A neighbor and I were walking together recently, and she mentioned that she was thinking about replacing her kitchen countertops. She asked me if I knew anything about the options available, what I thought about granite and what would look good with her traditional kitchen. Coincidentally, I was in the middle of writing this article, so Bess, this one’s for you:
1) What questions do you ask your clients when they are choosing kitchen countertops? What do you need to know in order to determine the best option for each customer?

Michael Fisher (MF), Showroom Manager, U.S. Granite Inc., Danbury, (203) 743-1124;

www.usgraniteinc.com: “I typically ask the client if they have a color in mind, what color are the kitchen cabinets and are they installed or do they need cabinets? Also, knowing the tile floor color or hardwood kitchen floors is also very helpful in aiding the customer in making the right color choice for their granite countertop. In addition, if the kitchen is new, the countertop color coordinated with the cabinet color is also helpful in choosing a floor tile. Also, if a customer has a drawing, plans or even a rough sketch we can figure out the square footage which we can then plug into their estimate.

“Quite often, customers who are just replacing the countertops and not the entire kitchen will bring in a cabinet door or a piece of floor tile which we can hold up to any of the hundreds of slabs we have in our warehouse or showroom. Recently, a woman brought in a very pale pink pitcher from an antique glassware set she wanted to feature in her kitchen. I was able to show her a stone called ‘wave white’ which is stone with beautiful movement in smoky grays and white with a splash of pale red. It was perfect for her.”

Robin Leigh (RL), Owner,  www.EliteCreteCT.com, a division of Country Gardens and Pools LLC,  New Milford and Wilton, (203) 834-2427: “The first thing I ask potential clients is whether they have actually seen concrete countertops in use. Most potential clients have seen them in magazines or on TV but never in person in a real situation.”

Fabiano Lomba (FL), Owner, Venezia Custom Marble & Granite, Ridgefield, (203) 544-7625; www.veneziamarble.com: “I ask them what type of material they’re interested in, and how much they use their kitchen countertops.”

Laurie Boxer (LB), Showroom Manager, Countertops By Starian, Danbury, (203) 743-6808; www.countertopsbystarian.com: “I ask them what their lifestyle is like, if they have kids, if they love to cook, and if they clean up immediately to prevent stains.”

Sung Yeung (SY), Manager, Hope Kitchen & Stone Supply, LLC, Bridgeport, (203) 610-6147; www.hopekitchen.com: “When choosing kitchen countertops, we ask customers if they want something that’s consistent or has movement in the stone. For example, wave patterns in the granite.  Also, what color and type of stone they are interested in. In order to determine the best option for the customer. we need to know if they want something with unique patterns, something that has high durability, or something that is maintenance free.”

 

2)What options do homeowners have when it comes to kitchen countertop materials? What are the advantages/disadvantages to each option?

LB: “We offer granite and engineered stone/ quartz, solid surface, such as Corian, or laminate (Formica), recycled (Paperstone), wood (butcher block in maple, cherry or walnut), stainless steel and concrete.

“Granite must be sealed once a year, is reflective, and requires cleaners that will not ruin the seal. If it chips it cannot be repaired. Each piece of granite is different. It’s very hard to alter the tops if you need to change out a cook top or stove and it doesn’t fit. Conversely, it’s a natural material, with many variations in colors and particles in stone.

“For solid surfaces, they can scratch, and have consistent patterns. However, they are the only material that can be sanded out and repaired to fix chips or cracks; there is a 10 – 15 year warranty, the matte finish is non-reflective and can be cleaned with almost anything; it offers consistent patterns and colors so you do not have to view sheets of material.

“Engineered stone/quartz can chip and it cannot be repaired; it has a mostly reflective glossy finish, and it’s hard to change/alter the tops if you purchase a new appliance. On the other hand, it has a 10 year warranty, it can be cleaned with almost anything, and has consistent colors and patterns.

“Paperstone features dark saturated colors and needs finishing oil. It’s 100% recyclable, and is the hardest thing on market, so you can’t chip or crack it.

“In butcher block, scratches can be seen and it has to be oiled. The pros? You can sand out scratches, and it’s an all natural product.

“Finally, for laminate, if water is left on the countertop, it can cause it to lift up, and can only accommodate top mount (not undermount) sinks. It’s the least expensive option, however.”

MF: “As far as countertop options, there are several…granite, marble, limestone and also man-made surfaces such as quartz which is somewhat trendy. We feel the look and feel of natural stone complemented with the durability of granite and the vast array of color provides our customers with some excellent options.”

SY: “For kitchen countertops we have granite, marble, Silestone, Corian, and Formica countertops.
Advantages:

Granite - Strongest natural stone, each slab has is unique; never the same. Most scratch resistance material.

Marble - It has a warm look, mostly used in bathrooms.

Silestone - Man-made material, 90% Quartz, 10% Rosin, durable, scratch resistance, uniform.

Corian - Solid-plastic material, easy fabricated, all are ½” thick, but the edge looks thicker by pieces laminated together.

Formica - is from fiber board, easy to install and is the least expensive.
Disadvantages:

Granite - Since its natural stone, there are pores and it will stain if not taken care of properly.

Marble -   It’s soft so it will scratch easier than granite.

Silestone – It’s uniform, but has no character.

Corian - Color will change over time if not installed properly and will twist and curve.

Formica - Made out of MDF; if not taken care of, the material will only last 5-10 years.

“We have granite and marble, which is unique because they’re natural materials. Every slab is different and contains multiple colors and pattern. Silestone is consistent and is maintenance free. This stone has over 100 colors and patterns.

“Countertop materials and styles are all dependent on what the customer can afford and likes.  Some are more consistent than others. For example, contemporary kitchens might need the pattern and contrast, while for formal kitchens we recommend consistency.”

RL: “Concrete countertops are the most personalized and unique element of any kitchen. They are all custom made and can be personalized in many ways. We can create counters in pretty much any shape, thickness color or design. They are hard wearing look totally unique.

“The concrete mix we use consists of cement, sand or aggregate, pigment, water and several specialized chemicals. Any or all of these ingredients can be varied to create a totally unique piece. We can match any color to a Benjamin Moore paint color. We can use colored sand, gravel, glass chips or stones. We can create a counter with air voids in the mix and then grout the voids with a contrasting or complementary color to create a marbling effect. The possibilities are endless.”

FL: “We carry granite, marble, soap stone and quartz. Granite is an igneous rock formed when molten rock cools deep inside the earth. Marble metamorphic rock is comprised primarily of calcium carbonate and other minerals. Soap stone is a metamorphic rock, a talc-schist. It is largely composed of the mineral talc and is thus rich in magnesium. Quartz is an abundant mineral in the earth‘s continental crust.”

The second installment of kitchen countertops Q&A will appear in next month’s Home and will be updated here.

Kitchen Remodeling: Previous installments

  1. October 2012 — Part 1: Countertops – can beauty marry function?
  2.  Sept./Aug. 2012 — Cabinetry sets the tone
  3.  July 2012 — Great Expectations