DEAR TIM: I have read a great deal about granite countertops and I am very confused. Will granite stain? Does it have to be sealed? Is it better or worse than the solid surface tops that try to look like granite? Is granite child-proof? I am moving into my last home, I hope, and I do not want to make a mistake. Maj. Brian McK., Quantico, VA
DEAR MAJ. BRIAN: I have seen several horse races in the past that required a photo finish result to determine the winner. There is no doubt in my mind there have been other past horse races that have ended in a dead heat with no clear winner. That is how I feel about the comparison between granite,solid surface and the new stone composite countertops. All of them are top-of-the-line products that have their own nuances.
Both granite and solid surface countertops have been installed on many of my past jobs. I have granite tops in my own home. I have never heard a complaint from any of my past customers regarding the beauty or functionality of the tops. In fact, my past clients continually gush about the wonderful countertops they own. In my own case, the fix was in. My college degree is geology and I happen to be very partial to natural stone products. I have yet to find a man-made countertop material that even comes close to what Mother Nature can produce on her worst day.
Before I digress further, let me describe a countertop material you may not know about - natural stone composites. Several manufacturers are making a countertop material that is a blend of natural stone and synthetic resins that hold the stone chips together. These new products are very eye-catching and sport many of the positive attributes of both natural stone and solid surface countertops. My only complaint with these tops is that a side-by-side comparison with real granite will quickly indicate to you that this new product is an impostor. But, you should definitely give it a serious look before you make a final decision. It may possess the exact look you and your family desires.
Does granite stain? I think the better question is: Do all countertops stain? The answer is- Yes to all. Granite, by its very nature, contains micro fissures where the quartz, mica and feldspar minerals interconnect. Some granites are more porous than others. But the highly polished granite is highly resistant to staining, especially when it is sealed. The biggest enemy to granite happens to be oil. Cooking oils, olive oil, bacon grease, oil that seeps through pizza boxes, etc. are to be treated with respect. Oil that seeps into granite can be removed and sometimes it dissipates on its own over time. But once again, regular sealing will almost always stop oil from damaging the top.
Sealing granite is simple. The clear sealers are applied with a cotton rag and simply rubbed into the surface. Often it only needs to be done twice a year. Sealing granite is by no means a hardship and it takes just a few moments of your time. I feel it is a very small price to pay for the beauty and durability you get with a granite top.
If you want a child-proof countertop, perhaps you better get a military surplus piece of armor plating from a tank or warship. I have seen firsthand damage caused by both children and adults to all countertops. Often people panic when a granite top is chipped or a small corner cracks off. They throw away the chunks or chips of stone in frustration after the accident happens. Never discard any of this debris. Bag it up carefully and call your granite fabricator. They have fantastic clear colored epoxies that can be used in conjunction with the granite chips to rebuild the top.
Perhaps this will help you. My wife and I are about to remodel our own kitchen. We have several different countertop areas in our kitchen. Do you know what kind of material we plan to install? In all likelihood it will be a blend of materials. There is a good chance that we will use several types of natural stone along with a few pieces of solid surface countertop in strategic locations. I have done this before on several jobs. If you pick materials that blend well together, the look is stunning.