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Countertop material: granite vs. solid surface (corian) vs. engineered stone (silestone)

I am trying to decide between three different materials for countertops. I currently have corian and it has a lot of scratches in it and I am deathly afraid to set hot things on it because a friend had some heat damage to hers. Have never had granite or engineered stone but my research has indicated that either one of them would be better than the corian. Cost will end up being a factor, but until I price them out based on my kitchen measurements I'd love to know if I should eliminate any of these right off the bat or if there is a clearly superior choice among the three.

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  1. A granite top is for life. I don't have a clue about silestone. We, however, are putting in an all stainless kitchen in a house we are building (keeping granite in the apartment).

    4 Replies
    1. re: Sam Fujisaka

      I recently restored/renovated & added on to my kitchen. I went round & round on this topic & finally allowed my architect to talk me into marble counter/work tops & marble floors. Initially I wanted all stainless, but at the very end switched to the marble alternative - I'm most grateful that I did.

      1. re: JayVaBeach

        architects often have only half the info they need. talk to an NKBA certified kitchen designer!!!!! FYI: marble is soft and porous and not really appropriate for kitchen use even though you see it in shelter publications everywhere. It stains! Think red wine..... It's fine for vanity tops. A suggestion? Get yourself a price range. Just measure linear feet, number of cut-outs like sinks, drop-in cooktops. Fancy edges cost more! Do you want standard 4" backsplash? Get the price first! Ceasarstone has a beautiful honed white that looks a lot like limestone and won't stain! AND.... you can use solid surface, light color, no aggregate on the perimeter counter and do something stunning on the island. DO NOT RELY ON YOUR ARCHITECT FOR KITCHEN DESIGN!!! BTW, go to the stone yard yourself and choose your slab. Make sure they mark that slab as yours!! It's stone....... an interesting under-used alternative to granite, which does have cracks.... is slate. approximate absorptive capacity of glass. it is not highly polished. you can oil it or not. again, though, choose your slab!

        1. re: lil magill

          Yes well I AM an architect and have been designing COMMERCIAL kitchen for 10 years now and unlike 2 year trade courses like your NKBA, I studied for 5 years plus 2 years to register. The reason why it is a 5 year course is we have to learn all aspects of design and constuction hence it is a more holistic approach to solving problems not just learning what types of benchtops are out there. Just because you wanted a quick degree don't bad-mouth people who have the committment to undertake long enduring study to be good designers

          1. re: tin01man

            You are a obviously a uniquely qualified architect who has a specific interest in designing kitchens. Many, perhaps most architects, are less knowledgeable about kitchen design than are certified kitchen designers. I asked an architect friend who designs residences about this, and he freely acknowledged that although he can specify countertop materials and is pretty good at what works in a kitchen layout, he and his clients usually interact with a kitchen designer re appliances, fixtures (lighting & plumbing), and other details of the design.

    2. Granite is a very nice surface for pastry work, but I don't like the over polished sheen that is so popular. If cost were no object I would choose soapstone. It needs a occasional wipe-down with mineral oil to seal it, but I like the period look, and the durability of it.

      P.S. Sam, I would suggest that you have some kind of sound dampening applied to the underside of the stainless counter top, as they can be very noisy in a residential installation.

      26 Replies
      1. re: Kelli2006

        Kelli2006, thanks. Spot on. We're having a local restaurant supply factory (very small & inexpensive by US standards) put it in. Thick enough that there is not that much noise. Plus, the house is where one of the great things is that there are no (other) noises.

        1. re: Kelli2006

          FYI, the oil isn't to seal soapstone. Soapstone in non-porous. The oil helps it oxidize, which creates the deep gray/black look that most of us like (when you first get it, it is dull medium gray). You actually don't even have to do this, since it will oxidize on it's own, but more slowly. I love the way soapstone looks-we have it in our kitchen-but it's not for everyone as it scratches and chips VERY easily, and the scratches and chips are a chalky white, not the color of the stone's exterior, so they are very visible. In our old house, though, it was the only thing we thought really "fit in."

