A: Great question! The answer depends on a variety of factors.
People come to us at all stages of their project. Some have their stone all picked out, plans drawn up, and are ready to go. Others are just beginning the process and haven’t decided on a material yet. This post is for them.
There are thousands of stones to choose from in nearly every color and pattern imaginable. And if that weren’t enough, you have to choose between granite, marble, limestone, quartz, soapstone, etc. Every stone is beautiful. Every stone is different. What we recommend is finding out all the specifics about each stone type so you can make an informed decision about which stone is right for you.
This is just an overview post. For more detailed information about each type of stone, click on each heading to be taken to that stone’s information page.
Marble is a beautiful stone which can range from nearly pure white to deep browns, greens, and black. It is a calcareous stone that is susceptible to staining, scratching, and etching. Because the composition of the stone is mostly alkaline, it reacts with acids such as lemon, vinegar, tomato, and some cleaning agents. Marble must be treated with care to keep its high gloss finish as any acids will etch the surface. Or, it can be used in a honed finish, which is what we recommend for use in high use areas such as kitchens. Due to its higher maintenance needs, marble is best used in light use areas such as bathrooms, fireplaces, and furnishings.
Granite is available in hundreds of different colors and patterns, and each slab is unique. It’s a durable stone composed mainly of quartz, feldspar, mica, and hornblende. Granites have a characteristic granular appearance and come in a wide variety of colors and patterns – from uniform, single colors to large scale, multicolored patterns that sweep across the slab. It’s low maintenance and not only is it scratch and stain resistant, but it doesn’t etch like marble. For these reasons it is recommended for everything from kitchens to bathroom vanities to fireplaces and high traffic floors.
Soapstone is softer than other natural stones, so it is more susceptible to scratching and chipping. It is also, however, much easier to repair as most scratches can be oiled out, or sanded out for deeper scratches. It’s completely inert, so will not stain or etch from acids like marble. Soapstone has been used for years in pizza ovens, wood stoves, and fireplace liners because of its amazing heat retention. It won’t crack under heat, so you can set hot pans directly on the counter. Most people opt to oil soapstone to speed up the aging process. Aged soapstone has a beautiful, dark patina. Soapstone is great for kitchen counters, fireplaces, anywhere where there might be heat involved.
Engineered quartz products are made by mixing 93% natural quartz with high quality resins and dyes to create a very durable finished product that has the look and feel of stone. It is stain and heat resistant and available in a variety of finishes just like natural stone. Pricewise quartz tends to be priced the same as lower-priced granites. Soapstone options range from solid colors to patterns which emulate the look of granites and marbles.
Not to be confused with the manmade material, quartzite is a natural stone that is becoming increasingly popular for its marble-like appearance and durability. Quartzite is a metamorphic rock that began its life as sandstone, but underwent extreme heat and pressure. It has a very high quartz content (hence the name) which makes it extremely hard and durable, harder even than granite. Quartzite is often white or grey with veining patterns similar to granite. It’s a great choice for kitchens, bathrooms, fireplace surrounds, anything really!
One word of caution: make sure what you are buying is a true quartzite. Many slabs being sold as quartzite are actually marbles, and will etch, bruise, and stain like marbles do. Be sure to buy your materials from a reputable fabricator who can guarantee your material matches its name.
Limestone is similar to marble, and its usage recommendations are similar also. Some limestone can be polished to a high gloss finish, and some cannot. Limestone is an excellent choice for dimensional applications such as fireplaces, columns, window sills, and railings. It is one of the few stones domestically available in varying thicknesses, which makes it great for creating natural stone fireplaces.
Travertine is also similar to marble, but, when formed, water was trapped in the stone, leaving behind holes as it dissipated. This gives travertine a characteristic look with linear crevices and pitting that can be left as is or filled. If left unfilled, travertine may not be suitable for horizontal surfaces, but can look great when placed vertically on walls or fireplace surrounds, for example.
Come by our showroom or call us at (503) 234-5361 if you want more information or have any questions about a particular stone.