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Natural Stone: 4 Most Popular Kitchen Countertop Materials

September 28, 2015 by The Countertop Guru Editorial Staff

Natural stone is quarried from several countries throughout the world. It is one of the oldest building materials, and it is classified in three distinctive categories: the hardest ones like granite are igneous rocks. Softer materials like marble, soapstone or quartzite are metamorphic rocks. And the softest of them all, are sedimentary rocks, not very much used for kitchen countertops.

For hundreds of years, rough-cuts of natural stone have been used for building bridges, paving, shaping monuments and more. During the last decades, stones like granite, marble, soapstone and quartzite have become very popular for residential applications.

Contemporary, modern, eclectic, or rustic, natural stone injects that classic charm to any decorating style. For a kitchen’s architecture, natural stone is a grand investment. No doubt, if you go ahead on that renovation project, at resale you’ll be paid back. With natural stone, every slab is unique. So, when you select that particular segment, you can be sure that you’ll have an exclusive piece of nature at the heart of your home.


Granite is the number one natural stone for residential surfaces. Highly effective for kitchen and bathroom countertops, fireplace surrounds, floor and wall applications, granite is of high demand because of its unique qualities. It is one of the hardest surfaces on the market. Cutting and scratching are not a problem for this durable material. Granite’s brilliance and performance doesn’t have a match either . Its functionality for kitchen countertops also relies on its heat resistance. Although it is not recommend, granite surfaces can resist hot pans or trails coming from ovens that have reached 480 degrees F. Available in a broad spectrum of colors, granite comes in browns, beiges, whites, blacks, grays, blues, reds, greens, purples and more. Depending on its mineral composition, granite is often flecked and veined. Few of them will absorb moisture easily than others, but a quality sealer will prevent this from happening. Currently, prices have come down significantly and consumers can find universal or typical colors at affordable prices. Of course, there are some types of granite referred as exotics, which prices may vary from distributor to distributor depending on quarrying process, distribution and availability.


Marble is beautiful and elegant. The most sought after and one of the least expensive on the market, is the heavily gray-veined Carrara marble. Ideally recommended for bathroom countertops and shower areas, customers choose the Carrara for their kitchen countertops because of its classic look, its brightness. They love how it can easily reflect and amplify light in a room. Still, this soft natural material is not for everyone. Not recommended for high-traffic kitchens where big gatherings happen, and all conventional kitchen tasks are practiced every day. Unlike igneous rocks like granite, marble has a metamorphic formation. This type of rock is softer and for that susceptible to scratching, denting and cracking. Perhaps, the most common problem with marble is its vulnerability to chemicals. Acid foods like citrus fruits can leave dull spots, affecting its polish. Marble can be found in a variety of patterns and colors. Some distributors may have a selection of up to 50 colors.


Quartzite’s demand for kitchen and bathroom countertops is expanding rapidly. Its increasing popularity is the result of its durability, and resistance to stains. Like soapstone and marble, quartzite is a metamorphic rock, but pure quartzite can be harder than granite. Typically, quartzite is white or gray with hints of brown or black. When it has some amounts of iron oxide; or mineral impurities, quartzite can occur in various shades of pink and red; or yellow, green, blue, and orange. Some can have the stunning appearance of marble. Our home page, which has a picture of the Luce Di Luna quartzite, we fabricated for the Hyatt Regency Hotel in Reston, Virginia, is an example of its similarity to classic marble. Surely, it is expensive, but its upscale-elegance and durability makes the price worth it for most consumers.


Soapstone is an excellent alternative for those who seek a distinctive natural stone other than granite or marble. It doesn’t come in a wide array of colors like granite, but in a range of gray shades with quartz flecks and veining patterns. Some slabs may have a bluish or greenish cast. Soapstone naturally darkens with use over time. However, if you are looking for that charcoal black countertop, such uniform dark appearance can be achieved with a treatment of mineral oil. Soapstone’s name comes from the soft and soapy feeling on its surface due to high amounts of talc. It is famous for its chemical resistance, working perfectly for science lab tops. Soapstone is a metamorphic rock like marble, but its extremely dense composition, high resistance to heat, and the fact that it doesn’t need to be sealed, are decisive considerations when it comes to determine its functionality for kitchen countertops.

To Seal or Not to Seal

Octubre 14, 2015 by The Countertop Guru Editorial Staff

Online, there is a crowd of myths resulting from misleading information about the sealing issue. Yes! It is an issue because there is absolute controversy about this topic. Most of our customers have misconceptions about how sealers work on natural stone; they confuse sealing with polishing; they don’t know why there is the necessity to seal, or why most stones don’t need to be sealed at all; they also think a sealer will act as a shield on their surface, which will protect it from etching or damaging… “Nothing more wrong”.

This elaborated stress on sealing, or resealing once or twice a year, which is not realistic, might be happening because natural stone is the leading surface material on the market, and anxious competitors may feel they are losing potential consumers. See MIA’s Stone Industry Statistical Data for 2014

Perhaps, they are not the only ones to blame. There are also a growing number of sealer manufacturers that not only want to sell their products, but they also encourage people to do the sealing application by themselves. Fabricators too, will mention the not authentic necessity to seal just to add another number on your bill.

Sealing your surface by yourself should not be recommended, though. If by mistake you seal a nonporous material, or a surface that has already been treated with a topical sealer, you’ll end up with a plastic wavy coat on your surface, and the undesirable hassle of paying a professional to remove it, and restore your dulled surface.

Instead, this process should be carried out at fabrication where only porous surfaces will receive the treatment. At this stage, professionals will use high quality impregnators designed for natural stone that will last ten to fifteen years. Winkhel from The Countertop Guru says: “ we don’t use topical sealers”, “they last a short period of time, and they are not designed for natural stone”, he also adds “topical sealers are used more than is needed with the excuse that it will also prevent scratches”. “But with granite this is needless because granite is famously resistant to scratches”.

So essentially… In the stone industry, fabricators have been using two types of sealers: topical sealers and impregnators. Unlike topical sealers, which work on the surface, impregnators work underneath the surface. Typical impregnators used for natural stone, are those designed to congest the stone’s pores to inhibit staining agents from being absorbed by them. Ultimately, a stone needs to be porous enough to absorb any impregnator.

Contrary to what it is advertised online, most granites surfaces don’t need any treatment. Almost 90 % of granites are dense, nonporous surfaces that won’t absorb any impregnator. Only a small number of granites need the treatment, and they can be numbered: Giallo Ornamental, Santa Cecilia Light, Ivory Fantasy, New Caledonia, and Luna Pearl.

Now, sealing your stone won’t give it a shiny finish. Sealing and polishing have different roles. In general, natural stone comes in polished or honed finish. Polished is the most popular and its high-gloss, very reflective look is achieved by using grinding heads with progressively finer abrasives that will buff the stone’s surface until it gains that gleaming appearance. Typically, this process is not offered by distributors or fabricators, stones are given a particular finish at a final stage where they are quarried.

Last confusing aspect about sealing is the belief that sealers prevent stones from etching or damaging. Etches are marks that will occur on certain types of stones. As mentioned before, materials like marble, which calcite crystals react with acids like fruit juice, vinegar, alcohol, are prone to etching. A sealed or even polished calcareous stone will still be vulnerable to etches, or scratches. Once more, sealing will only protect a natural stone from staining.