Whether you’re a contractor or homeowner, selecting the perfect countertop material can be a tough decision. Natural stone and engineered stone are both great choices, but how do you know which is right for you? At Milwaukee Marble and Granite, we’re here to break it down for you. From composition to durability, maintenance to aesthetic appeal, we’ll explore all the factors you need to know. Check out our comprehensive guide on the pros and cons of natural stone and engineered stone countertops below, and don’t hesitate to reach out to one of our helpful customer service representatives with any questions about your specific project:
Engineered Stone Countertops
Engineered stone, also known as engineered quartz, engineered marble, and others, is a composite material made by binding crushed stone with adhesive. This versatile material is commonly used for countertops and offers several advantages.
With its consistent color and pattern, an engineered surface provides a uniform appearance that natural stone may lack. The manufacturing process ensures minimal variation, resulting in a perfect match for your kitchen color scheme. Additionally, using pigmentation during manufacturing allows for a broader range of color options.
Another significant benefit of engineered stone is its minimal maintenance requirements. Unlike natural stone, engineered quartz, granite, or marble countertops do not have pores or small holes that can absorb liquids and leave stains. As a result, they are highly resistant to staining and do not require regular sealing. This low-maintenance feature makes them ideal for busy homeowners. Furthermore, the nonporous surface also makes engineered stone countertops antifungal and antibacterial, making them a suitable choice for commercial settings.
Of course, engineered stone has some drawbacks. Unlike natural stone, it is not as heat resistant. Exposure to high temperatures can potentially damage the surface or weaken the material, making it more susceptible to cracks. To prevent heat damage, it is advisable to use hot pads or trivets instead of placing hot cookware directly on the countertops. Additionally, you’ll need to use caution with heat-generating appliances such as toasters, microwave ovens, and pressure cookers.
It is worth noting that for most engineered stone manufacturers, using their engineered stone products outdoors voids the warranty. The pigmentation used to create colors may fade under sunlight, and the resin binding the material may yellow due to exposure to UV rays. However, certain manufacturers offer engineered stone specifically designed for outdoor use. These products have a unique resin formula resistant to fading and yellowing.
If you’re looking for a durable and stylish countertop material, natural stone offers some great options as well. Granite and quartzite may be the most popular choices, but limestone, soapstone, and marble are also widely used.
Countertops made of natural stone can withstand temperature extremes, shocks, and chemical exposure. Granite and quartzite are particularly strong and long-lasting options. Natural stone offers a wide range of stunning and unconventional colors that are difficult to replicate through artificial means. From gray-blue to emerald, pink to dark brown, there is a shade that will fit your style. Also, if you’re concerned about bacteria, marble is known for its powerful antimicrobial properties, making it an excellent choice for maintaining sanitary standards in your kitchen.
While marble and granite are environmentally friendly, they require special care due to their porous nature and susceptibility to staining. Regularly applying a protective compound is recommended, although it may not always completely prevent signs of aging. Expert installation, as we offer at MMG, is needed since seamless natural stone countertops are not possible. Repairing natural stone is more difficult compared to artificial alternatives, and in some cases, restoration may not be possible at all.
The main drawback of natural stone countertops is their higher cost. This includes not just the price of the material, but also the necessary stronger framework due to their weight.
Stone Options for Kitchen Countertops
You have more options for stone countertops than you may realize, both man-made and natural.
Engineered Stone Options
There are several types of engineered stone countertops, each with its own merits.
This man-made stone offers a wide variety of colors and designs that are consistent in durability and easy to clean. This makes it an easy choice for countertops and kitchen backsplashes. It is a manufactured product composed mostly of natural quartz crystals, with a small amount of other materials to enhance structure and appearance. Engineered quartz is long-lasting and resistant to scratches and stains. A wide range of designs are available that can accommodate any style of kitchen.
Sintered compact surfaces are engineered products made from naturally occurring materials such as clay and minerals. The color and design are controlled much like quartz. Slabs are typically thinner and lighter in weight than other stone slabs and are versatile in application. These manufactured surfaces are extremely resistant to scratches, stains, and heat. Sintered surfaces are also resistant to UV light and have low moisture absorption, which makes them great for outdoor use.
