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What’s new in countertops?

September 30 2009

With 80 percent of homes in the U.S. built before 1980, chances are you are either buying or selling a home that needs a kitchen update.

Your real estate professional has likely told you that countertops are among the most important surfaces in the home. What’s the latest in countertops?

Granite

Granite conveys quality, durability, and elegance. “It’s got granite” has become shorthand for luxury.

Consumers love granite because it’s easy to maintain and can withstand hot pans up to 900 degrees Fahrenheit.  And, it’s beautiful.

To meet demand, many builders use “commodity” granite with familiar names like Uba Tuba, Baltic Brown and Black Galaxy. These granite patterns feature small patterns that are easy to fabricate into small tiles or slabs. You can find commodity granite at home improvement stores. 

But if you want the latest look, it’s all about “slab” granite. Like a piece of modern art, slab granite is chosen for the beauty of a contiguous swirl or lighting-like pattern that is one of a kind and can be fabricated without a seam across a large countertop space.

It’s an expensive way to go, but the effect can be dazzling, like capturing a fine painting in the framework of your counter space.  

Quartz

Unlike granite that has to be measured and cut to specifications, engineered stone is poured into a mold to fit the measurement.

Engineered stone is about 93 percent quartz, which is then rounded out with epoxy, polymers, pebbles, semi-precious stones and other materials.  Unlike granite, which can stain if it’s not sealed and resealed periodically, engineered stone is non-porous.

Since it’s man-made, it’s easy to match and arrives looking just like the sample in your hand. You’ve heard the brand names – Silestone from Italy, Hanstone from Korea, CaesarStone from Israel, among others. Each of these brands have stunning palettes to choose from, from granite-like patterns to solid colors of all hues. 

Another advantage to quartz engineering is cost. When it was first introduced, it was more expensive than granite, but that’s no longer the case.

Composites

Building on resin-based technologies, new companies are creating innovative eco-friendly custom countertops. Made with recycled paper, concrete, glass and other products, these countertops can look as warm and as smooth as burnished wood, or as vivid and colorful as a kaleidoscope. Example composites can be seen at vetrazzo.com. 

The unpredictable availability of certain glass means that each countertop is a work of art, and that some patterns are only available in a limited edition. 

If you like the look and features of granite, quartz and the new composites, use all three! Try quartz for your cooking area, a complementary granite for your island, and a jazzy composite for the wet bar.

The good news is you don’t have to limit yourself to one selection.