What Are Natural Stone Benchtops?
If you want to channel an air of luxury in your kitchen, you simply can’t go past natural stone benchtops—but what are natural stone benchtops and why are they so highly coveted?
Read on and we’ll explain everything you need to know about natural stone benchtops.
Natural stone benchtops are made from naturally occurring quarried stone, such as marble and granite.
What Are Natural Stone Benchtops?
Natural stone benchtops are constructed from slabs of pure stone which is quarried directly from the earth. Marble and granite are arguably the most popular natural stone benchtops, however, other natural stone varieties such as quartzite, travertine, dolomite and onyx can also be suitable for use as benchtops.
Most adored for adding a sense of style, luxury and sophistication to any space, natural stone benchtops are available in a wide variety of patterns and colours with no two pieces exactly alike. Natural stone benchtops are also extremely durable and hard-wearing when properly maintained.
What Are the Different Types of Natural Stone Benchtops?
Having been quarried for centuries, marble has long been considered the epitome of luxury. Typically appearing in various white and grey tones with either subtle or striking veining, marble is ideal for creating a classic and timeless aesthetic that never goes out of style.
Carrara and Calacatta are considered the most desirable (and costly) marble varieties due to their beautiful appearance and scarcity, however, other marble varieties such as Statuario, Crema Marfil and Arrabescato Vagli are also highly sought after.
While marble benchtops are extremely durable and heat-resistant, they can be very susceptible to staining, making regular sealing essential.
A harder stone than marble, granite is a very attractive and highly durable benchtop option that, while still at the top end of the pricing scale, is slightly a more cost-effective alternative to marble.
Available in an array of colours from black and brown, to grey, blue, beige, white, pink, burgundy, red, green and yellow, the options are wide and varied. Granite can also vary significantly between slabs in terms of pattern and veining, so if you’re very particular about the finished appearance, it may be worth hand-selecting the individual slab/s you would like to purchase.
As a relatively low-porous, stain- and heat-resistant stone, granite is very hard-wearing, however, it will still require regular sealing to maintain its optimal condition.
Often confused with engineered quartz, quartzite is a natural stone that can closely resemble marble with various patterns and veining. When present, quartz-like crystals can also add a slight sparkle to the benchtop surface.
Like most natural stone benchtop options, quartzite is very durable and hard-wearing, but will still require regular sealing.
Dolomite is another natural stone that is fast growing in popularity for use as a benchtop material. Harder than marble but softer than granite, it is more hard-wearing than marble and is typically available in various white and grey tones (sometimes with flecks of brown, pink, black, brown or green) with attractive patterns and veining which are very popular right now.
Travertine is a type of limestone that is most loved for its natural beauty. Not typically the best option for kitchen benchtops due to its softer, more porous characteristics that can make it highly susceptible to stains and damage, travertine can still be a good option if you like a more rustic appearance.
Typically featuring bold or distinctive patterns, swirls or veining, onyx is another natural stone option that can vary in colour from creamy beige tones, through to bright and vibrant shades of brown, orange, red and green. Like all natural stone benchtops, onyx will require regular sealing.
How Often Do Natural Stone Benchtops Need Sealing?
Your natural stone benchtop should be pre-sealed in the warehouse prior to being installed, but once installed, the sealing requirements of each benchtop may be different.
While some will comfortably go for years without requiring re-sealing, other more porous stone varieties may need resealing after as little as three months. In most cases, natural stone benchtops require sealing once every six to twelve months to retain their optimal appearance.
If you’re unsure if your benchtop needs to be re-sealed, simply pour a bit of water onto the benchtop and see what happens—if the water beads on top of the surface, the sealer is still doing a good job, however, if the water soaks into the stone, it’s due for re-sealing.
What’s Better: Natural or Engineered Stone Benchtops?
Both natural and engineered stone benchtops are revered for their attractive appearance and hard-wearing properties, however, there are a few differences between each option. Which is the better option will largely come down to your budget and personal preferences.
Here’s a quick rundown of how the two options differ:
- Natural stone is quarried directly from the earth. It is completely natural and pure, without the addition of any other materials.
- Natural stone is considered the ultimate in luxury and is typically sold at a premium price point.
- You may be restricted in terms of slab size and there can be significant variance in terms of pattern and colour between slabs.
- Most natural stones are very hard-wearing, however as they are porous, they will require regular sealing (generally every 6-12 months) to prevent staining and maintain their optimal appearance.
- Natural stone can be difficult to repair if cracked or damaged.
- Man-made stone which is manufactured using a combination of natural stone such as quartz or granite, resin and binding agents to emulate the look of natural stone.
- More affordable than natural stone.
- Is typically hard-wearing and provides good resistance to heat.
- Doesn’t require sealing.
- Greater consistency of colour and pattern between slabs.
- Minor damage can usually be repaired.
- While engineered stone benchtops pose no risk to consumers, they have been associated with issues relating to silicosis during the manufacturing process.
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