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This article explains the importance of choosing a suitable surface for your kitchen worktops and how to secure your material once you find the ideal stone for your home.
Our kitchens tell the story of those who live there. It’s our one chance to show who we are and influence how our families live at the end of the day—every detail counts.
I’m hoping to change your mind today, moving you away from all the usual granite worktop options to some new ideas that might change it up a little bit. Whether it’s marble or quartzite, limestone or concrete, there’s life after granite worktops.
First, let’s make clear that granite is the most robust natural stone, alongside quartzite, for kitchen worktops. Not only that, these rate 7 out of 10 on Moh’s scale of mineral hardness. But also because they don’t contain any calcitic minerals, meaning that can’t etch when you expose them to acids from juices, lemons and oranges.
At the same time, with the new sealants today, almost any worktop can pass the durability factor test. It is because modern sealants are easy to apply, making natural stones highly stain-resistant. But they don’t make them stain-proof.
Second, just because we love granite does not mean we need to have it on every surface. It’s fun to mix stone up a little bit.
And, number three is that kitchen worktops do contribute to the overall look of your home. But instead of choosing ones with traditional patterns and speckles, let’s consider others that are a little more delicate and subtle.
Using heavily patterned as kitchen worktops and splashbacks
The above photo of Wild Mirage is an example of grey marble. We love the murky tones and the warmness that it offers. It’s lovely in a kitchen, but it’s also an example of too much of a good thing. So, instead of placing the slab material as your splashback, you can throw in some stimulating tile splashbacks. And if you’re still worried about the durability factor, go ahead and make a cutting board out of the same material and place it in the worktops’ hotspots.
Looking for efficiency? Choose polished, honed or texture quartz.
Now let’s discuss quartz worktops. They’re incredibly consistent versus working with marble, which of course, is natural and from the Earth. In addition, quartz is very efficient because the manufacturers create them in standard sizes to go with the dimensions of your kitchen cabinets, ensuring there you don’t have significant waste from each sheet.
Finally, we love quartz because it’s inexpensive compared to the more rare types of marble. For example, Silestone Calacatta Gold costs 50% less than the natural Calacatta marble it’s imitating:
And lastly, you’ve got to love the durability of a quartz kitchen worktop. Not only contains 93% quartz crystals mixed with tough resin, but it also comes with a 25-year manufacturer’s warranty. So, you just can’t beat the durability of this material.
But, then, you might want to consider minimising the polished, shiny effect and honing the worktop. If you’re going to reduce the dose of drama within the worktop surface, choosing a Silestone Calacatta Gold Suede, a matt-textured finish, will accomplish that.
And you could also consider using a river-washed finish for your counter worktops. That way, the space gets even more organic and natural.
Back to point number three, while the worktops could contribute to a room in some grand fashion for modern kitchens, you want it to stay unpretentious. So, as you can see in the kitchen above, we’re leaning on the white kitchen cabinets and the industrial look to match it.
That’s also why the work surface does not have a large overhang, letting the cabinet face and the worktop flush. But there is one thing I need to warn you about Please do not wait till the last minute to pick out your worktop material. That’s the number one problem when it comes to meeting project’s deadlines. I find many people think they can walk down to the yard, see precisely what they’re looking for and pick it.
And when they can’t find the precise material they had in mind. and exhaust the options, they settle for something that wasn’t their first choice. But do they choose a slab? Many times, only because it is quick and easy. But your kitchen worktops are essential. Therefore, you must pick your ideal stone early, put your name on it, and ask your worktop supplier to hold it for you.
Kitchen worktops lead times after Brexit.
See, after Brexit, importing stones into the UK has become a slower process. And analysts expect this to continue in 2022.
There are marble quarries worldwide, but Italy has the most famous marble types. And most engineered stone worktops manufacturers are original from Spain and Italy. Silestone, Compac, CRL Quartz, Neolith, Quartzforms, and Quarella are leading brands from Europe.
Before Brexit, European surface manufacturers could bring their products into the UK within a week. But the red tape now makes the import process of some stones slower. In addition, it forces stone manufacturers to offer some of their products as ‘special order materials’, taking somewhere between three weeks (i.e. Silestone, Compac, Unistone) and up to thirteen weeks (i.e. Caesarstone Honed finish products come from Israel) lead times from the time you place an order.
It works similarly with natural stones such as granite, marbles like Nero Marquina, and quartzite: whereas a specific marble or limestone took one week to arrive from Italy; in 2022, it can take two and up to four weeks to receive it.
But it would help if you are not discouraged when learning about the long lead times of special stones, as approximately ninety per cent of all surface materials are standard. Therefore, it’s likely that lead times will apply only when you require a non-standard material or finish. Here are some examples of what UK stone worktop suppliers and stone importers consider non-standard:
- 12 mm quartz slabs: The standard thickness for quartz worktops is 20 mm and 30 mm. 12 mm quartz is more in-demand for furniture cladding. But the market demand for furniture cladding is much lower than for kitchen worktops.
- Worktop finishes that aren’t polished: The term “marble” comes from the Ancient Greek o (mármaron), from (mármaros), “crystalline rock, dazzling stone,” possibly from the verb (marmar), “to flash, shine, gleam”; R. S. P. Beekes suggests that a “Pre-Greek origin is possible.” The very same etymology of the word marble indicates a shiny stone which is the finish that the stone industry adopts as standard. Other finishes such as Suede, Textured, Riverwashed, Leather, Satinato, Flamed, and more, are likely to carry a lead time from the time you order to delivery of the final product.
