Countertops FAQ

What is granite?
What is quartz?
What is marble?
Where does granite come from?
How are quartz countertops made?
What are the different types of countertop finishes?
What is the best way to go about countertop maintenance?
What vendors does Solid Rock Surfaces work with in the Kansas City area and where can I see samples of slabs?


What is granite?

Solid, durable, natural, warm and beautiful are just a few words about granite countertops that describe its uniqueness. Granite is an igneous rock that is formed under the earth’s surface from its magma, which is composed of a variety of minerals such as: quartz, feldspar, and mica. Granite got its name from the Latin word “granum”, which means grain. This is because it is a coarse-grained mineral and is classified as such by mineralogists. Granite gains its own unique and distinct texture from this grainy feature.

Granite is available in a variety of colors that include black, red and yellow depending on where it was formed. There are also different types of finishes that help to create unique slabs of granite that are ideal for distinctive and unique countertop surfaces.

Granite, like most other natural stones (e.g. marble, limestone, etc.), is hundreds and thousands of years old. When learning about granite countertops, you should know that just about all natural stones possess a porous surface. This means, if they aren’t sealed properly, they can be penetrated by liquids such as water and oil. Granite is the second hardest natural stone when it is compared to the diamond. It is more than strong enough for everyday use which is just one of the reasons it is an optimal material for countertops.
What is quartz?

Made from one of the hardest minerals on earth, quartz countertops are arguably the most durable option for kitchens. They’re also some of the most eye-catching. They come in a wide variety of colors, including fire-engine red and apple green, as well as earthy browns, blacks, and creams, with sparkles and veining for the look of granite or marble. But unlike natural-stone slabs, which are mined, these slabs are engineered in a factory. Their primary ingredient is ground quartz (about 94 percent), combined with polyester resins to bind it and pigments to give it color. For some designs, small amounts of recycled glass or metallic flecks are added to the mix. The resins also help make these counters stain and scratch resistant—and nonporous, so they never need to be sealed. Compare that with granite, the reigning king of high-end countertops, which typically requires a new protective top coat at least once a year.

In the past, the biggest knock against quartz was that it lacked the patterns and color variations you get with natural stone. But that’s a moot point now, with all the manufacturers offering multihued slabs with enough flecks, swirls, and random patterning to make them almost indistinguishable from the real thing. They were once available only with a polished finish; now you can get one with a honed, sandblasted, or embossed treatment. So if it’s the look of matte limestone, textured slate, or glossy granite that you want, there’s a quartz countertop for you.

Citation: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20716579,00.html


What is marble?

Marble is a metamorphic stone found in mountainous regions of North America, South America, Asia, and Europe – from Colorado to Brazil to Italy. It’s created by the physical or chemical alteration of sediment into a denser form through heat and/or pressure. The resulting rock has a crystalline nature enabling it to take a polish. It also has veins of mineral deposits that pattern it, no two slabs exactly alike.

Marble is one of the more porous of the metamorphic stones, which is why it’s prone to staining. While not as hard as its metamorphic cousin granite (which comes from deeper in the earth where it’s exposed to more heat), marble is not as soft as soapstone. It generally has a low abrasion rating, meaning it scratches quite easily. The stone’s chemical makeup (calcium carbonate) makes it particularly sensitive to acidic solutions, which can result in etching on the surface (see below to learn to manage this). On the plus side, marble is heat resistant, strong, and generally doesn’t chip or dent.


Where does granite come from?

Granite comes from far below the earth’s surface and forms during a process that can take upwards of thousands of years. Over a long period of time, liquid magma is forced back and forth between different layers of rock. When it finally cools, it forms a solid layer of granite rock. Granite acquires its signature crystalline appearance from the trace mineral elements that are still attached to the surface after its cooling process. It is during this process that granite becomes an extremely hard and durable stone, making it perfect for countertops and vanities.

