What Makes Countertop Materials Unique: Marble, Porcelain, Quartz & Sintered Stone

There are many reasons for the popularity of marble. Marble is a very attractive material, and it has been used in homes for centuries. The first thing that you’ll notice when looking at home design inspiration on Pinterest or other places is the prevalence of marble. Marble countertops are popular as well, and they can be found in kitchens, bathrooms, and even bedrooms! You’ll also see other surfaces are kind of copying, that appearance of quartz. If you’re familiar with quartz as a countertop material, you know that they have a lot of looks that are similar to marble. The difference between porcelain and sintered stone is that they actually image natural stone. At least you can consider it’s as an option, there are others but you can have what appears to be a marble of varying colors and patterns without some of the issues that are associated with marble. If you’ve done your research, you will realize that it gives you a very authentic look. When they produce this material, they’re actually taking an image of a piece of marble and they transfer that image onto this porcelain or sintered stone substrate. One of the things you need to be aware of with natural stone, there are some risks we protect against some of those risks.

The other issue with marble, in particular, is a connection, meaning that if you look at a polished marble surface and you introduce acidic products to it, it could potentially reach the surface and you could see dull spots which mean etching, it will be etched through the polish. You can protect your surface with soap and water, that’s all you need. If you want to disinfect some of the harsher chemicals, you shouldn’t apply them to a natural surface. But you could apply it to porcelain or sintered stone, and in most cases, it would not react. There are always some caveats, but the idea here is that you’re not going to have to reseal it, it really requires only soap and water, nothing more than that. 

What else makes this material unique is it’s hygienic. Most countertop materials have some degree of porosity and with that porosity, there’s still the risk that in the porosity. Also, those things could be potential germ-related materials, that could be a problem in the kitchen. The porcelain is non-porous and it won’t absorb anything. You don’t run that risk at all and it’s simple. Wipe up whatever was on that surface is all you need to do, and it is not going to be absorbed into the material. Most people will wipe up spills and not leave things for an extended time and most people are wiping their countertops down with some frequency. It’s not a huge issue, but if you think about this in the restaurant business this becomes very important and you’ll find that these surfaces they’re now becoming quite popular in those applications.

Heat-Resistance of Countertops

One of the features that material is unique is that this material can handle high heat. In fact, one of our suppliers has an induction heating element, which generates heat, even though you won’t see it. It’s generating heat on the surface that it’s directly mounted to. In this particular case, you could have an induction heating unit mounted right on the surface, right underneath the surface of this material, and it could serve as your cooktop. They showed this again in this trade show where they’re cooking on the surface, and it was looking like it’s an extension of the countertop. What they’re trying to show is that we can apply direct heat to this, and it’s not going to hurt it. For example, natural stone will hold up to heat, quartz is not heat resistant, but this is a material that you could put a hot pot on and it’s not going to harm it. All there’s no risk to damaging the material.

Various Design Options

From a design standpoint, it is also great for someone like us that it’s working with the homeowner to come up with a unique design concept for their home, the idea that we can take these surfaces in different thicknesses and applying them not only to the countertops but also to the face of the cabinetry. We can also do it on the flooring. That’s a very unique look and again, we could take that and apply some color and pattern to your countertop, to your cabinetry face that you see here to the floor or walls. Also, this could be applied to your backsplash, in your kitchen, instead of doing tile, you could do a full-height backsplash out of this material. That could be a very dramatic look. This is also something unique, is that in addition to being resistant, sustaining to chemical, harsher chemicals, to heat, it’s also UV resistant. Not all materials are UV resistant for instance, quartz, it is a very popular material for the last decade and we do a lot with it, but like every material, it does have some limitations. Until we got to these materials, these are unique materials. In this particular case with porcelain and sintered stone, there are very few limitations, which makes it an impressive material to work with.

The other aspect is that it’s environmentally friendly, it’s 100% recyclable. There’s nothing in that material that can’t be reintroduced to the environment. It’s also leed certified, which in the building industry is becoming more and more important, and that stands for leadership in energy and environmental design. Sustainable design is essentially what we’re pointing to as a company, it seems like we’re going to see more thoughts going into creating sustainable designs, whether it be in your home or a business. That’s certainly the direction that we’re all heading in, to preserve our planet. 

The durability of Countertop Materials

When starting the comparison with UV resistance, one of the most popular quartz, is not UV resistant. You would not want to have quartz in your outdoor kitchen. But natural stones are, whether it be granite or marble, okay against the sun. But quartz will not and a solid surface which you see less of today also will not be okay with the sun because it is not UV resistant either. 

