Engineered stone countertops are remarkable products, offering the 'best of both worlds' regarding durability and aesthetics. They're made to look and feel like stone yet they possess enhancements that nature couldn't provide - namely, the durability and cleanliness that comes with a non-porous surface.
One of the most popular and widely used forms of engineered stone is quartz countertops. Brands like Silestone and Cambria use quartz as the primary ingredient in their engineered stone countertops and other surfacing products.
Quartz isn't the only form of stone that's used however. Granite, marble and semi-precious stones can be found in various engineered stone countertops, each with their own decorative and functional appeal.
And if looks are important (and when aren't they) engineered stone products do a terrific job of mimicking real stone. Colors and patterns have evolved to the point where these kinds of man-made surfaces look very natural and beautiful. And the best part is that you don't have to worry about the maintenance that goes along with some kinds of natural stone.
The term "engineered stone" is just a technical term that describes the combination of crushed natural stone and a resin binder. The binder holds the stone aggregate together. Through this combination the stone has been "engineered" to enhance it's properties, and form it into a product more workable and usable.
Engineered stone countertops are made in relatively thin slabs. The marriage between stone and resin is completed under intense heat and pressure. Pigments are added during the process to give the product its color. The resulting slab is then polished to a high gloss or honed to a more matte finish.
If this all sounds too technical, think of it as crushed stone that?s combined with a ?glue? and baked in a pan. That may be an oversimplification but it may help in understanding the basic concepts of what it is and how it?s made.
The key take-away from this bit-o-science is that the end result is a non-porous material, a very nice attribute for a countertop surface.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some manufacturers, particularly those that make quartz countertops, advertise their products as "natural quartz". And natural quartz it is - but it's not purely a slab of quartz that's been quarried and cut to size. Quartz is the key ingredient (usually about 93%), but the product you're getting is still the combination of quartz and other materials.
There's a lot of upside and not a lot of drawbacks with engineered stone countertops.
Non-Porous - A Good Thing - You've no doubt heard the stories about how you have to seal natural stones like granite. It's true. But with engineered stone, that's not necessary. Don't worry about the cooking oil making a dark spot on the quartz counter. It's highly resistant to stains. Take a look at natural granite. It shows the porosity and natural fissures that occur even after the surface is polished. Engineered stone is completely smooth with no small pits or pock marks.
Looks And Feels Like Stone - Engineered stone countertops are made to mimic the look of natural stone and manufacturers are getting better and better at it. It also has the smooth, hard surface finish just like a polished piece of granite, but it doesn't have the upkeep requirements.
Easy To Maintain - Being a non-porous surface means it's easy to clean and maintain. Nothing is bullet-proof but you won't have to tip-toe around a quartz countertop or continually seal it.
Lots Of Colors And Patterns - Whether you want a color that looks like stone or a fire-engine red countertop, there's an engineered stone countertop for you.
Color/Pattern Uniformity - If you're not wild about the pattern variations you get with natural stone slabs, engineered stone is a good choice. The color and particulate patterns are uniform and consistent over the entire surface area.
Resistant To Heat - An engineered stone countertop is more resistant to heat than a laminate or solid surface countertop. You won't want to make a habit of using
Some Products Can Be Expensive - Some, not all, engineered stone products can be costly. Cost per square foot will vary based on manufacturer, color and edge treatment.
It's Still Not Real Stone - This is one of those considerations that's dependent on your personal taste. Engineered stone can come pretty close to looking like real stone but it's not the real McCoy and doesn't have the natural variation of real stone.
But on that note, you be the judge. Which sample in the picture below is the engineered stone and which is real granite? Even if you can distinguish between real and not, you have to agree that the engineered stone does a pretty good impersonation.
From a functionality and durability perspective, there?s really not many negatives associated with engineered stone. That's why it carries the name it does it’s been engineered to offer the benefits of stone while eliminating the weak points.