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Choosing a surface type for your new kitchen countertop is something that, for many of us, could be lifelong decision. What are the different types of surface materials available? How do they differ? Which surface type would suit your needs? Solid Surface Solid surface countertops are made from synthetic materials, usually out of acrylic or polyester. From a practical point-of-view, solid surface materials make a lot of sense and are popular choice for new homes especially in Asia. These surfaces are synthesized specifically to address major concerns regarding durability, hygiene and design in mind. Solid surfaces are a great alternative to natural stone and typically come in acrylic and polyester. Non-porous Pores are tiny openings over a surface which can be conducive spots for bacteria and other microorganisms to grow. Being non-porous means that solid surfaces are easier to keep clean and hygienic. The absence of pores also do not trap stains and is easy to clean with soap, water and cloth. Versatile in design Solid surfaces can be sanded and shaped into a wide variety of designs. Solid surfaces can be cut and joined in various configurations, which is a designer’s dream. Can be built in different orientations; horizontally or vertically. Durability More durable to impacts compared to natural stone due to its flexibility. Its softer surface is susceptible to cuts from knives. Granite stone is more resistant to heat and chemicals than marble. Ease of repair Light scratching and surface damage can be fixed with fillers. Entire portions can be cut out and replaced with new parts, and its uniform look (unlike irregular features of natural stone) makes it easy to blend in the replacement parts. Cost Expensive and comparable to natural stone. Aesthetics Many regard solid surfaces as lacking in the looks department compared to natural stone. Natural Stone Natural stone are heavy, slabs of rock cut and fashioned from large blocks from stone quarries. Natural stone is regarded for its beauty and have traditionally been used to build solid and long-lasting countertops. Notable examples of natural stone include marble and granite. Images of the Parthenon come to mind when we think of marble works and its association with grandeur. Porous Natural stone contains small pores that, if not treated with sealant, are a hygiene hazard as it traps bacteria and dirt. It is easy to clean when properly treated with sealant. Sealant needs to be reapplied every few years, or sooner as needed. Less versatile Solid blocks of stone are, as it is, set in stone. Seams will be very noticeable where two pieces of stone come together. Durability While very hard, natural stone is inflexible and brittle making it vulnerable to impacts and massive temperature fluctuations. Its hard surface, however, makes it very resistant to cuts and scratching from knives. Ease of repair Again, set in stone, natural stone is nearly impossible to repair. Depending on the severity of the damage, entire pieces may need to be replaced. The harder the stone is, the more difficult it is to repair. Cost Expensive. More so if repairs are ever needed. Aesthetics Widely regarded for its beauty. Aside from its patterns, cool look and glow, each slab of natural stone is unique and no two pieces are ever alike. Quartz Stone Not to be confused with its naturally occurring relative, quartz in countertop design are fabricated, yet retaining some of the aesthetics and durability that we associate with natural stone, with a few minor differences. Quartz stone shares many similarities to natural stone. For one, it boasts a hardness of 7 on the Mohs Hardness scale (granite is 6-7, depending on its minerology) making it very resistant to cuts or scratching with sharp metal implements. In fact it might dull your knives instead! Quartz has a melting point of 1670°C (granite is 1215 – 1260°C) and is non-porous. Quartz does discolour when exposed to sunlight. However, with darker colours, quartz stone can be put together in such a way that the seams are minimally visible. After reading this article, YOU should know WHICH COUNTERTOP MATERIAL IS FOR YOU!
