The term “granite countertops” or “stone countertops” can refer to a number of different materials, each with different characteristics and applications. Generally speaking, stone countertops fall into two categories – natural materials, and synthetic materials.

Natural stone is anything that has been mined out of the ground, sliced into slabs and polished for use as a finished countertop in the home. A tremendous variety of aesthetic designs can be achieved with stone, from the timeless elegance of marble to the bold and artistic intensity of quartzite. All have in common the warmth and unique character that stems from using rock mined from the earth itself; no two slabs are the same, and natural stone can lend a sense of individuality to your home.

GRANITE

The most common and broadest category of natural stone, granite is an igneous rock formed by slowly-cooling magma deep beneath the earth’s surface. Composed mostly of quartz- and feldspar-based minerals, granitic stones are relatively hard and abrasion-resistant, ranging from 6-7 on the Mohs hardness scale. Granite as a general rule is heat-resistant as well, though some varieties can be porous and the compounds used to fill those pores may not stand up to heat or weathering as well as the stone itself. Of all the countertop materials we work with, granite is usually the easiest to repair - any scratches or scuffs can be ground and polished away, most stains can be removed with a chemical poultice, and any chips or dings can be filled and disguised with relative ease. If durability is the primary concern, look for a granite with a fine, consistent grain. These will usually be dense with minimal porosity and are the best choice for heavy-duty applications such as outdoor kitchens or fireplaces where they will stand up to the elements better than almost anything else.

QUARTZITE

Intense patterns. Striking colors. Bold designs. Quartzites are exotic metamorphic stones mined and imported from all over the world, composed primarily of sandstone that’s been geologically crushed and fused into an extremely hard and durable, almost-glassy material. There is a vast array of different colors and patterns, but they all have one thing in common: they are never boring. With a few notable exceptions, quartzites are the hardest and most stain- and scratch-resistant of the natural stones. They are equally attractive indoors or outside, and can withstand decades of use and love with a bit of care. Certain light-colored or white quartzites do have a tendency to absorb oils and food stains if left alone, so we recommend using a premium stone sealer on these colors. Like granite, quartzite can be repaired and re-polished to eliminate any errant scratches or chips, and some varieties display a vibrant luster when polished that is difficult to find in any other material.

SEDIMENTARY STONES

Another broad category of natural stones, sedimentary rock is that which has been laid down in layers by flowing water or moving wind, and compacted over time into a more solid form. This includes such materials as limestone, sandstone, travertine, soapstone and slate. These materials tend to be softer, more porous and more prone to wear than granite or quartz, but offer unique aesthetic possibilities with bold stripes, intricate swirls, unique textures and (rarely) even prehistoric fossils. It can be sealed simply by repeated application of a food-safe mineral oil, and is so heat-resistant and nonporous that it is the stone of choice for building fireplaces and masonry heaters. Sandstone, due to its physical makeup, can be difficult to fully polish and sometimes retains a matte “sandblasted” look when made into countertops, but its woodgrain-like patterning and warm color tones lend a rugged charm to architectural accents or cabin retreats. These are just a few of the many possible applications for these beautiful slices of earth’s history.

MARBLE

A timeless classic that has been used since antiquity for the world’s most historic constructions, natural marble countertops are a surefire way to evoke a stately and sophisticated elegance in your home or business. Marble is a metamorphic stone, formed from carbonate-based minerals such as limestone or dolomite that have been subjected to immense heat and pressure inside the earth’s crust. Though white marble is the most well-known, used for such landmarks as the Taj Mahal, the Parthenon and Michelangelo’s “David”, it comes in a variety of patterns and shades from light grey through to jet-black, and even colors like brown, green, yellow and mahogany-red. Marbles in general tend to be softer and more fragile than granite or quartz, and may be prone to scratches and chemical etching from acids such as vinegar, lemon juice and wine. These can be left to develop into an antiqued patina over time, or the stone can be periodically refinished to maintain a glossy or satin surface (often involving a sealant to impart better chemical resistance). See The Stone Medic page for more info.

The Stone Medics

NATURAL STONE SUPPLIERS