Natural stones tend to be people’s go-to pick when getting a countertop. It’s no surprise: they’re elegant, bring a lot of value to your home, and can last a very long time if used correctly. However, sometimes it’s a better idea to go for synthetic stone countertops.
Synthetic stone, also called composite or engineered stone, tends to be a bit looked down upon, but it doesn’t really deserve that. Its properties and durability make it a very underrated option. However, if you didn’t know better, you might also end up purchasing synthetic stone countertops without even noticing.
So, let’s find out what makes them so special.
How Synthetic Stone Countertops Are Made
Natural stone countertops are made from stones that come straight from the quarry. The rock is mined, and good care is used to preserve it in whatever size it was extracted. This rock can then be cut in many different forms, being slabs one of the most common shapes. This is what makes them natural: they’re pretty much just entire rocks that have been cut into multiple shapes, unchanged.
In order to use it as a countertop, the slab also goes through some treatments: it’s polished, in order to give it a smooth and flat surface, and sealed, in order to help prevent it from getting stains. Natural stones can be very porous, which makes them prone to getting stained.
Synthetic stone is a bit different. They still use the natural stone as a foundation – the stone itself isn’t synthesized, that part is still pretty natural. But, instead, of using neatly cut slabs from rock, they turn crushed rock into slabs.
Synthetic stone countertops are made from an agglomeration of small rocks, tied together by some kind of resin. They’re usually composed of about 95% stone to 5% resin, so it still feels and looks a lot like natural stone. Even though they aren’t pure stone, they’re still comparable to their natural counterparts in many ways. Depending on what you have in mind, they may be a great choice for you.
You may have seen or used synthetic stone without even noticing. Have you ever heard of quartz countertops? The term “quartz” here is an abbreviation of “engineered quartz”. They’re the engineered version of quartzite, and tend to be much more famous than their natural counterpart. That’s simply because white quartz looks a lot like marble while being much easier to maintain.
Synthetic Or Natural Stone?
The main features of synthetic stone is that it’s much harder and much more stain resistant. Both of those features have the same cause: much lower porosity.
Natural stone is naturally porous, a result from being formed of grains of sand being compressed and heated over extremely long periods of time. The grains fuse together and get hardened, but the spacing between them still remains somewhat.
For natural stone countertops, this is usually handled by sealing them. While the sealer helps, the materials it’s made of are not very resistant, and you end up having to reseal the stone from time to time.
With synthetic stone, the resin does the job. The process of joining the rock particles with resin makes it fill up those pores very well, so sealing is unnecessary. Filling the pores makes it harder for stains to form, as liquids can’t really get into the stone. But it also makes the stone harder, because porosity can make anything much more fragile.
Because of this hardness, it’s much less likely for synthetic stone to develop cracks and chips compared to natural stone, conserving its looks for a much longer time. It’s so hard that you could cut food directly on top of it if you wanted. Using cutting boards is still recommended to preserve it for a longer time, though.
Of course, nothing is perfect, so in order to know if synthetic stone countertops are the right option for you, it’s important to know what they don’t do very well too.
While the resin used is what manages to give it those great features, it’s also the weakest link in the stone. The resins are made of some kind of plastic or natural wax, meaning that they’re prone to heat and chemical damage.
Exposure to intense heat ends up degrading the resin over time. While this doesn’t mean you can’t put synthetic stones in your kitchen, it means that you have to be careful with hot pans. Placing them directly on the stone may damage it or at least etch it. You also shouldn’t put synthetic stone countertops outside, as they can be very easily damaged by sunlight.
You also have to be careful with the kinds of products you use around it. Natural stone is already prone to chemical etching, but the resin in synthetic stone can be even more sensitive to it. Etching is a big problem because you can’t remove it like you would remove a stain. You’d need to polish the slab all over again in order to do it.
Aside from that, the lesser perceived value that synthetic stone has may sometimes be a problem. If you’re working on building a home or apartment with the intention of selling or renting it, using natural stone can greatly increase its value. Quartz countertops may be the exception to it, though, as they are already very well liked.
We Can Help You Choose The Best Materials
Choosing a stone among the many kinds of natural stones currently used and their synthetic counterparts can be quite a difficult task. They come in many shapes and colors, have different maintenance needs, and their own recommended practices.
In these cases, the best thing you can do is get a specialist to pick the best stones for you. Having spent years on their job, they know what works and what doesn’t, and can give you some great ideas.
Here at Eagle Stones, we work with stones of all types, synthetic or not, and can help you with that. Just fill our contact form, and we’ll get in touch! It’s free, simple, and quick. You won’t regret getting such professional advice!