One of the biggest fears people may have about natural stone is the maintenance it requires. With many individuals increasingly turning to the use of natural materials in the home, granite has become the countertop of choice. Synthetic solid surface materials are no match for the richness, depth, and incredible performance of real granite. Unlike laminates and solid-surface materials, a hot pot or frying pan has no effect on granite’s mirror-like finish. Most importantly, by choosing a granite countertop you not only give your kitchen everlasting performance and beauty, but you also increase the value of your home. Granite is also a very hard mineral and is virtually impervious to abrasions, impact damage and heat. However, the material is prone to cracking due to mechanical stresses caused by repeated heating and cooling. While the seams in between slabs provide some leeway for this repeated expansion and contraction, it is best to keep granite away from sources of large heat fluctuations. You’ll find caring for your natural stone is easy. The best care you can give your natural stone is preventive care. By following a few suggestions, your countertops will last a lifetime while maintaining a brand-new appearance. BASIC CLEANING AND MAINTENANCE 1. AVOID USING CLEANING PRODUCTS WITH ANY KIND OF ACID OR ABRASIVE. Avoid using harsh cleaning agents that contain strong acids/alkaline (e.g. bleach, glass cleaners, ammonia, degreasers) or abrasives (e.g. powdered ceramic/bathroom cleaners) as it can cause the sealant to discolour and scratch. Warm water, mild dishwashing liquid, and soft clean cloth are generally all that’s needed to maintain your granite countertop surface. 2. AVOID SUBJECTING YOUR GRANITE COUNTERTOP TO HEAVY WEIGHTS AND PRESSURE. While hard, granite surfaces are brittle and you should not stand, kneel on, sit or stack heavy objects onto your countertops as they could crack or break. This doesn’t mean that granite is fragile, however, and it’s perfectly capable of supporting microwaves, dish holders and other moderately heavy objects. 3. DO NOT PLACE HOT PANS OR OTHER OBJECTS DIRECTLY ON YOUR COUNTERTOPS. Again, hot objects can cause the sealant to discolour (mainly in dark granites) and/or cracking. Always use a protective barrier between any hot object and granite such as trivet or mat. Unsealed granite countertops do not have this problem, but are highly porous and come with other problems. 4. WIPE OFF SPILLS AS QUICKLY AS POSSIBLE. Sealed granite countertops are surprisingly resilient to stains from citric acid, coffee tea, alcohol, or wine. However, as a preventive measure, wipe up any spills on the countertops within a reasonable amount of time and do not let liquid sit on the countertop overnight. 5. Watch out for oil stains. Granite is most prone to staining by oil – be careful not to place any pots or frying pans with oil traces on the bottom on the countertop surface. Blot oil and acid spills as soon as they happen, and clean with mild soap and warm water to avoid any harm to your countertops. If the oil stains remain, there is a special cleaning procedure for the removal of deep-seated, time-set dirt and grime. A general poultice with baby or baking soda and water is the best remedy. First, moisten the surface of the granite with the same liquid that made the paste. Next, apply the poultice paste to the granite surface about half an inch thick. Tape plastic sheeting over the poultice area, and allow it to sit for 48 hours. Remove the poultice with a spatula, rinse the cleansed area with clean water, wipe off excess water, and allow the surface to dry. 6. RINSE SOAP AND WASHING DETERGENTS OFF TO PREVENT LIME BUILD UP. Rinse with hot clean water on a regular basis and use a paper towel to dry. Another way to remove lime build up , soap scum, stains or dried spills, is to use a straight razor blade in a gentle scraping motion. Do not use lime removal products or cleaning products that contain ammonia, as this will affect the seal on the stone. 7. AVOID HITTING THE SURFACE WITH HARD OBJECTS. Chips in granite are not a common occurrence. When they do happen, chips are most often caused by banging something into the edge of the countertop. Take care when you handle heavy pots and pans around your granite profiles as these are the most prone to cause chipping. If a chip does occur and you find the piece that chipped out, hold on to it. Most of the time it can be epoxied back into place. 8. APPLY SEALERS. The use of sealers is an excellent preventive measure and will encourage the preservation of your granite countertops. Some granite can be very porous. Sealers fill in natural pores and repel spills on the surface, radically reducing the rate of absorption. This gives you time to wipe spills away before they have a chance to penetrate your stone. After the installation process, the granite must be sealed. We recommend a re-application of this sealer annually, or more often for some light granites, to fully maintain the luminosity and avoid stains. Some dark-colored, dense granites (browns, blacks) do not require sealing. When the water or liquid spilled on your countertop fails to bead up when splashed, or you begin to notice a water darkening spot that dries out, this is an indication that your countertop needs to be re-sealed. 9. AVOID STORING CHEMICALS ON THE SURFACE. It’s risky to store chemicals on the surface of your granite countertop in case of spillage. This includes cooking oil, hair products, chemical cleaners and cosmetics.