Pick the right surface for your space.

Laurey W. Glenn

Selecting the best countertops for your kitchen can be a tough decision. Laminate, butcher block, concrete, stone—the choices are seemingly endless (and get only more overwhelming when customization is thrown into the mix). Stone is a perennial favorite for countertops. Think about it—most kitchens you’ve walked into in the past decade probably look like a granite advertisement. Stone is a durable material that offers a wide range of options (and price points). But before selecting a slab, do your homework to ensure you’re picking the best material for your home’s specific needs. Here are five things to know before choosing stone countertops.

1. Know the common types of stone.

Six different kinds of stone are typically used for kitchen countertops: marble, granite, quartz, slate, limestone, and soapstone. Each option has its pros and cons—and deciding between one or another can depend on how you need the countertops to function in your specific space.

Marble, granite, slate, limestone, and soapstone are natural stones, while quartz is man-made. Because natural stones are quarried, there’s less control over colors and pattern of veining, and there’s a higher cost associated with them. Engineered quartz offers a range of customizable colors and patterns (which can mimic the look of marble and granite) at lower price points. Marble and granite top the list as the most expensive options.   

2. Know if the surface is heat resistant.

Natural stones are typically heat resistant, so marble, granite, limestone, slate, and soapstone can withstand high temperatures. Quartz will crack under extreme heat, so don’t place hot pots and pans directly onto the surface. While natural stones can stand up to high temps, it’s smart to place hot dishes on trivets or pads to be cautious and preserve the surfaces.

3. Know if the surface is porous.

Quartz is a nonporous surface that doesn’t require sealing; it’s resistant to stains and won’t absorb harmful bacteria, mold, mildew, or viruses. Soapstone and slate are also nonporous and don’t require sealing. Granite, limestone, and marble are porous stones that will easily stain, so sealing is necessary to preserve the look of these surfaces. Keep acidic foods, liquids, or cleaners away from granite, marble, and limestone; acid can break down the seal on these surfaces and cause stains. The nonporous surfaces can be cleaned with soap and water or a mild detergent.

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4. Know if the surface is susceptible to nicks and scratches.

While marble is a great surface for baking and making pasta, it’s a softer stone that can easily be nicked or scratched, so always use a cutting board. (The same applies to soapstone and limestone.) Granite and quartz are tougher surfaces that are more resistant to etches and scratches. Slate is a strong stone, but it has brittle edges. Be sure to round the edges of slate countertops to prevent chipping (and avoid injury if the ends become sharp).  

5. Know that DIYing isn’t a smart option.

It’s extremely difficult to cut and handle slabs of stone on your own, so call a professional to help install with your countertops.

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