Today, there are a lot of choices when it comes to selecting the best stone material for your kitchen or bathroom countertops. The best choice ultimately comes down to the expectations and preferences of those using the surface. Engineered and natural stone are both excellent choices, but it’s essential to understand the difference between the two.
Choosing the one that’s right for your kitchen or bathroom will be a lot easier after you finish reading this guide. Some things to keep in your mind as you’re reading this include how you will use your countertop, the ease of maintenance you prefer, and how you may feel about your choice in the future? Although installing stone countertops can be expensive, there’s a good chance, if properly maintained, that it will be the last countertop you’ll ever need to buy, so getting it right the first time is paramount.
Some homeowners prefer a stone surface that doesn’t change in appearance over time, while others like the inherent imperfections they get with a variety of natural materials. This guide will explain the difference between engineered and natural stone and help you make an informed decision about which one is right for your project.
What is Engineered Stone?
Engineered stone is known as quartz, and it’s a manufactured product, as its name implies. Unlike natural stone slabs cut from solid marble, granite, sandstone, and other natural elements, engineered stone slabs are manufactured from quartz crystals with a resin binder that holds it together.
Engineered stone countertops look very similar to natural stone, and to the untrained eye, it can be tough to tell them apart. Engineered stone has a more uniform color than some of the variations in hues typically found in slabs of natural stone.
The colors available in today’s marketplace for the engineered stone include a wide range of earth tones, grays, rose, and more. The colors in each slab are from the natural color in quartz; however, pigments can also be added to suit your desired taste and tone.
Advantages of Engineered Stone Countertops
- Stain Resistant Surface: Natural stone can easily stain from wine, juice, oil, and other substances if the sealant wears off. Engineered stone can withstand stains better if the sealant happens to wear off, and they retain their appearance longer than their marble, sandstone, or granite counterparts.
- Easy Cleaning: One disadvantage of natural stone is the porous surface material. You must routinely seal it to prevent bacteria from entering pores and fissures where it can be hard to eradicate. Engineered stone’s surface doesn’t absorb liquids, making clean up more effective and more manageable. If you like to prep raw vegetables, meat, or fish in your kitchen, a quartz countertop has an advantage for food safety.
- Durable Surface: The finish material of engineered stone is almost as hard as granite. The advantage is that it doesn’t crack as easily as slate or granite does. It’s also heat-resistant and harder to scratch; however, cutting boards are still recommended when using knives or sharp objects.
What is Natural Stone?
Natural stone materials and products are quarried from natural elements of the earth. Natural stone has been used for centuries as decorative enhancements and building materials. Popular materials include marble, granite, slate, travertine, sandstone, quartzite, onyx, and others. These slabs are more than just rocks; they’re hand-selected from the most consistent and best sources for beauty and durability.
Natural stone countertops differ in composition, texture, and color even among slabs from the same source. Most homeowners consider this an advantage over engineered-stone because it provides distinctive designs and dramatic applications.
Granite countertops are quarried from pure stone, which is cut into slabs and polished for countertops and other products such as tiles. Engineered stone contains between 92 percent and 94 percent quartz; therefore, if you want an authentic stone countertop for your kitchen, granite or other natural stones are your only choice.
One of the most popular types of natural stone for kitchen countertops is granite. Granite remains in high demand due to its pleasing aesthetics and unrivaled durability. Quartz countertops are similar in performance and appearance to granite, but they’re quite different in their material compositions.
Advantages of Natural Stone
- Wide Range of Textures: Natural stone offers a wide range in textures than engineered stone does. It can be honed to produce a smooth, low-luster finish, which provides low-maintenance for high traffic applications. The surface can also be flamed with a torch, which creates a gentle coloration and texture of the quartzites. Other applications include sandblasting, natural cleft, river wash, tumbled, split-face, and more.
- Natural Colors: Since natural stone is mined from the earth, it shows more natural variations in hues than engineered stone does because the coloration in quartz is more uniform, and pigments are added to produce the desired color. Natural stone is available in natural earth tones to greens, blues, roses, whites, grays, browns, and even black colors such as onyx.
- Durability: Although natural stone countertops are strikingly beautiful, they do require regular sealing on a routine basis; however, when it comes to durability, natural stone products are more durable than engineered stone. If properly maintained, a natural stone countertop can have a service life of 50 years or more.
What’s the Cost Difference?
Both engineered and natural stone countertops are relatively close in price. Engineered stone is about $80 to $140 per square foot installed while natural stone starts around $80 per square foot installed and can go up to $175 or more for high-end material.
As mentioned above, the choice comes down to personal preferences and expectations for use. If you’re ready to install either engineered or natural stone countertops in your kitchen or bathroom, fill out the provided contact form below and make it happen today!