally stain resistant; minor damage can easily be polished out.

Slate is very low maintenance, requiring only periodic application of mineral oil as a sealer. Available in subdued shades of red, grey, green and purple, it is very effective in understated decor themes.

Proper Natural Stone Countertop Care

To protect your natural stone countertop investment and maintain its beauty and longevity, follow the tips below:

  • Damage prevention - the #1 treatment recommended by experts for longevity of natural beauty with minimal upkeep and expense. Although natural stone countertops are considered hard and durable, surfaces can scratch. And allowing certain foods and acidic substances to remain on the surface can harm the sealant; allowing staining and damage to the surface.
  • Regular cleaning - keep countertop clean at all times; blot up food and liquid spills immediately. Acidic substances, including tomato juice/sauce, sodas, lemon juice, etc., can etch or stain the surface; cooking oil can also stain.
  • Avoid harsh scrubbing - use a sponge or soft cloth when cleaning, preferably with a stone cleaner specially formulated for that particular type stone. Hot water alone is great; hot water mixed with a little mild liquid dish soap is fine for occasional quick clean-ups. Too much soap use, however, will create a build-up and dull countertop shine.
  • Use coasters, placemats, or potholders - under glasses, bottles, and cans. Remember, preventative care against scratches, etching, and stains are the best way to keep natural stone counter tops looking their best.
  • Avoid scraping objects across the surface - although hot pots can be taken off the stove and put directly on a granite, soapstone, slate, or quartz countertop without causing surface damage, grit or hard particles trapped between the pot and countertop can scratch the surface.

  • Never cut foods on the countertop - always use a cutting board. This will not only protect the sealant and countertop surface, but the knives as well. Cutting on stone damages knife blades.

  • Avoid common cleaning products - such as bleach, glass cleaners, soaps, tub and tile cleaners, and degreasers; vinegar, ammonia, or citrus cleaners. These products can contain chemicals and acids that can etch or damage the sealant or countertop surface. A product with a relatively neutral pH is safer; especially those that are stone-specific formulated.
  • Avoid placing toiletry products directly on the bare countertop surface - including hair products, colognes, nail products, lotions and creams. These can damage or stain the surface, etch the polish, and leave a ring.
  • Weekly applications of a specially formulated stone cleaner - to help keep the natural beauty and protective sealant in tact.
  • Use stone specific polishers and color-enhancers - four to five times a year to keep the stone's natural beauty and luster alive.
  • Annual resealing with a quality sealant - a must for granite and marble especially. Reseal twice annually if stone is considered extra porous, or if the countertop gets lots of use and shows signs of wear. Unless, of course, stone type should not be sealed.

The important thing is to use the right type sealer on the right stone. Black granite, for instance, contains very little quartz and has a different composition than true granite; it therefore requires special treatment.

Tight Budget? How to Make a Stone Counter Top More Affordable

Overall kitchen counter top cost can be prohibitive for many homeowners. However, special design granite counter top cost can be offset by the homeowner completing preparatory work on a DIY basis - cutting down on per hour contractor cost.

When replacing kitchen counter tops, the homeowner can disconnect and remove sinks and fixtures, and old counter tops can be taken off base cabinetry. Take special care to shut off water supply lines and disconnect drain pipes; have a bucket handy for catching remaining water in plumbing.

Once fixtures and old counter tops are out of the way, the natural stone installation contractor can be called in to quickly make a pattern template. Counter tops are custom cut for speedy installation, further saving the homeowner labor costs.

Call the Pros

When it comes to finding just the right granite kitchen counter top contractor for your project, or countertop for anywhere in Canada, is the best online resource. Even better, it's absolutely free, with no obligation.

Whether seeking a specialty contractor for Ontario counter tops, or an installation pro for a Vancouver counter top; homeowners simply sign up for free and post their kitchen renovation project online, with easy-to-use tools.

Reliable local contractors view project details, and compete for the project by providing competitive bids in days, even hours from posting.

Homeowners can view contractor profile pages, credentials, references, and contractor photo gallery pictures of recently completed projects; not to mention read customer reviews, references, and comments online at 24/7. And then make an informed decision when hiring a contractor; or hire no contractor at all. Remember, there is no obligation whatsoever.

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