What’s the difference?

Newest Trends in Counter Tops!
September 28, 2011

What’s the difference?

For many years customers come in to our showroom confused, puzzled, or frazzeled looking for answers regarding the surface they want, need or can afford.   We try hard to help our clients figure out what will work best for them by giving them all the information they need to make their decision.  One thing we do is to clarify the differences available to them.

When it comes to the natural stone industry, there are typically two common terms used to describe countertop material type, Granite and Marble. Although these common terms are used, there are actually many varieties of stone that are geologically different.   This article will give some insight to the differences of natural stone counter tops.

Natural Marble is a timeless and classic stone that has been used as countertops for many years. The flowing veins, earth tone colors and natural beauty fit into just about any style or decor. Although marble makes a beautiful countertop, there are some drawbacks to be aware of.   Marble is porous and fairly soft, therefore can scratch and stain. Also, marble will etch when exposed to acidic products like wine, lemon, vinegar, etc.   Consider these drawbacks when using marble for your countertop material, especially in the kitchen.  There are two types of marble – Calcites and Dolomites.

Calcite slabs are not new to the stone industry, but lately have become a focus of many stone suppliers. As the demand for white colored stones has increased, the amount of calcite type stones has increased. Calcites are typically white and translucent and can have soft veins of light blue, gray, green and other light colors. Because of their grain structure and quartz like appearance, they can sometimes be mistaken as quartz. Although they look like quartz, they are very different in terms of durability. Calcite is soft and can scratch, etch and stain just like marble can. Make sure you fully understand the pros and cons of calcite before selecting one as a kitchen countertop. Calcites are better suited for a bathroom environment.

The trend for white and gray lends itself to the typical Dolomite colors. Dolomites are often oversold as a Marble that performs like Granite. Unfortunately that is not quite right. Dolomites are slightly harder than your average marble but are much softer than granite, therefore they can scratch. Also, although dolomites will hold up better than marble or calcite to acids and etching, they can still etch. Dolomites make a great looking countertop and can be used in the kitchen, bathrooms, etc., but don’t expect the same performance as a harder stone like granite or quartzite. Interns of performance, you would be better to think of Dolomite as a marble.   Dolomite, also known as dolostone and dolomite rock, is a sedimentary rock composed primarily of the mineral dolomite. Dolomite is found in sedimentary basins worldwide. It is thought to form by the post depositional alteration of lime mud and limestone by magnesium-rich groundwater.   Dolomite, like most natural stones is porous and needs to be sealed to prevent staining. Although is performs better than true marble, It can scratch and etch, so be aware of the maintenance concerns before using in a kitchen.

Granite, often a general term used to describe hard and durable stone surfaces, is actually only one of many types of stone sold for countertop applications. Granite is one of the most durable countertop surfaces you can buy. Granite is strong, heat and scratch resistant and comes in a variety of colors, patters and grain structure.  Granite is a common type of igneous rock composed mainly of quartz, different types of feldspars, micas, and hornblende, along with varying amounts of the elements aluminum, calcium, iron, and magnesium.  Although granite is very strong and durable, it is porous. Sealing the stone is recommended to prevent staining. Granite is typically one of the most affordable stone countertop options and is readily available.

Natural Quartzite, not to be confused with Engineered Quartz, has become very popular over the years. Quartzite offers more of a “marble” look, while providing a very hard and durable surface suitable for kitchen countertops and other countertop applications. Quartzite is generally heat and scratch resistant but other impurities found in many Quartzites, can sometimes make them less durable than natural granite.  Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that has been formed from sandstone and has been altered by heat and pressure over time.  Like most natural stones, Quartzite should be sealed to protect from staining and are typically more expensive than traditional granite materials.

Soapstone, known as “original stone countertop,” is a very popular alternative to granite or marble. Many people are attracted to having soapstone as a countertop because of its soft feel. Soapstone comes in colors of blue, green and gray, and if mineral oil is applied consistently, it will bring out the color making it look older and much more elegant. Soapstone won’t etch from acids, and stains can be rubbed out easily. One of the drawbacks to soapstone is that it can easily scratch. Fortunately, because it is so soft, scratches can be sanded out fairly easily.   Soapstone (steatite) is a naturally occurring metamorphic rock made up of mineral deposits created by nature and quarried from the earth. The main mineral components in soapstone include talc, chlorite, dolomite and magnetite, giving a warm, soft feeling to the touch.  Soapstone is stain resistant because it does not absorb food or liquid. Any residue sits on top of the stone and is cleaned away with simple soap and water. Also, unlike granite and marble, soapstone typically does not need to be sealed.


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