Understanding Natural Stone
There are many different types of natural stones used for residential countertops. Understanding the different types of stone used for countertops is as important as selecting the right color. Depending on the type of stone you choose the care and use will vary.
The most important part of selecting the right stone for your project is selecting the “right stone”.
With so many options to choose from it is easy to forget why natural stone is the first choice for building materials since the beginning of time. Before selecting material for your next countertop, it is important to understand the characteristics of the many different types of stone offered by Caayu.
Natural Stone Classifications
Granite is a hard, tough, igneous rock that is widely distributed in the Earth’s continental crust. It is medium to coarse grained and consists of a number of minerals, most notably quartz. Natural quartz is recognized as one of the earth’s hardest minerals falling just short of diamonds. Granite varies in composition and comes in a range of colors from soft earthy tones to vibrant blues. Given its ruggedness and wide distribution, it has been used as construction materials since the beginning of time. Granite, capable of accepting different surface finishes is usually offered in a high gloss or polished finishes. Other finishes such as flamed, thermal, leathered and brushed are created to add decorative textures to the surface. Granite’s unique mineral composition is what makes it inert to surface marring from common foods and beverages. While not impervious to staining, granite when properly cared for will outperform all other countertop materials including synthetic stones. Currently granite has exceeded marble and other natural stones as the number material for countertops for today’s busy kitchen and bathrooms.
Marble is a metamorphic rock, composed mainly of crystalline calcium carbonate or calcium magnesium carbonate. Marble is available in a full spectrum of colors ranging from pure white to solid black in a plethora of complex mineral patterns. Used extensively for sculptures and as an architectural medium, it has become an icon for refined taste and culture. A noteworthy difference between granite and marble is its geological mineral composition. Unlike granite, marble is susceptible to acid etching from acidic foods and beverages and will patina relatively quickly when used in exterior applications. It is recommended to treat marble as you would a fine wood; placemats, trivets and coaster are suggested, are should be part of the care and use regiment.
Limestone is a sedimentary rock composed largely of the mineral calcite. It makes up about ten percent of the total volume of all sedimentary rocks found on Earth. Limestone’s most attractive attribute is its soft subtle hues of whites and beige, known to compliment both traditional and modern architectural designs. A unique feature of Limestone is that its main constituent, calcite, is produced mostly by shell-producing and coral-building living organisms. It is this natural cycle that lends itself to the large open pore structure of Limestone. While some varieties can be polished to a high gloss, Limestone is typically offered in a matt or honed finish. Alternately, it can be sourced in many different textured finishes including split face, circular sanded and sandblasted. Compared to granite, limestone in its natural environment will erode. Given its inherent geological composition, limestone countertops will show signs of use relatively quickly and should be used only when its natural patina can be appreciated.
Travertine is a form of limestone deposited near mineral springs. Travertine’s most notable attribute is its, coral like appearance. With a color pallet similar to Limestone it can be sourced in white, tan and cream tones. Travertine is formed by a process of rapid precipitation of calcium carbonate, often at the mouths of a hot spring or in limestone caves. These voids can either be left open or filled with a synthetic resin. Travertine is offered with a honed or polished finish and shares the same inherent characteristics and performance values as Limestone.
Quartz is one of the most common minerals in the Earth’s continental crust. Quartz is one of the hardest minerals listed falling short of diamonds, topaz and corundum. In some cases natural quartz slabs are often inert to acidic foods and beverages providing similar performance to granite. Quartz is known for its abundance of color and extravagant vein structure. Many believe that quartz slabs are a viable option for those looking for the warm tones and dramatic vein patterns of marble along with the durability of granite.
Onyx is a semitransparent stone well known for its vibrant color and its irreprehensible vein structure. Onyx also referred as banded Chalcedony shares similar inherent characteristics to quartz and agate. The use of Onyx should be limited to areas that do not come in contact with acidic products like citrus and alcoholic beverages and should be limited to light traffic areas. Onyx is often used as ornamental stones such as fireplaces, mantles and vanity tops. Extra care is strongly suggested when selecting Onyx for high traffic floors and countertops. It is recommended to treat Onyx as you would a fine wood. Placemats, trivets and coaster should be part of the care and use regiment.
Soapstone is a metamorphic rock. It is largely composed of the mineral Talc. Soapstone has distinctive aesthetic and performance characteristics due in-part to its unique mineral composition. Soapstone is naturally inherent to acidic foods and beverages and is unaffected by extreme heat. Another distinguished characteristic associated with soapstone is its softness. Soapstone is easily scratched, however scratches are easily disguised by applying mineral oil to the surface. It is common practice to apply mineral oil to the countertop after installation to help initiate the natural patina process. The oiling regiment should be continued until the stone is completely saturated, and has absorbed as much oil as possible. This process usually takes 4-6 weeks following a weekly application; once oiled, there is no need for impregnating sealers similar to those used for marbles and granites.
Disclaimer: with respect to the ongoing studies of geology, the categories of natural stones are examples of the more commonly used stones currently sold as building materials. The materials listed in the Caayu collection are sorted by genre to help better understand their natural characteristics.
Read about Surface Finishes.