Let's start at the top! Countertops, that is.
Welcome back everybody! Here at Albuquerque Tile & Stone, we are best known for our work with fabricating and installing beautiful natural stone countertops. You could say it's our specialty! When it comes to choosing the right countertop surface for you, we've got you covered. So let's dive in, shall we? We're going to share with you the different types of countertop surfaces we offer, as well as the pros and cons to each.
Probably one of the most classic and popular choices for countertop material is granite. Nothing really compares to the raw, natural beauty that granite has to offer and since it is cut straight from the earth, no two slabs will be exactly the same. While there is some consistency within each color, each slab within that color family will have its own unique pattern and personality. Being 100% natural stone, it is a very resilient material, but there are some things to keep in mind if you're considering granite for your kitchen or bathroom.
Granite is not scratch, stain or heat resistant. While scratches and dents can be repaired relatively easily (depending on the damage), you might want to keep that in mind. It is a porous material and will stain from water, oil, wine or any red sauce if not immediately cleaned. To help protect it, we recommend sealing your granite countertops annually to keep them looking their best and to prolong their life. Granite countertops might be able to resist heat for a few seconds, but we always recommend using a hot pad to protect your countertops. As far as price, granite is pretty comparable with other countertop materials. More on pricing in a minute!
Growing in popularity in the countertop world is quartz. More and more people who come into our showroom are interested in purchasing quartz countertops for their kitchens and bathrooms. What exactly is quartz and why are so many people after it? Quartz countertops are made of about 93% natural stone, and the remaining 7% is made up of epoxy and filler. This is great because you get the beauty of natural stone but a more consistent look and extra durability. Quartz countertops are available in mostly white or grey colors but are also available in black or beige colors, and sometimes even green or blue! Like granite, they are not heat resistant, but unlike granite they are non-porous, scratch and stain resistant and anti-bacterial. This is what makes them such a desirable material for kitchens but they are equally as wonderful as bathroom vanities and even as shower walls! They are virtually indestructible, and extremely low maintenance. They do not need to be sealed like granite does. A popular trend with quartz countertops is the waterfall edge, pictured here. This has become a very popular design feature with quartz largely because of how invisible the seams are. It gives it a beautiful, seamless flow, hence the name waterfall. The price for quartz countertops is comparable to that of granite and is truly a worthwhile investment.
Definitely on my 'Someday Wishlist' is quartzite. This is 100% natural stone, beginning its life as sandstone and through a process of heat and pressure is fused with quartz crystals to form what is called quartzite. While definitely more expensive than granite or quartz, it is an absolutely stunning material. Being a natural stone, it is porous like granite and needs to be sealed. It is also prone to scratches. But overall it is an incredibly durable and low maintenance product and it comes in some of the most gorgeous colors with some dazzling sparkle. If you're really looking to make a statement in your space, quartzite is the way to go. Just get a load of these gorgeous Taj Mahal and Blue Tahoe quartzite colors, both of which we have installed in customers homes with brilliant results! And of course, this fun color called Scarlet Crystal (insert heart eyes).
Solid Surface, or Corian countertops as it is so lovingly referred to, are your friend if you have a tight budget. While solid surface may have a slightly bad rap as being outdated, they shouldn't be overlooked. There has been quite a bit of progress with the colors and styles of solid surface available (read: not grandma's countertops anymore). What exactly is solid surface, anyway? Basically, it is quartz dust which is mixed with man-made materials. So what does that mean for the quality of the product? Well, it is prone to scratches, but on the plus side, those scratches can usually be buffed out leaving your countertops looking like new. It's non-porous, so no sealing required. But, like quartz, it is NOT heat resistant. Setting a hot pan on a solid surface countertop will cause those man-made resins to melt and leave your countertop looking sad and burned. But as I mentioned before, this is absolutely a budget friendly product. While most natural stone slabs will run into the thousands of dollars range, a sheet of solid surface can most often be purchased for less than $1000. And now that they come in some great modern colors and patterns, these could be a really great option for you!
The name alone sounds delicate and classy, right? Porcelain is a beautiful countertop material with colors and styles that mimic the look of marble. Some benefits to porcelain are its durability when it comes to heat, scratch and stain resistance. On the other hand, while it is such a hard and durable surface, oddly enough that makes it susceptible to chips and cracks if it is hit by blunt force. This will leave sharp, jagged edges in your countertop, so be forewarned. It is lightweight which is nice, but adds to its fragility during fabrication and installation. The sheets are also thinner than a typical stone slab, so proper support underneath the countertop is important if it's going to bear any weight. The price is comparable to quartz or granite and you will be getting an overall very durable product. Professional and experienced fabricators and installers (like us!) are a must to make sure your porcelain countertops are done right and are worth your investment.
Lastly, we have soapstone! This countertop material is such a unique look and a great choice for a natural stone with excellent durability. It is naturally heat resistant and non-porous so it's also stain resistant. It is a softer stone than other 100% natural stones like granite or quartzite, so that does make it more prone to scratches. The good news is, most scratches can be buffed out with light sanding or mineral oil. Soapstone is a bit more expensive than granite or quartz, but its a quality investment for sure.
And there you have at! These are all countertop materials we offer here at Albuquerque Tile & Stone. We have plenty of samples of each material here in our showroom, we do all of our fabricating on site and have our own experienced installers. Some other things we wanted to mention regarding these countertop materials are how they are priced and how to properly care for and maintain your countertops.
Regardless of the countertop material you are interested in, you will find that they are all priced by groups or levels. The groups range from a Standard Group, and then Groups 1-8; sometimes the vendor will use letters instead of numbers, such as Groups A-D. How this translates into price is that a Standard Group will be the lowest price group available and then the price will ascend from Group 1 and reach its peak at Group 8. It's important to note that the higher group numbers do NOT always mean a higher quality product or that the lower group numbers are a lower quality product. Sometimes that is the case, due to how the stone is manufactured or where it is sourced from. But usually it means that a higher group number is going to be more of a specialty color or pattern or it could be determined by what country the stone is quarried from. The more rare or difficult to produce a product is, the more expensive it's going to be. Here at Albuquerque Tile & Stone, we have all of our countertop materials sorted and marked by group, so it will be very easy for us to help you find a stone that matches your budget.
Finally, when caring for your countertops, we want you to get as many beautiful years out of your countertops as possible. So we recommend avoiding harsh, abrasive cleaners, even something natural like vinegar is very acidic and probably wouldn't be the best choice. Warm water and a mild dish detergent should be enough. Natural stones like granite and quartzite should be sealed annually or at least every two years. As we mentioned, on granite, quartz, quartzite and solid surface, always use a hot pad before setting hot pans on the surface and make sure to clean up spills on porous countertops. We always warranty our work, so if anything goes wrong, just let us know and we will be happy to help you out. Hopefully this will help you be prepared when you're ready to shop for new countertops, and we're always happy to answer any questions you might have. Until next time!
~ Your friends at Albuquerque Tile & Stone
(Photo Credit: Arizona Tile, Granite & Quartz; MSI Surfaces, Quartzite; Corian, Solid Surface; Crossville, Porcelain; StoneLink Marble & Granite, Soapstone)