          If I had to do it all again I would learn more about honed granite-they hone it so it doesn't have that obnoxious shine. It is more expensive than regular granite, though.

          1. re: christy319

            honed shouldn't cost more than polished -- honed, polished, flamed, are all finishes that can be applied to many different kinds of stone. you don't need to 'reseal' granite unless you want to maintain the polish; granite is generally hard enough and non-porous enough to not need a sealer. marble, on the other hand needs more regular maintenance to prevent etching and staining.

            1. re: bothrops_asper

              Sorry, but that's not entirely correct. Unsealed granite is porous, the entire point of sealing it is to close the pores and avoid food contamination. Heat destroys the seal, making resealing a necessity.

              1. re: andreas

                You can't generalize about the porosity of "granite". Some granite is highly non-porous and does not require sealing. Many stones sold as "granite" are not true granites, and may be subject to oil staining and etching with acids such as lemon juice. Deal with a reputable supplier and educate yourself.

                1. re: andreas

                  I have a friend with a true granite counter top and it is porous and has oil spots.

                2. re: bothrops_asper

                  i disagree. don't know where you get your information but..... granite comes into the country already polished. Honing it back to that state require machines, time, labor.... Granite should be resealed every time you change your clocks and the batteries in your smoke detectors. Granite slabs very often have fiberglass mesh glued to the backs precisely because it does crack..... and you can etch it. FYI, if you use your knives on granite you'll be sharpening them more often.

                  1. re: lil magill

                    Not all granite is created equal. In fact, you might say no two pieces of granite are the same. But as a general rule of thumb, granite has to be cut pretty thin to require fiberglass mesh on the back to stabilize against cracking. Well, unless it's cracked to start with, and then it should be greatly discounted.

                    Not all granite needs to be sealed. It depends on your particular piece of granite's density. As a general rule of thumb, lighter colored granites and mottled granites require sealing more often than darker granites. There is a very simple way to tell whether your granite is in need of resealing. Fold up a paper towel into quarter size, soak it, sit it on your most used granite surface and leave it alone for half an hour. When you remove the wet towel, if the granite under it is darker than the surrounding granite, it's time to reseal. I have black granite that was sealed when it was installed two years ago and shows no sign of needing another sealing. Fact is some granite is so dense and nonporous it doesn't need sealing at all, though most installers will slap a coat of sealer on it simply because it's company policy. But you're absolutely right. The worst thing you can do for any knife is use it on a rock surface. Granite is rock. Very hard rock!

                    1. re: Caroline1

                      when you visit the stone yard to select your slab(s) you will notice that 3 cm slabs -- standard for kitchens (2cm for vanities only; 1cm for yachts and airplanes!) will more often than you'd expect to see with glue and fiberglass mesh on the back..... stone is hard and doesn't flex. when it gets moved, sometimes it requires a little stabilization and repair.

                      1. re: lil magill

                        I have worked for a granite company for 2 years. We sell pre-fabricated 2CM for kitchens all the time. Deciding between 2CM & 3CM is totally a preference. People like the "look" of either one. Both are fine. Custom orders are usually 3 CM (full slab) again, both are suitable for kitchens.

                  2. re: bothrops_asper

                    sorry,
                    i've seen plenty of granite coutertops with WATER stains.
                    granted after a while the water will evaporate out of the stone, but far better to SEAL it to prevent this.

                    i've also seen water stains after a rainstorm on granite that has been used on the exterior of buildings.. . .

                  3. re: christy319

                    We are thinking of soapstone and also have an old house. When you chip or scratch the soaps stone does it look natural? Can the mineral oil help bring it back to the orginal color?

                    1. re: Barnalla

                      A chip or scratch in soapstone will be disguised with a application of mineral oil. My counters are 12 years old and still look brand new.

                      I never cut on my counters, but they will get very light scratches from pans, though they disappear when oiled.

