Where do you start when choosing which material to use for your kitchen worktop? This guide will answer all your questions and explain everything you need to know about natural stone countertops.
The kitchen countertop comes in for a lot of abuse over time. Whether it’s chopping, setting down hot utensils, spills, or daily cleaning. For this reason, the kitchen worktop needs to be tough. That’s why natural stone is a classic choice and is still one of the most popular in UK kitchens. The following article lists the options and outlines how to choose the most suitable natural stone for kitchen countertops.
Natural stone countertops
The main enemy in the kitchen is moisture in terms of daily wear and tear. That’s why natural stone is a popular choice for worktops. After all, what better material is there than stone? Its natural habitat is the outdoors, exposed to weather elements, so it is ideally suited for withstanding the harshest conditions, rain and shine. Then there is its aesthetic appeal which reflects how artists and stonemasons have exploited stone over the millennia.
It is clear, therefore, that there’s nothing like the real thing. Some clichés have the ring of truth about them, and natural stone countertops are a case in point. Its technical performance, appearance and status make natural stone the most popular choice in the UK. But where to start when choosing what stone to use? The following guide contains an overview of the most important features for each option.
Types of natural stone countertops
Broadly speaking, the following list of natural stones are the most common choices:
However, not every natural stone is suitable for the kitchen worktop. So, it’s essential to research the specific material properties required to choose the best natural stone for kitchen worktops. In other words, each material has different characteristics that make it more or less suitable for use on kitchen worktops. Marble is a very different stone to quartzite, for instance.
Note: Engineered stone like XTONE® is a category apart which we will look at further on.
Natural stone countertop materials
The following descriptions broadly outline the features of the most popular natural stone for kitchen countertops:
#1 Granite countertops
- Looks: Granite is characterised by the unmistakable silvery fleck that runs through the predominantly pinkish, grey or black stone. Typically for worktops, granite is highly polished.
- Features: Granite is one of the most popular countertops in UK kitchens. Its remarkable hardness and heat resistance make granite countertops very practical. Requires sealing before use in the kitchen to close pores and prevent stains.
- Composition: Coarse-grained igneous rock made up of quartz and feldspars. Formed by cooling magma, granite has a high content of silica and alkali metal oxides and mica. The colour and texture depend on the mix of the different minerals that form its composition.
#2 Quartzite countertops
- Looks: It resembles granite and marble with unique veining but has a glassy, vitreous appearance. Not to be confused with quartz, which is an engineered material. Quartzite is mainly white and pale grey but can also be found in other colours: red, pink, yellow, green and orange.
- Features: Quartzite is becoming an increasingly popular choice for kitchen worktops. Tougher than granite and less porous than marble, these qualities – added to its good looks – make it ideal for intensively used kitchens. Because of its greater density, quartzite is less prone to chipping.
- Composition: A metamorphic rock of crystallised quartz grains in a unique pattern resembling marble veins. It is formed when quartz-rich sandstone is subjected to intense heat.
#3 Marble countertops
- Looks: Visually refined material used in antiquity for sculptures and cladding public buildings down through the ages.
- Features: As a rule, marble should not be used for intensively used countertops. Marble is porous and liable to stains. It also chips easily and needs regular cleaning and maintenance. Over time it acquires an ageing patina. However, it has killer looks that ooze style and class.
- Composition: Marble is a metamorphic rock formed under intense pressure at elevated temperatures. The veining is produced by the calcium carbonate content containing acidic oxide.
#4 Slate countertop
- Looks: A dense material, usually dark grey or black, but slate also comes in shades of green, red and purple.
- Features: Slate is a non-porous stone with almost zero water absorption and is exceptionally heat resistant. It requires very little maintenance and is very hard-wearing. The most popular finishes are: honed (a process of grinding and polishing) or cleft (which provides a rough texture with a rustic feel).
- Composition: A fine-grained metamorphic rock formed in the ground over millions of years consisting of layers and layers of compacted shale and mudstone.
#5 Limestone countertop
- Looks: A natural stone that comes in white, off-white, cream and other hues such as red. Limestone offers a great diversity in texture.
- Features: A soft stone that is easily malleable, making it suitable for construction. It is highly heat resistant and durable, improving in appearance over time. Because it is porous, the limestone must be sealed and treated for use as a kitchen countertop.
- Composition: Carbonate sedimentary rock, composed mainly of calcium carbonate. Most limestones were formed in marine environments now exposed overland. Limestone can contain fossils that account for the granular texture.
#6 Dolomite countertop
- Looks: Similar to marble, with fluid streaking patterns, but at a more affordable price. Mostly grey and white but also comes in brown, pink, black and green.
- Features: Although not as hard as granite, dolomite performs better than marble but can be prone to chipping and scratches. Highly heat resistant and less porous than marble but does require sealing and regular maintenance. In recent years it has become increasingly popular.
- Composition: Dolomite is a sedimentary carbonate rock resulting from limestone coming into contact with groundwater rich in magnesium. Its name comes from the Dolomite Alps, where it was first discovered.
Pink, grey or black.
Remarkable hardness and heat resistance. It requires sealing before use in the kitchen to close pores and prevent stains.
White, pale grey, red, pink, yellow, green or orange.
Tougher than granite and less porous than marble. Because of its greater density, quartzite is less prone to chipping.
White, cream, grey, brown, black, pink, yellow, green or orange.
Porous and liable to stains. It also chips easily and needs regular cleaning and maintenance.
Dark grey or black.
Non-porous stone with almost zero water absorption and exceptionally heat resistant. It requires very little maintenance and is very hard-wearing.
White, off-white, cream and red.
Easily malleable, highly heat resistant and durable, but porous. It must be sealed and treated for use as a kitchen countertop.
Grey, white, brown, black, green.
Highly heat resistant and less porous than marble but does require sealing and regular maintenance.
Among all natural stones, granites and quartzites are the best options to use in worktops, both for their features and technical characteristics. Therefore, our ENDLESS kitchen worktops catalogue includes ten collections of granite and quartzite.
In addition, there are other suitable materials on the market that could be considered practical alternatives to natural stone: XTONE® Sintered Stone and Krion®.
- XTONE® Sintered Stone: With all the appearance of natural stone, the sintered version is resin-free and eco-friendly. Similar to porcelain, its remarkable quality is the result of the high pressure and heat applied during its manufacturing. Unlike natural stone, it is non-porous and scratch and heat resistant. It makes it extremely hygienic and easy to maintain.
- Krion®, on the other hand, is a thermoformed material, which means that a complete countertop can be produced with no joints required for the basin, drainer or hob. It is exceptionally hard-wearing, heat and shock resistant and hygienic.
Most stone countertops will require a certain degree of maintenance. Quartzite is the easiest stone worktop to maintain thanks to its low porosity, resistance to heat and strength. When it comes to engineered surfaces for the countertop, Krion® is, by far, the easiest material to keep clean and maintain.