Five Questions to Ask When Choosing Natural Stone Kitchen Countertops
The kitchen is the hub of the home, and natural stone countertops transform it into a beautiful gathering spot. Once just a luxurious upgrade, the popularity of natural stone has made it a more affordable option, and the benefits are many. Natural stone lasts a lifetime, its durability stands up to busy households, and a wide variety of colors and styles make it perfect for any décor.
When you head to the showroom, it’s important that you find the stone that will work best for you. Here are five questions that will help you choose your best option.
1. How does my lifestyle impact my choice of stone?
Understanding the dynamics of a customer’s household is the most important consideration when choosing stone, says Caela Manninen, showroom representative for Welch Tile & Marble in Kent City, Michigan. She likes to steer busy families toward granite. “It’s so durable and versatile,” she says. “It’s a good workhorse countertop. I typically like to recommend mid to darker colors to avoid staining.”
If a family has their heart set on white stone, there are options, says Tania Kalentzos, marketing director for MARVA Marble & Granite in Richmond, Virginia. “White marble is everyone’s quintessential choice, but if you have young children and entertain a lot you can achieve that look with less maintenance,” she says. “Granite is always an excellent option for countertops; it meets the needs of homeowners desiring added durability, as well as offers a variety of options in lighter designs. Another popular alternative would be a quartzite. It demonstrates excellent durability as well, but gets even closer to mimicking more marble-like color tones.”
For empty nesters or single professionals that eat out a lot, the sky’s the limit, says Kalentzos. “In this case, durability isn’t as important,” she says. “You can look for a showpiece.”
2. What is the best finish for a kitchen?
Natural stone comes in a variety of finishes, and each offers its advantages. Polished is best if you want keep it looking nice, says Manninen. “Honed and brushed can be difficult to keep up with unless you’re going to enhance them to their darkest point,” she says. “That finish shows every little thing that goes wrong.”
Or you could embrace it, suggests Dave Scott, CEO of Slabworks of Montana in Bozeman, Montana. “A lovey Italian gentleman once told me to think of honed marble as a fine leather handbag that will wear and show a patina,” he says. “Countertops that show wear are a sign of great hospitality.”
3. What kind of care does stone require?
People often think stone is indestructible, but every material requires basic care, says Scott. “It’s important to match the right stone to your comfort level so that you’ll be happy with it years later,” he says. “Do you own it, or does it own you?”
Stone surfaces can be cleaned with a soap made for natural stone or a mild liquid detergent. Some types of natural stone, such as marble, require extra attention.
“Marble is a calcite-based stone and will react with acids, such as wine, lemon juice, vinegar or even coffee and olive oil,” he says. “It will cause an irreversible chemical reaction that is etched on surface. With marble, you need to stay on top of wiping up spills.”
4. What kind of commitment will natural stone require?
In addition to regular cleaning, many experts recommend sealing natural stone. Talk to your stone provider to learn more about sealing recommendations. Manninen gives customers a simple test to know when it’s time to reseal your stone: “Find an often used area of your countertop, and place a small drop of water there,” she says. “Leave it for 15 minutes, and when you come back if it’s still there, your sealer is good. If it’s been absorbed, it’s time to reseal.”
5. Once you’ve selected a type of stone, is it important to choose a specific slab?
Yes, says Kalentzos. “Take your time and enjoy the process,” she says. “Mother Nature made this treasure and it should be enjoyed for years to come. Each piece has its own characteristics. Find one you love. It’s art for your home—the focal point of the room—and it should speak to you and reflect your personality.”