Natural Stone Options
In addition to engineered stone, there are also popular types of natural stone countertops to consider:
With diverse and stunning aesthetic options, granite is the perfect stone for any setting—inside or outside. One of the benefits of granite countertops is that each piece of granite is unique, with its own natural variations in color and pattern that only enhance its beauty. With options available at every price range, granite offers durability, rich colors, and striking patterns, making it a popular favorite for kitchen countertops. It’s incredibly strong, and able to withstand everyday wear and tear from heat, scratches, and stains. Just a simple resealing is needed, which is why MMG offers a lifetime guaranteed sealer.
Exuding elegance and strength, marble has been a symbol of luxury for centuries. This premium stone is often chosen for its high-end appearance and can be used for backsplashes, countertops, and walls. The smooth and cool texture of marble makes it perfect for cooking and baking. However, it’s important to remember that marble is sensitive to acids and chemicals and may show natural irregularities. Due to its exclusivity, marble is better suited for those with more flexible budgets. While it may scratch and stain more easily than granite, our Dry Treat superior cleaners and sealers provide protection and make cleaning a breeze.
Combining the best qualities of both granite and marble, quartzite is a top-notch choice for any space. It offers the strength and resistance of granite alongside the elegant appearance of marble. Quartzite features natural irregularities that add to its character. Due to its upscale qualities, quartzite may not be suitable for all budgets.
Factors to Consider when Choosing a Countertop
Several factors may influence your decision if you’re debating between engineered countertops and natural materials.
Durability and Strength
Natural and engineered stone counters both offer durability and strength over laminate. While engineered stone may be slightly harder and heavier, both options are similar regarding longevity. To maintain their pristine condition, it’s important to care for them properly. Some household cleaners can harm the stone surface by breaking its seal, so choosing cleaning products cautiously for both natural and engineered stone countertops is essential. MMG offers cleaning products specifically formulated for whichever type of stone you choose.
Natural stone typically has a lifespan of 50-75 years but can last well over 100 years. Engineered quartz surfaces typically have a lifespan of 25-30 years and are not as easily recyclable.
You can select from a catalog or sample pieces with an engineered stone. While there may be a slight difference between the sample and the finished stone, engineered stone is designed to have a consistent pattern and color, similar to natural stone but without unique patterns and irregularities.
A granite countertop can easily become the focal point of your kitchen or bathroom, commanding attention with its natural beauty. Whether you have a traditional bathroom or a modern kitchen, granite is unique and makes a statement. No two slabs are the same, like snowflakes. You can complement your countertops with a natural stone floor or backsplash for an even more stunning look.
Man-made stone offers a similar aesthetic appeal at a lower price point, making it better for budget-conscious homeowners or projects. Engineered stone countertops, including installation, range from $50 to $200 per square foot.
Those who prefer the authenticity of natural stone can expect to pay between $40 and $200 per square foot installed. Specifically, granite countertops range from $80 to $150 per square foot, or $2,400 to $6,000 for an average-sized kitchen.
Quartzite countertops cost between $65 and $150 per sq ft, totaling $2,000 to $6,000. As a luxury material, marble countertops come in at a range of $40 to $150 per square foot installed, or $1,200 to $6,000 in total, depending on the grade and type. Remember that though marble has a higher initial cost, it can substantially increase your home value.
Natural stone countertops, while stunning, require a little extra TLC. To keep them looking beautiful and extend their lifespan, it’s essential to seal them upon installation and regularly reseal them to prevent stains. Additionally, promptly clean up any spills and use pH-neutral cleaners to avoid damaging the stone. Remember, each type of natural stone has specific care requirements, so always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.
On the other hand, engineered stone countertops are a breeze to maintain. Within reason, they don’t require any sealing or special cleaners. Simply cleaning them regularly with mild soap and water will keep them looking their best. Avoid harsh chemicals or abrasives that could dull or discolor the surface.
Whatever type of stone you choose, MMG has the products to care for them and maximize their longevity.
Explore Fantastic Countertop Materials at Milwaukee Marble and Granite
As a homeowner or contractor, you may have questions and concerns about selecting natural or engineered stone for kitchen counters. Our team of experts is here to provide you with all of the information you need and work with you every step of the way. We have decades of experience helping clients in the Waukesha and Milwaukee areas find the best products at the best price. Make an appointment at our showroom and find out why Milwaukee Marble and Granite is known for exceptional product selection and outstanding customer service.