So, you’ve decided on using stone for your kitchen and bathroom bench tops but are unsure which particular one to choose. When making your decision it’s important to select the type of stone that will be practical and durable enough for your needs but will also give you the beautiful finished look you are wanting to achieve. For an area frequently used by the family you want to choose something that will not damage easily and can withstand the test of time. There’s no point in installing a beautiful, expensive stone only to find it stained and disintegrating quicker than expected.
To give you a helping hand with your decision we explain the difference between the two types of materials available when it comes to stone – natural stone and engineered (reconstituted) stone.
Natural stone is exactly what it suggests, it’s formed naturally over thousands of years and is quarried at various locations worldwide. Natural stone is raw, elegant and unique. No two pieces will ever be the same as the stone characteristics will vary depending on where and when it was cut.
Naturally forming stone has a wide variety of colour, veining, style, structure and porosity. Because of this your surface can not be guaranteed a particular ‘look’ and is more left to chance and Mother Nature’s creativity. However, you should have the opportunity to choose a particular ‘slab’ where you are able to see the natural patterns and colours already formed.
Although one of the more expensive materials available, natural stone such as marble, limestone or granite are full of character and will be a beautiful feature in any home.
If you hold a piece of natural stone to the light you will see tiny bumps and pores on its surface. This is known as ‘pitting’. The pitting is where grime and dirt typically collect and why natural stone surfaces are more likely to stain and have less durability.
Some general household cleaners and acidic foods (such as lemon and vinegar) can also cause damage to your natural stone. Correct maintenance and using a professional sealant regularly on the surface can minimise this and help protect against any damages.
Note: Natural stone can be stain, chip and scratch resistant but is definitely not stain, chip and scratch proof!
Also, more expensive does not always been better. You can find that a higher priced piece of stone may be softer and more porous, and therefore less durable than others and easier to scratch.
Engineered (or reconstituted) Stone
Engineered stone is a man-made product which was first manufactured in the late 1980’s, when the demand for a more consistent look of a finished product arose. It is also considerably lighter than its natural counterpart.
Natural stone cut from a quarry or mountain is put through a manufacturing process to create reconstituted stone. This process is where the natural stone is crushed down and then bound with an acrylic resin. Manufacturers are able to enhance and add properties to the raw materials to increase the strength, quality, performance and lifespan of the product. The main component used to achieve this is a naturally forming quartz which is a highly strong mineral.
Engineered stone is guaranteed to maintain consistency in aesthetics throughout the slab as they are made to exact recipes. You have the opportunity to customise the design and overall ‘look’ of your stone with choices such as colour, texture and composition. These elements are all things to consider when deciding on your finished piece. You should be aware that although you can choose a particular colour your slab may not be exactly the same shade or tone as the viewed sample, as there can be slight variations in colour of raw materials used.
The engineering process of reconstituted stone minimizes dirt-attracting pores by creating a much smoother and non-porous finish. This makes it extremely resistant to staining, scratching or cracking and has an added hygiene factor when used in a kitchen environment.
Reconstituted stone is a high performance and low maintenance product which is easy to clean and has great durability as well as sustainability. It can be more affordable than natural stone and is beautifully engineered for modern day living.
It is good to note that there are limitations as to what is achievable with regards to size as this product is manufactured in specific sheet sizes.
The majority of people these days are still opting to have natural stone installed in their homes as they don’t yet understand the differences between natural and engineered stone. But the popularity of reconstituted surfaces is slowly growing as more affordable and durable products are being researched and chosen.
There is no one type of stone that is considered to be ‘better’ than another. It basically comes down to whether natural or engineered stone is most suitable to each person’s needs, perceptions and budget.
Natural stone can be seen to be the more expensive option of the two, but taking into consideration factors such as design, kitchen orientation and possible wastage engineered stone has the potential to cost more.
Of course, costs are an important factor in anything but it should not be the defining reason to choose one stone over another. Be sure to work out what your needs are, how you want the stone to look and feel in your home and also what application it will serve. Once you have decided on these things you should be better informed to make the right choice for you and your home.