Whether for the kitchen, bathroom, or any spot in your home where you want a functional counter with a high elegance factor, choosing stone for your countertops is mostly a matter of personal taste. Still, there are a few important general considerations in having any type of stone fabricated.

Thickness. There are two standard thicknesses for stone slabs: two centimeters or three centimeters. Thicker stone is generally preferred for kitchen countertops to create a more striking visual appearance. However, quality fabricators often offer the option of lamination—affixing a stone strip to the edge of a two-centimeter slab—to achieve the look of the thicker stone without a cost increase.

Light. Because the appearance of natural stone can change drastically depending on the light, professional designers suggest bringing home a few stone samples and looking at them throughout the day in the rooms where you intend to have the stone slab installed. Additionally, even though stone is available in a variety of colors, designers advise against choosing extreme or overly trendy shades for large counters; sticking with classic colors that coordinate with a variety of cabinet styles will help ensure that you don’t easily tire of the design and that the stone counters will be an advantage rather than a sticking point in the case of a home sale.

Treatment. The two most common surfacing treatments for natural stone are polishing and honing. Polishing results in a highly reflective finish with a smooth texture that can highlight the depth of color of the stone. A polished surface offers the additional advantage of being easier to clean—the seal closes the stone’s pores and helps keep out moisture. A honed surface, on the other hand, is ground to a smooth and even consistency for a more natural look, but the stone will remain porous. The stone’s color will be lighter than if it were polished, and the surface will be matte. In a room where an air of sophistication is preferred, stone surfaces are usually polished, while honed stone is typically the choice for more rustic design concepts. The type of stone selected often has a great influence on the finish choice. Soapstone and slate, for example, cannot be polished, and while some stones such as marble or limestone can take polishing, a honed finish is preferred because it allows the counter to be lightly scrubbed without the concern of scratching the surface.

To offer some comparisons, the chart below shows some of the features of the most common types of countertop stone:

  • Most popular countertop material

  • Wide variety of colors available

  • Resistant to heat

  • Resistant to bacteria

  • Easy to clean

  • Can be polished or honed

  • Porous

  • Requires sealing

  • Expensive to install

  • May require reinforcement of underlying structures

  • Widely available

  • Typically bright white with veining in various colors (pink, gold, and light gray are most common)
  • Less expensive than other natural stone

  • Natural coolness makes it good for bakers

  • Can be polished or honed

  • Stains and etches easily

  • High maintenance

  • Natural finish is matte

  • Available colors are mostly shades of green, black, gray, and purple

  • Resistant to heat

  • Low maintenance

  • Scratches are easily buffed out

  • Semi-porous

  • Requires sealing

  • Prone to scratches

  • Manufactured from natural quartz and man-made resins

  • Sold under various brand names (Silestone, Cambria)
  • Nonporous

  • Resistant to heat

  • Low maintenance

  • Durable

  • Visible seams

  • Relatively expensive

  • Soft stone

  • Usually white or cream in color, but additional minerals provide some color variety

  • Readily available

  • Least expensive among commonly used stone

  • Low acid resistance

  • Can’t take high polish

  • Must be resealed frequently

  • Quarried stone; contains some talc, which lends softness

  • Comfortable to the touch

  • Colors range from white to charcoal gray
  • Nonporous

  • Easy to clean

  • Resistant to bacteria

  • Visible seams

  • Easily nicked

  • Expensive

Whatever your style preferences, maintenance tolerance, or budget, there is a stone surface that will be perfect for your decor and lifestyle. Choose wisely and you will have a gorgeous update to your kitchen or bath that will bring a touch of luxury and add value to your home for decades to come.

Click Here to View Your Local Best Pick® Custom Countertops & Stone Contractors

Sources: Better Homes and Gardens; Forbes; HGTV; Huffington Post; Popular Mechanics; This Old House.

For more information on our sources, please contact us directly.