Countertops: The Granite Alternatives

With its bold veining, endless colors and durability, granite has been the star of kitchens for the past 10- 15 years. Though it does its job well and continues to look great for years to come, granite countertops have decreased in popularity with the rise of alternative options. From natural soapstone to high-tech laminate countertops, there are new materials available for every kitchen that strays away from the been-there-done-that granite option. Let’s take a peek at a few alternatives that still provide the durability, function and beauty we all love to see in a kitchen countertop.

image-1

Quartzite

Quartzite is a natural stone produced when sandstone is pressure-cooked in the earth’s crust. The end result is a beautiful stone with a wide variety of streaks, patterns and rich colors. Some varieties, like Taj Mahal and Mother of Pearl, offer a similar look to traditional marble without as much maintenance and upkeep.

Quartzite can withstand heat, but not for an extended time, so make sure to use trivets for prolonged exposure. Though slightly more durable than granite, some quartzite does still require sealing once or twice a year for stain resistance so make sure to check with your stone fabricator on the details, as it varies by type. The beauty of quartzite is all its variations: vein-cut styles look more contemporary and sleek, while cross-cut styles have a more organic feel. Depending on the fabrication, expect your quartzite countertops to start from $80 per square foot and up.

Soapstone

image-2

Used in laboratories due to its resistance to stains, bacteria and chemicals, there’s no wonder soapstone is becoming an increasingly popular choice for homeowners looking for a durable, natural countertop. Always a dark charcoal or almost black color, its non-porous, honed surface can both hide and repel dark stains while still remaining slightly soft to the touch. Soapstone is a great choice for those who love to cook and households with little sticky fingers, as it’s unaffected by heat and easy to wipe clean. Keep in mind that like any natural stone, soapstone can chip and scratch. It also darkens over time, but sanding can easily return it to a lighter shade. Starting at $80-100 per square foot, soapstone is a slightly more expensive choice over granite, but it comes with a lifetime of durability.

Quartz Composite

Also known as “engineered quartz,” quartz composite is a material comprised of crushed quartz and polymer binders that are tinted and compressed under high pressure. The end result is a surface that is non-porous and resistant to stains, scratches and heat. Even better, a simple wipe with warm water and soap is all you’ll need to worry about in regards to maintenance. Because it is a manufactured material, quartz composite is consistent with color and patterns. This durable countertop material does come at a price—around $90-110 per square foot installed.

Laminate

image-3

High-pressure molded plastic countertops—who would have thought that these would be a durable and long-lasting alternative to granite? Laminate countertops are a blend of acrylic or polyester resins, powdered fillers and pigments. This unique mix allows for easy buffing of scratches and marks and its surface keeps stains away. The beauty of laminate countertops is their unique ability to be molded into unusual shapes and sizes, which works especially well in sleek, state-of-the-art contemporary kitchens. Because this material is plastic, it is sensitive to prolonged heat exposure, so make sure to use trivets and cutting boards to extend the longevity of the countertop. These high-tech countertops start at around $50 per square foot installed.

What granite alternatives have you used in your kitchen?

 

***Guest Blog by Kerrie Kelly. Interior designer Kerrie Kelly is an expert on countertop materials in the kitchen and writes about her knowledge for The Home Depot. If you are interested in researching many of the materials Kerrie discusses in her article, you can visit Home Depot’s countertops page online.

 

Guest Blogger: How to Maintain Natural Stone Features at Home

Each type of natural stone is unique, varying in texture, colour and marking, so the possibilities of creating stunning designs with it are practically endless. Provided that you follow some simple care and maintenance rules, this natural product will keep on looking gorgeous for years to come. Here’s what you should know.

M/I Homes of Houston

Cleaning

You should clean your stone surfaces with a stone soap, neutral cleaner, or a mild liquid detergent and warm water. As with cleaning most of other items in your house, an excessive concentration of soap or cleaners can easily cause streaks or leave a film, so you don’t want to go overboard with it. After washing with a soap solution, thoroughly rinse the surface, changing the rinse water frequently, and then dry with a soft, clean cloth.

In the bath and other wet areas, you can minimize soap scum by using a squeegee after each use. Using a solution of ammonia and water (around 1/2 cup ammonia to 5 litres of water) can help you get rid of soap scum, but bear in mind that overuse of ammonia-based solutions may dull or etch the surface of certain stone types in the long run. Whatever you do, never mix ammonia and bleach because this combination produces a toxic and lethal gas.

There are many commercial solutions for stone cleaning but you have to be careful with most of them. For instance, products containing vinegar, lemon or other acids can dull calcareous stones, whereas scouring creams or powders containing abrasives can scratch different types of stones. Hydrofluoric acid (HF) can be found in some rust removers and literally all natural stones will be attacked if exposed to it.

M/I Homes Natural Stone

 Sealing

Sealing is a step commonly taken on different types of natural stones as a precaution against staining. In reality, the sealing products used for this purpose actually impregnate the stone, rather than sealing it, i.e. sealing doesn’t make natural stones stain-proof, but is does make them more stain-resistant.

Even though your supplier may tell you that natural stone for kitchen doesn’t require sealing, you should know that is a common practice to apply an impregnating sealer on it. In any case, if a sealer is applied on a surface where food is prepared (a countertop, for instance), make sure that it is safe for use and non-toxic.

M/I Homes Natural Stone Kitchen

 Preventive Measures

Following several simple tips will allow you to preserve the beauty and get the longest possible life of your natural stone. For example, area rugs or mats on both sides of the entrance door can help minimize the dirt, sand and grit, which are all quite abrasive and can easily damage your natural stone floor. You should also frequently dust mop the floor with a clean, non-treated dry dust mop. If you use a vacuum cleaner, ensure that the wheels or the plastic and metal attachments are not worn because they are likely to scratch the surface of most natural stones.

Using coasters under all glasses and bottles, especially those containing citrus juices or alcohol, is always a good idea. In case there’s a spill, you should immediately blot it with a paper towel, but don’t wipe this area, as it will only spread the spill on the stone. Instead, flush the area with mild soap and water, then rinse it several times and dry it thoroughly with a soft, clean cloth.

***Lillian Connors is a blogger and home improvement enthusiast ever so keen on doing various DIY projects around her house and passionately writing about them. She is also an online marketing consultant, closely collaborating with a number of companies from all over the globe. You can check her out on G+, Facebook and Twitter.

Homeowner Cleaning & Care Tips

We believe in aging gracefully, but when it comes to your home, we want you to keep it looking new.

Here’s a quick reference guide to cleaning your home’s surfaces.

Homeowner Cleaning & Care Tips :: M/I Homes - Care for your hardwood flooring, granite countertops, stainless steel, vinyl flooring, carpeting & laminate countertops

Categories

@mihomes via twitter

© Copyright 2012, M/I Homes, Inc. All rights reserved. Terms and Conditions