Learning about granite countertops is a long process. It helps to discover where granite gets its features to better understand and appreciate its beauty. Granite’s features depend on where in the world that particular portion of rock was formed. Although granite is distributed vastly throughout the world, it is generally manufactured in countries such as Africa, Spain, India, Brazil, China and Norway where there are high volumes of the stone. Amazingly, knowledgeable experts are able to determine specifically where a particular piece of granite came from based solely on its color alone.

Granite’s overall color is influenced mainly, by the minerals that are fused inside each slab. For example, quartz adds a soft white color, while feldspar will add a blue or a green tint to the granite.


How are quartz countertops made?

Natural-quartz crystals are mined, then ground into a dust or an aggregate that’s fused with resin binders under intense heat and pressure to form a solid slab. Pigments added during the process impart color to the countertop.

Citation: http://www.thisoldhouse.com/toh/photos/0,,20716579,00.html


What are the different types of countertop finishes?

Countertop surfaces are finished in many ways, but the three main finishes we install, in order of popularity are; polished, honed, and leathered/suede. Each technique will add its own unique look and texture to the stone.

Polished finishes are created by running the stone through a grinding, buffing, and polishing process resulting in a high-gloss slick surface. A polished finish is definitely the most common because of a few key factors involved. Polished finishes will help to give your home a distinct and elegant look. This type of finish is a great choice, especially for kitchens. A polished finish is easier to maintain than most other finishes and its sparkling appearance is known to bring out all the details – the color, veining, movement, and character of your stone. (Caveat: While polished marble is the least porous of the finishes, it’s the most susceptible to getting etched by household acids and cleaners.) Polished finishes can often be described as both shiny and mirror-like.

Honed finishes are slowly becoming more and more popular for newly installed countertops. It is created by sanding the stone so that is has a satiny-smooth finish – an almost soft feel. The result is that it is less shiny than the polished finishes. A honed surface doesn’t show as many scratches and flaws as a polished finish, and it also mutes the color of the stone. Its less shimmering appearance gives your home a slightly more causal and contemporary feel while still maintaining the elegant feel stone surfaces are known for providing

A drawback of honed finishes is they are, unfortunately, known to show more stains when compared to other finishes. For example, honing the surface opens the pores of the marble, making it more susceptible to staining. However, don’t let this deter you from this choice. As long as you make any effort to clean, maintain and care for your countertops, they will be just fine. There are also certain sealers and various types of treatments that will help keep your beautiful honed countertops stain free. Just like all other countertops and finishes, honed countertops are extremely durable and, if taken care of, will last a lifetime.

Leathered finishes have gone through the process of adding a leather-like texture to a honed surface. The result is that the granite or marble appears less glossy. This process amplifies the natural characteristics of granite or marble, resulting in an exquisite surface. It is mostly commonly used with dark stones and is an effective concealer of fingerprints and other imperfections. Therefore, it is easy to clean and maintain, as well as, pleasing to the touch – a perfect balance between style and practicality. Note that the amount of texture created in the process varies from stone to stone. A leathered countertop is a fresh and innovative way of adding a subtle elegance to your decor.


What is the best way to go about countertop maintenance?

Please view our Maintenance Instructions for all surfaces section HERE.


What vendors does Solid Rock Surfaces work with in the Kansas City area and where can I see samples of
slabs?

Solid Rock Surfaces has accounts with and directs customers to view countertop slabs at the following vendors:

Unique Stone Concepts
9801 Commerce Pkwy., Lenexa, KS 66219
913-703-7752

Bedrock International
9929 Lackman Rd., Lenexa, KS 66219
913-438-7625

Daltile
15300 West 101 Terr., Lenexa KS 66219
913-438-6500

MS International (MSI)
9730 Alden St., Lenexa, KS 66215
913-953-3200

Sun Marble
9600 Dice Ln., Lenexa, KS 66215
913-438-3366

Stone and Beyond
3175 Terrace St., Kansas City, MO 64111
816-753-5495