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What Is The Best Material Choice For Counter Tops?

What Is The Best Material Choice For Counter Tops?

This is a question I hear from our clients frequently. Since Rittenhouse Builder’s focuses on whole house renovations and additions many of our clients may not even ask this important question until late in the contract signing phase or even after construction begins. I usually answer this question by stating that at the upper end of the selection categories all the countertop choices can be good. I also usually add in that after exploring all the options our customers in Southeastern Pennsylvania usually end up selecting granite.

As this year winds down I thought it would be fun to actually tabulate what our clients selected and then offer our observations as to why natural stone comes out a winner.

In the past 12 months Rittenhouse Builders renovated 10 kitchens as part of major renovation projects. Our residential clients made the following selections.

Nine granite countertops
One solid surface countertop

We also renovated or created 23 new bathrooms as part of major renovation projects. Our residential clients made the following selections.

Twelve granite or marble counter tops
Seven cultured marble tops
Four solid surface tops

I find it interesting that even with all the marketing that has been invested in growing the cutting edge solid surface categories (think Corian or Zodiaq) our clients still prefer to put slabs of old stone on their beautiful new cabinetry. I found that this article explains our client’s choices very well.

You may be wondering why granite is such a popular material for countertops. First and foremost, looks! With its rich polished surface, granite appeals to every décor style from elegant or modern to traditional or country. Granite comes in some amazing colors, and is considered to be one of the most beautiful stones in the world. Installing granite countertops is not only timeless, its durable and virtually maintenance free, economical, and eco-friendly.

The best place to begin in understanding why people choose granite countertops in their home is to understand what granite is. Granite is a natural stone and comes from the Italian word “granito”, meaning grained. It is an igneous rock, essentially molten magma, which is cooled and then hardened below the earth’s surface. Granite contains crystallized minerals such as feldspar, quartz and mica. The colors and patterns of granite are determined by these minerals, their varying concentrations, temperature, pressure and the rate at which the rocks cool down on their ascent to the earth’s surface. It is this range of colors and patterns that make granite such an appealing and unique material to use for countertops.

Let’s move on to durability. As you are probably aware, diamonds are the hardest material. Granite is the second. Ask any stone fabricator what they use to fabricate granite in their shops and their answer will be consistent-diamond blades! It is for this reason that granite is a highly durable material. It is recommended that you do not use knives on granite, not out of concern for scratching the granite, but because the hardness of the granite will dull the blades. In addition, you can set hot pots on your granite tops without any concern. Anything short of a blowtorch will not affect your countertop.

Granite is one of the most heat resistant materials you can use. It is commonly used as building material for high-rises due to its ability to withstand gale force winds and rain. Needless to say, it’s durable. Granite is a fairly maintenance free material, as well. Routine cleaning with mild soap and water is all that is generally required. Unlike marble, which is generally a callous stone formed from oceanic deposits and then compressed under pressure (metamorphosed), granite, an igneous rock, is less porous. An occasional re-application of a penetrating sealer should be performed, which only takes about 15 minutes-less time than scouring a solid surface countertop with a cleanser to remove scratches. Unlike marble, which will lose its polish with time, granite will shine years from now just as if it was brand new.

Many so-called “experts” advise re-applying stone sealers on an annual (or more frequent) basis – this is just not true. In actuality, there is no “calendar” for re-sealing, and over-application of sealer can build up over time and cause a haze on the surface of your countertops. The frequency for re-sealing depends on the type of stone installed and the amount of use that the countertops see. An easy “rule of thumb” is to closely monitor the area around the sink. If you begin to notice water that does not bead up or soaks into the stone within 10-15 minutes, then it’s probably time to re-seal. Applying a sealer is easy, you can apply a liberal amount of sealer in the evening before going to bed and just let it penetrate and cure overnight. Sealers can be picked up at any “big box” hardware store.

Contrary to popular belief granite is not very expensive. With the new technology available to the miners and fabricators of granite, the cost of granite has dropped dramatically in the last few decades. Stone prices are now competitive and even lower than man-made options. Granite lasts longer than any other surface, not only for its durability but because it is not just the latest trend. Keep in mind, it has been around and has been in use since, well, the Stone Age.

Although it is true that mining is rough on the environment, other products are far worse in several ways. Man-made products create potentially deadly by-products which end up straight in our already crowded landfills. Due to granite’s durability and timeless beauty it does not need to be replaced or upgraded. Man-made counters are replaced several times over the life of a building, further adding waste (both environmentally and financially). More importantly, to your own family’s health, granite does not harbor bacteria. In fact, in one study comparing granite with other countertop choices such as laminate, wood, tile, concrete, and stainless steel, sealed granite was shown to be second only to the stainless steel for resistance to bacteria.

It is for these reasons that granite has recently become the material of choice for homeowners remodeling their kitchens. With its durability and timeless beauty, granite is here to stay.

For more information on the benefits of granite countertops in your home, please contact Rittenhouse Builders.

Article by: Kathy McGourley.Kathy specializes in granite and marble fabrication and installation and services residents and businesses in the Tampa Bay area.

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