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As summer begins to fade and homeowners start looking indoors for renovation and remodeling projects, their gaze is most likely to fall on kitchens and bathrooms. And it’s a rare kitchen or bath reno that doesn’t include new countertops. As a concrete and masonry contractor, it’s important for you to understand the differences among the many choices available so you can guide your customer to the solution that’s best for them.

Natural Stone Countertops

Natural stone comes in a variety of looks, strength and durability. Each type tends to have its own distinctive look and characteristics. Here are the most common.

Granite – the most popular countertop stone, granite is a hard, dense igneous stone containing quartz, mica, and feldspar. It rates a 7 on the Mohs hardness scale, making it the hardest of natural counter stones. Granite comes in a variety of colors and patterns, from light to dark and with a range of veining patterns. While it is stain and heat resistant, it is slightly porous, so sealing once a year is recommended to avoid bacteria buildup and staining.

Marble – a soft metamorphic stone (3-5 on the Mohs scale) composed mainly of calcite, marble remains a favorite with many due to its association with luxury. Marble requires much more care and maintenance than granite. It’s vulnerable to chips and scratches and is prone to staining, so regular sealing is a must. Marble is also vulnerable to scorching, so trivets are essential for hot implements and appliances.

Soapstone – another metamorphic rock containing about 30% mineral talc, soapstone is chemically inert, so it won’t react with strong acid or alkaline substances and is nearly impervious to heat. That’s why soapstone is often used in chemical labs and around stoves. It’s also extremely dense and non-porous, making it almost maintenance-free. It’s a soft stone, though, so scratches and chips can be an issue. Dark and uniform in texture, soapstone has gained popularity in a variety of décor schemes.

Travertine – a sedimentary rock with veining similar to marble, travertine has a rough, porous surface that must be filled and sealed to prevent staining and bacteria buildup. A soft stone (4-5 on the Mohs scale), travertine lends itself to a honed or matte finish, but doesn’t polish well.

Engineered Stone Countertops

Quartz -  engineered quartz countertops are made of ground quartz bound with a resin. They are very hard, dense, and non-porous, making them highly scratch and stain resistant. Quartz countertops don’t need sealing and are environmentally friendly. As a man-made product, quartz countertops are available in a full range of colors and patterns and can mimic natural stone, generally at a slightly lower cost.

Other Engineered Stone – a variety of other materials including glass and other stones are ground and bound together to form stone-like countertops. They’re non-porous and generally maintenance-free, and come in the same wide variety of colors and patterns as quartz. But binders can range from high-quality resins to acrylics and polyesters that scratch and burn easier than true quartz countertops. Higher concentrations of binders can also make these surfaces softer and difficult to polish. Check manufacturers’ specs and peer reviews to be sure you understand the right way to work with different manufactured stones.

Each of these products have their pros and cons, and chances are you didn’t have a lot to say about their choice. But understanding the characteristics of the various stones and how to work with them will add confidence when you’re called on and give optimal results.

The pros at Ace Cutting Equipment can help with any questions you may have, and they’re just a phone call or email away. Whatever your concrete cutting, coring, and finishing requirements may be, always remember that equipment and tools from Ace Cutting Equipment are your choice for a professional job with results you’ll be proud to show off.