  • Flexibility is another important fact to consider. What this refers to is being able to apply this in multiple applications easily. Porcelain and sintered stone are the materials that have flexibility. While working with these materials the imagination is the only thing that limits what we can do with this. In some cases granite and marble are the materials that have no flexibility, some of it has to do with the weather. It is the process of the material because we can work with thinner materials when we’re producing, when our manufacturers are producing porcelain and sintered stone, they need that flexibility and thinner materials that are much easier to handle. When we are wall cladding whether it be on an outside or inside wall or doing shower walls, it’s a lot easier material to work with.
  • Then there’s the maintenance consideration and the factories as well. Natural stone has high heat resistance, quartz a little less, in fact, they may be generous in terms of its heat resistance. Once, we have had an application where we had remodeled someone’s kitchen brand new quartz surface was put in, and they put a pancake griddle on the surface with just a very thin pad and a cracked, which was, unfortunately, not a warrantable situation, so you do have to be careful.
  • As another fact, scratch resistance; it’s very high with the porcelain and sintered stone. The reason for that is the way it’s produced. When they produce this material, depending on whether it’s porcelain or sintered stone, there are some differences, natural materials that are incorporated into the mix that ultimately becomes the surface. What they do is; they apply extremely high pressure and temperature to produce this thing, this material and as a result, it’s very hard and very dense and that has an impact on its ferocity, it’s not porous it’s also its hardness, it becomes more difficult to scratch it after that process. Can you scratch it? Can you chip it? Yes, you can. But you’re going to have to be a little more careless to accomplish that. If you exercise at least a reasonable amount of caution and care you’re going to find that this surface will not scratch and you won’t have any issues with it on the chemical resistance. 

AGS STONECredit: Showplace Cabinetry

Applications for Countertop Materials

Let’s talk about some applications. You can use these materials in a few different ways as an application. For instance, you can use the porcelain on the floor or for the island in the kitchen. Also making it a backsplash is another great idea. So there’s a fair amount of porcelain being used in a design. By using it in a few areas of your kitchen you can make a nice match. Also, bathrooms are a great area to consider applying. You can use it as a bathroom vanity and shower wall. What’s nice is that we can use that same material potentially in a different thickness on the shower walls, but the same basic material. So it’s the same pattern, same color, and so you can get a look like you see here, which is it’s just beautiful and also we use it in showers, it’s largely maintenance-free. You’re going to wipe it down but unlike tile where you’re going at some point, especially in Florida, have an issue with mold and mildew. If you have grout, you’re going to be cleaning the grout occasionally. In this particular case you just wipe the surface down, and there’s none of that maintenance to contend with. If the maintenance is an issue for you, if you’re for instance again in Florida and you’re tired of having to clean the grout and maintain the shower, this is a great option, and it provides a unique look.

Porcelain and sintered stone are just a great choice and provide you with looks that you’re not going to see in most outdoor kitchens. Outdoor kitchens are what you’re seeing as ledge stone facades on the bar or the fronts of the cabinets or the structure that’s been built. You’ll see a lot of ledge stones used, and then you’ll see a limited number of natural stone countertop materials that are typically used. Natural stone holds up well with UV resistance. But in terms of giving you the look of marble for instance, or some of these unique looks at porcelain sintered stone offer, you’re not going to easily achieve that with natural stones. This is going to ramp up the wild factor. We also can produce furniture from this and that’s where the imagination can take you. For example, we can use it on a tabletop and then we use it on a feature wall with that material and so again we could take and apply this to a tabletop. We could then apply that same material to a cloud wall of the feature wall behind it and you can have a pretty unique look in your spaces. Future walls, furniture, fireplace surrounds are all great uses for this material.

How Much Does Kitchen Countertops Cost?

Let’s talk a little bit about pricing. We can’t give you any detailed pricing analysis here because there are so many variables. But, what we’ve tried to do is give you a range. For instance, if you look at a natural stone, a natural stone could be all over the map. We have a natural stone that could be very budget-friendly, and we have natural stone selections that would be a luxury plus. The range in prices low to high when we’re looking at quartz. It’s more of a mid to higher range product and it depends on the manufacturer and the unique designs that they offer. We have some manufacturers that have more of a mid-range offering with maybe some higher level color options and we have some manufacturers, they’re focused more on the luxury market, you can find the pricing ranging anywhere from mid range on up. Then the sintered stone is going to be similar. We’re going to be in the mid-range, we’re not going to be able to meet the lowest prices that a natural stone selection could offer you and natural stone, they usually wholesalers and fabricators will have pricing levels, and you’ll hear terms like level one, level two and so forth. Level one stone pricing is going to be lower than any of these other options by a considerable amount. But what we’re also seeing is the level one choices in natural materials. The attractive pricing is going to be on materials that were starting to look dated when we were replacing laminate tops on solid surface tops with granite. In Italy, level one colors were very popular. After 15 -20 years, they’re starting to look a little tired in design and people have moved on to more of the flowing patterns and lighter colors are popular at the moment, obviously a lot of white and gray. If you look at anything, that’s probably transitioning now to some warmer colors, but the level one color choices in a natural stone are fairly tight patterns and fairly busy. People are looking for these more broad flowing patterns and later, more marble-like appearances so that’s kind of where it’s at. The only way to evaluate this from a budget standpoint is to make some selections here. When you visit us, we’d ask for some pictures of your current space, maybe just with your phone, and then just a very simple drawing with some dimensions. We get a rough idea of what we’re dealing with and before you leave here, we’ll give you some rough ideas about pricing and where some of the selections that attract you may fall in on a range of pricing that would be associated with the design.

How can we select the countertop material?

When it comes to countertops, the best way to find your perfect choice is by stopping by our showroom. We offer a large selection of different countertop slabs on display in our 18,000-square foot showroom. We also have an engineered stone and natural stone gallery, where we display quartz, granite, and marble, quartz, and porcelain products. We have plenty of slabs on-site, as well as additional slabs that we can’t keep in our stock. You can visit the sites of our many wholesalers as our guests, to view additional selections. We’d love to help you hand-pick your new countertops, and happy to spend time discussing the pros and cons of each surface in great detail.

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