                    2. re: christy319

                      If it's non porous, why did the oil I got on my sister's new countertop stain it, which stain hasn't come out yet? (3 months later)

                      1. re: chazzerking

                        If she wants the stain out, then cover the entire counter with whatever kind of oil you spilled. The reason it "stained" is that the oil you spilled sealed the spot under it. But it will be MUCH darker than in the natural unseaaled state. But it will also be more sanitary.

                        1. re: Caroline1

                          If granite is not sealed properly then citrus, oil or even water can stain it. There is a lot of "granite" being sold that is actually quartz or other stone. Try asking for a sample of the product you are looking at to take home to color test in your kitchen. Every stone shop has left over pieces from cutting. If they won't give you one choose another shop. When you have the sample at home put oil and lemon juice on it. If it stains do not buy that product.

                          1. re: Docsknotinn

                            Citrus and oil will not etch or stain high-quality true granites. The problem is that many different varieties of stone are sold under the name "granite" and they have varying performance characteristics. I would NEVER install a stone subject to oil or citrus damage in a kitchen. Deal with a reputable, honest supplier, and do your homework.

                            1. re: Docsknotinn

                              Dear Docsknotinn - To say that if oil or lemon juice is to be used to test granite is rediculious. Granite is naturally porus & needs to be sealed. I work for a granite company and we give away samples all the time. If they used that test no one would ever buy granite anywhere. We recommend and demonstrate in our showroom an Impregnating sealer. One time application by a professional does it. Granite needs to be sealed to prevent stains, esp. from oil.

                          2. re: chazzerking

                            If you do not wish to oil your entire counter and wish to keep it the depth of color it currently is, ask your stone dealer to recommend or provide a poultice for your stone. I had a client who installed honey onyx as their bathroom vanity top in there second home. They left a red bees wax candle directly on the stone. Returning three months later to find the oil had permeated the about 1/2" into the stone. We used three applications of the poultice provided by our stone fabricator and was able to remove the oil without any residue.

                            Our course of action was to heat the stone and 'melt' the oil through the stone. Glad we never had to try it.

                          3. re: christy319

                            My soapstone has a few scratches but they eventually turned back to the exterior color and if you apply oil it happens faster. I've had mine three years. There are varying types of soapstones, softer and harder. They will have the patina of life though.

                          4. re: Kelli2006

                            Kelli is right about the high polish. AVOID using puck lights under your wall cabinets, especially halogen!! Too hot and too much blow-back reflection in your eyes. Use shaded xenon. I would never want a highly polished floor in a kitchen either. Too slippery, too hard, too hard to keep clean and nice while you entertain. I like Natural Cork.

                            1. re: lil magill

                              Xenons are almost as hot as halogens. I went with LEDs, but the light is bluish. I almost wish I'd gone for fluorescent now, but they're installed already.

                              1. re: dmd_kc

                                Fluorescents can modify colors over time so be careful where you use them.

                                1. re: dmd_kc

                                  i always specced kichler shaded xenons. clean light. shaded. and god forgive me if i ever gave anyone black countertops! i have a display kitchen in which i cook for paying guests and i make sure to add extra prep time to keep it looking neat and tidy. lots of time! every bit of stray flour, bread crumbs, water, dried up water. wiped up water. water, i swear, that never even was on it, leaves the whole place looking ugly-awful. add to that two s/s backsplashes, s/s sub-zero, viking, hood and warming shelf, asko d/w and two FLAT BOTTOMED sinks! at least it's pretty. just before i leave to go home! the rest of the time i'm doing beauty maintenance on it...................

                                  1. re: lil magill

                                    The form versus function dilemma. Now me, I can't cook without spraying the ingredients over the counters, further overspill landing on the floor. Knowing this I picked a floor tile that shows nothing - something like this...

                                    http://www.griva.lv/data/gallery_imag...

                                    You can tell when it needs cleaning by the little crunchy noises under your feet. Many moons ago, when enthusiasm swamped experience, I installed a plain brown carpet. You could see a salt grain at 5 paces. At that point I learned that looking clean is more important than being clean.

                                    At least in terms of floors.

