Since time immemorial natural stone has adorned kitchen tops, bathrooms, libraries, workrooms, forums and practically every other living space imaginable. It’s not hard to understand this overwhelming popularity – the mineral formations that make up natural stone are extremely diverse.
Feldspar, quartz, mica and amphibole minerals form igneous formations (through the cooling and solidification of magma or lava) that make up granite. Limestone is a sedimentary (deposition and cementation of minerals) rock comprising calcium carbonate and aragonite. Marble is a metamorphic rock (where the physical properties of another rock is transformed through high heat and pressure).
The mineral content and its physical properties is what gives natural stone their vastly differing characteristics which give natural stone countertops their versatility. This makes them suitable for different uses depending on circumstances.
Durable hard stones are usually used to make countertops because of its ability to withstand a substantial amount of environmental abuse, including scratching, cracking and heat. While marginally more expensive than solid surface countertops (like such as acrylic solid surface and polyester solid surface), they are cheaper than engineered quartz countertops.
Ideal for indoors or outdoors, granite is beautiful and come in a wide variety of colours (although other natural stones have an even wider variety) and patterns. When properly sealed to cover up pores, granite kitchen tops are highly stain resistant and are unconducive to bacterial growth. The corners of granite kitchen tops are susceptible to chipping and cracking, though, if heavy objects fall on them.
See here for more info on the physical characteristics of solid surface, natural stone and quartz countertops.
Immortalized by its copious use in building the ancient Parthenon and Acropolis of Greece, the forums of Rome where Julius Caesar likely came to debate issues concerning his empire, to the Taj Mahal in India – all UNESCO world heritage landmarks – the classical, bright white marble is a natural stone long valued as a building material for prestigious works.
Italy is the leader in marble production globally, followed by China, India and Spain.
Marble countertops, however, are softer and less durable than granite. Its large calcium carbonate composition is also highly susceptible to etching by acids so it is necessarily to be careful what it comes into contact with, including choose of cleaner (leaving marble unpolished can make etch marks less visible). Marble is also porous and if not sealed properly soaks up stains and spills like a sponge.
Softer isn’t always a disadvantage, though, as the material is easier to work with. Light damage like chipping and cracking can be polished away with less effort, or cut away and replaced with a new piece.
Nevertheless, with a little care and discipline, the aesthetics of marble is without comparison. This is a natural stone option that can easily find itself the centre piece of any living space. Et tu, Brute!
While natural stone generally costs more than laminates and solid surfaces (but less than quartz), the actual price can vary quite substantially depending on several factors:
1. Material Grade – Harder materials are more difficult to cut, and that time spent working the material gets factored into the cost.
2. Availability – Prices are subject to availability.
3. Source – Natural stone is heavy, and prices can vary significantly depending on where the quarry is located and the distance the price of slab stone has to be transported.
4. Experience level of the installer – Installation of countertop stone is a labour-intensive, delicate task.
5. Level of difficulty of installation – The heavier and harder the material, the more difficult it is to install.