It would probably surprise most homeowners in the market for kitchen countertop materials that porcelain would even be a consideration. Porcelain brings to mind delicate figurines, cups, tableware, and other fragile decorative items so it’s hard to imagine something like porcelain in countertop form; however, that’s not the case as porcelain will fool you.
Porcelain is Strong
Believe it or not, porcelain is a strong material that’s actually a type of ceramic made from a dense and durable clay. The clay, or China clay, consists of the mineral kaolinite and other elements in silica, mineral oxides, and feldspar. The combination of materials goes through a firing process in a kiln at super high temperatures and the resulting effect is a very dense material. Fabricators add color effects through pigmented glazes to bring unique colors and patterns to a porcelain slab. Finishes are glazed or unglazed, which happens through the application of a matte or high gloss glaze that goes through the firing process again and allows the glaze to remain firmly in place. These processes or stages of fabrication contribute to both the durability and strength of porcelain.
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Are there Benefits?
With all that goes into the fabrication of porcelain and its resulting strength, you wonder what the benefits would be in using it as a countertop material along with any detrimental side effects. There are pros and cons in using porcelain. Here’s a look at both.
Porcelain Countertop Pros
Resistant to Stains
Porcelain is resistant to stains from acid-related food and drinks. Any surface stains are easy to remove with a quick swipe of a cloth or sponge.
Non-Porous and Hygienic
Porcelain countertops limit liquid absorption as anything spilled on them will repel liquids. Porcelain is not only non-porous but its surface is hygienic and resists bacteria. Maintaining porcelain countertops will keep them safe for use.
Easy to Maintain
Porcelain countertops are easy to clean and maintain. Simple soap and water will do the job, as will plain hot water and a soft cloth. A dealer recommended specific cleaner is always a good idea as a professional cleaner will remove oils and dirt and bring a streak-free shine to porcelain countertops.
Resistant to Heat
Porcelain can take the heat because of its high-temperature fabrication process. Hot cookware shouldn’t damage or score surfaces, but with any hot pans, porcelain countertop dealers recommend the use of trivets or potholders.
Resistant to Scratches
Porcelain is just as scratch resistant as granite and quartz, making it difficult to damage, though caution is important with the use of ceramic knives
Resistant to Chemicals
Any acidic foods, drinks or chemicals found in other substances won’t discolor or bleach out porcelain countertops. In addition, porcelain is resistant to etching and dullness.
Durability and Hardness
Porcelain countertops are very hard and durable. Compared to natural stone, porcelain is right up there with resistance to daily wear and tear. Like most any other countertop material, porcelain can experience cracks or chips, but those occurrences are infrequent.
Resistance to UV or Ultraviolet Light
Sunlight won’t fade porcelain countertops, which makes porcelain a good choice for any type of outdoor kitchen countertop setting.
Many colors and patterns
Porcelain countertops are available in a myriad of colors, shades, designs and patterns. Specially designed porcelain tiles or slabs can be similar in appearance to marble, steel, concrete, metallics, wood, and natural stone choices.
Finish Choice Selections
Porcelain is offered in smooth or textured finishes which are applied during the fabrication process. Common finishes are polished high gloss and matte honed.
Usually sealing is unnecessary with porcelain because of the fire glazing the material undergoes which protects it against moisture buildup and staining, but when polished porcelain is installed, it’s usually a good idea to go ahead with sealing.
Recyclable and Eco-friendly
Since porcelain is formed from materials that are clay-based and natural, any countertops that have gone through years of use can be easily recycled.
Porcelain countertops are usually less expensive than granite as well as quartz, though their overall prices are comparable to both. It pays to research and shop around as prices can vary significantly as there are manufacturers with competitive rates. If you choose porcelain tiles over a slab, the costs will be considerably less.
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Porcelain Countertop Cons
Designs not integrated
Porcelain countertop material doesn’t contain built-in or integrated designs. Fabricators print the designs on the top of the countertop slab, which makes the pattern unseen throughout the slab. Any rounded edging would also not be visible. If any kind of chip occurs on the countertop slab, the color will be uniform throughout, but the pattern will be obscured.
Scratches and Ceramic Knives
Though porcelain countertops are resistant to scratches, ceramic knives are one kitchen utensil that may scratch a porcelain countertop. So instead of cutting directly on a porcelain surface, use a cutting board.
Chips with porcelain can occur, and when repairs are made they may be visible. Chip repair kits will help with any damage, but the areas filled may still be noticeable. Solid color porcelain will be easier to repair and fill with clean results, but patterned areas will probably show repair work.
One detrimental aspect of using porcelain countertop materials is their limited supply and availability. As porcelain is not as common as other countertop materials, there won’t be an abundance of it in the marketplace. In addition, finding a fabricator to work with the material might be difficult.
Finding an experienced porcelain fabricator could be a challenge. The size and thinness of a porcelain slab makes it unwieldy, and delicate to work on, and cut properly. Cracks can occur as well. Searching for a fabricator that will do the work could take some time.
Installation can be tricky because of the thin nature of porcelain, but porcelain countertop material can be installed directly over old countertops. So, the ripping out of old material is unnecessary. Being able to install in this manner, eliminates the expense and labor involved in removing old materials.
In looking at the pros and cons of porcelain countertops, the advantages appear to outweigh the disadvantages. Porcelain is a quality material that’s not only strong and easy to maintain but is also durable, stylish, and sleek with selections in a number of colors and patterns. If the idea of having porcelain kitchen countertops in your home has piqued your interest, or you simply have general questions about porcelain countertops, complete the online contact form and a representative will get back to you with the answers you need to know more about porcelain and how it can change your life in the kitchen.