- Jumbo and Giant Slabs: for the past 25 years, the standard slab size of a quartz slab has been 3000 x 1400 mm. But with the advent of using kitchens as a social space, the size of kitchen islands continues to increase. And it is for this reason, that many brands have started manufacturing slabs with dimensions of 3200 x 1600 mm. We believe that these slabs will become ‘standard size’ eventually.In the meantime, you can check when a Jumbo slab of a particular type or brand carries a lead time before placing an order with your supplier. The same applies to ‘Giant slabs’, which measure 3300x1650mm across different brands.
If you pick your ideal countertop material with enough time, your worktops will be ready for installation as soon as your kitchen is prepared to receive the stone. Therefore, one of the first things we consider when meeting our clients is to show them different worktop options. Then, we arrange a slab viewing appointment to see what the materials look like in the flesh.
The below photo shows a gorgeous Calacatta Gold marble slab.
I love the prominent veins and the white, but one thing I don’t love about this particular piece of it is all of the greys. I’m used to seeing a little brown and more warmth on Calcutta Gold marble. Therefore, I wouldn’t pick this slab for my kitchen. Once you find a slab that you like, you must quickly put your name on it, find the one that works for you now, and only because it’s a marble doesn’t mean it’s perfect. Even some of the types of marble have a little too much going on in a kitchen. It’d be hard to make this look clean, simple, and fresh.
Now, check this other example of Calacatta Gold.
You can see the difference between this slab and the one we saw before. This Calacatta Gold marble slab has significantly more action and dynamism throughout its surface.
Tip: Just so that you know, when visiting stone importers, you may see offcuts located somewhere around the stone yard. Those could be remnant pieces from broken slabs and leftovers from huge marble slabs that others didn’t use. So, remember when you’re picking out large slabs to think of how you might use the other small bits you get after it’s all been cut out or come to the yard and find remits for yourself for those smaller areas. Of course, the best way to avoid waste is by asking your worktop supplier what the ideal size slab for your kitchen is once they have looked at your plans or drawings.
Now let’s talk about Carrara marble. The most popular marble worktop.
You can assume it is durable when you see this marble continuously across old European restaurants and kitchens. And with the sealants we have today, this product will work in your kitchen. In addition to bringing light into it, Carrara can make your kitchen look spacious. One little-known fact is that White Carrara marble doesn’t have extremely high porosity, meaning and it is perfectly suitable for any kitchen. Another myth is that Bianco Carrara is expensive. On the contrary, Carrara marble kitchen worktops are one of the most affordable options for durable yet stunning surfaces.
Note: You haven’t heard me mention travertine too much in the article, and that’s because generally, people don’t use them as kitchen worktops any longer due to their high porosity compared to the other decorative stones. However, limestone is suitable for bathrooms, as well as travertine.
After all, the stone sealants are so much better now than they used to be only five years ago. It makes them stand when we weigh the durability factor.
Next, below is a perfect example of a gorgeous Calcutta Gold-like natural stone that looks a lot like the slabs seen in Italy. But you may be stunned to learn it is not marble.
Don’t you love all the fabulous, golden hues? They’re very close in value, yet they contribute a little colour. I love this stone. It is Taj Mahal quartzite. The cool thing about quartzite is that it looks like a marble, but it’s a natural quartzite (different to manufactured quartz), which is way more durable. Quartzite is more like the granite when you consider the minerals that compose it, lacking calcium, which can etch under the exposure of acids.
I offered it to a client recently, and it was the perfect answer to that character you want in your kitchen. So, first, I discussed with my client about this very cool white and golden, subtle worktop. Then, we arranged a slab viewing appointment at the stone yard.
And, they found the above bold-looking material. It is dramatic, and it has large golden areas. Conveniently, we created the sink cut out in that section. Lesson: look for ways to cut out sections and use them differently not to waste the whole worktop.
As you can see, there is a lot to think about when picking your kitchen worktops. Let me know about any questions you may have. I hope some of these guidelines and tips help you choose a suitable material for your kitchen and bathroom. It is another helpful article on our blog. I’m Maria Kairuz, Operations Manager at The Worktop Library in London. Do you want to know everything that happens in the kitchen worktop industry? Then, subscribe to The Worktop Library Blog.
Meet Alan Nussbaum, our Sales and Marketing Manager, whose expertise in stone worktops is second to none. With almost two decades of experience, Alan’s impressive track record includes creating one of the first online stone companies in 2012 and pioneering the acceptance of cryptocurrencies in construction in 2018 before co-founding The Worktop Library with Maria.
Alan’s outstanding work is featured in numerous Stone and Home Decor magazines. In addition, he collaborates with the industry’s leading stone brands, cementing his reputation as a true innovator.
Before starting a thriving career in the stone industry, Alan honed his skills by overseeing luxury fashion brands such as Burberry, Matches Fashion, and Patrick Cox. With his unique blend of experience and expertise, Alan is a true trailblazer in the stone worktop industry. His passion for delivering exceptional service is evident in every aspect of his work.