How to choose between natural stone vs engineered stone countertops
Choosing the countertops for your kitchen remodel or bathroom remodel is a major decision, especially since this surface will receive more wear and tear than everything but the floor. For more than two decades the standard choice for mid to high end kitchens and bathrooms has been granite countertops, but a flush of new surface options has made the market much more versatile in recent years. Adequate research is highly recommended before taking on any sort of home remodeling or improvement, and learning about the various materials available before starting will be a valuable tool in choosing products that work best for your home and your lifestyle. Knowing the differences in use, appearance and cost between natural stone vs engineered stone countertops is a popular topic as more engineered stone brands come onto the market.
What is natural stone or engineered stone?
First, let’s discuss the physical differences between natural stone vs engineered stone. When someone talks about natural stone they typically mean granite or marble, but they can also be referring to slate, soapstone, and limestone. Natural stone countertops are cut directly from the earth and have little processing besides smoothing and shape formation, and will often need to be sealed because natural materials are porous (soapstone is a notable exception to this generalization). On the other hand, engineered stone is usually quartz (a man made substance derived from mineral dust) or quartz based and is entirely a man-made surface designed to mimic the beautiful appearance of natural stone. Engineered stone brands include Silestone, Cambria, Caesarstone, Legacy, Zodiaq, and Avanza, each of which are designed to look like a different natural stone. While natural stone occurs naturally in the ground and is prone to minor defects and other characteristics, engineered stone is designed to be used for countertops and as a result can be more user friendly. Natural stone also tends to be thicker and heavier than engineered stone, and comes in a completely unique design, whereas engineered stone can be a more uniform design.
Is there a difference in maintenance?
It’s relatively common knowledge that natural stone countertops require a bit of work in order to maintain the original luster and attractiveness that is so appealing to homeowners, but this isn’t always a problem for people, depending on their lifestyle and activities. It’s also important to remember, however, that no countertop is going to be 100% maintenance free and even engineered stone countertops will require a little bit of care. This really comes down to what’s most important to you: if being able to say you have natural stone countertops is very important, you’ll have to accept that there might be a little more effort required of you in order to maintain those elegant looks. But if you’re juggling a full household and busy lifestyle and keeping house often falls to the bottom of your priority list, a lower maintenance countertop might be a better choice. For the most part, engineered stone countertops don’t require sealing, and those that do don’t need it as frequently as natural stone. This is because natural stone is naturally porous whereas engineered stone is designed to be non-porous.
Is there a cost difference?
Depending on where you source your countertops from, there isn’t always much of a difference in cost between natural stone vs engineered stone countertops. All natural stone countertops carry a certain price tag that designates them in the mid to high end price category, but just because engineered stone is man-made doesn’t mean it’s a much cheaper alternative. In fact, engineered stone can cost as much as natural stone or more, depending on the quality and customization you choose. However, it’s the long term cost difference that helps homeowners make their choice when deciding between natural stone vs engineered stone. Natural stone will inevitably require more maintenance over time in the form of resealing, and natural stone cracks and damage is very costly to repair. Additionally, engineered stone comes with an extensive warranty while natural stone has no warranty for the product (labor carries a warranty with both materials), making engineered stone a more attractive option. Even though engineered stone doesn’t carry a savings over natural stone, the long term low maintenance benefits make up for the man made qualities and not being able to show off a natural product in your home.