                              2. re: Kelli2006

                                I recommend you research mineral oil as a "sealer" for Soapstone??

                              3. Silestone. It's non-porous.

                                If you must go with natural, than granite. Keep in mind though that granite must be sealed at least once a year; more if you like to do things like put hot pots on it.

                                I hate Corian. I have never seen a Corian countertop withstand any sort of use.

                                10 Replies
                                1. re: Shazam

                                  When we redid our kitchen we looked at Corian Silestone and Grabit - and decided on the silestone - prime reason no maintenance you do not need to treat it - with silestone clean up is a breeze and has been impercious to anything we have done to it -

                                  1. re: weinstein5

                                    I chose Silestone over Granite and I am glad that I did. Like you said....no maintenance and if I ever have a problem with it, it can be replaced a section of it and will match what I have now. Once, all the piece of granite you chose has been taken out of the ground...you will never be able to match it if you need to replace a section of your countertop if you need to!

                                    1. re: ruffhouse

                                      We also debated and chose Silestone over granite. We love the absolute zero maintenance and the look was more appealing than all of the granite I'd looked at.

                                      1. re: ruffhouse

                                        Siltstone is purchased in color lots, like wall paper or paint....a replacement will never match. Possibly close enough if across the room from existing but no match.

                                      1. re: Shazam

                                        Unethical companies that sell granite sealers will tell you that ALL granite countertops must be sealed once a year. It is a myth intended to sell more granite sealer. Some high-performing granites never need a sealer, and lower-quality, porous stones subject to oil staining and acid damage should be resealed frequently.

                                        1. re: TopRepair

                                          TopRepair,
                                          Don't know if you are aware but there is a sealer on the market that is an impregnating one that only needs to be applied once. It comes with a 15 year warranty against staining. I work in the granite industry and as far as I know ALL granite is porus and requires sealing. Black is the hardest stone that I know of, and it still stains. "High-performance"? what stones are you referring to? As far as I know even the most expensive stones require sealing. Wondering where you got your info?

                                          1. re: Portland Oregon

                                            Some stones sold as granite are far more porous than others. The best sealer in the world won't protect a poor quality stone, and on the other hand, I have seen excellent stones that look great even after being unsealed for 25 years. My information comes from operating my business, TopRepair.com, that has specialized in repairing, maintaining and modifying countertops for the past 18 years. I've inspected thousands of countertops of every type and quality.

                                            1. re: TopRepair

                                              Is there any downside to high quality engineered stone such as Silestone? We've had it for several years, do not pamper it in any way (although we don't abuse it), we clean it simply with a wet sponge or Dobie, even occasionally if something is stuck on will put some Barkeeper's Friend on a sponge, and it looks as good as new. Assuming one likes the look of it (we do), and is ok with the cost, is there any downside at all to this product...we haven't discovered any?

                                              1. re: josephnl

                                                No maintenance product, only downside it's typically higher cost than granite and most colors prior to 2009 look like laminate.

                                      2. Silestone is the way to go if you want stone look combined with ease of use. Granite is lovely but the seal will be destroyed by hot pots and the stone will become porous again. Like Kelli I don't like the currently popular high shine. That's for show kitchens that will never see any real cooking.

                                        Like Sam we opted for stainless steel for most work tops. No temperature issues, extremely easy to keep clean. With off white tiled splash-backs and old wooden boards it doesn't look cold either. The island will be treated to a marble top next year and be the dedicated baking, pasta and pastry station.

                                        6 Replies
                                        1. re: andreas

                                          I think you're over-generalizing about granite counters. Depending on the variety of granite/quartzite you get, some are pretty much impervious, some will be much more porous and/or resined to hold them together. The key is to figure out which you're investing in beforehand.

                                          Stainless scratches, and concrete is highly porous without being sealed/waxed. It's all a question of what you want and what you're willing to live with in terms of wear/patina.

                                          1. re: ted

                                            Ted is correct - you can't generalize about what is sold as "granite". Some of it is outstanding, and lots of it is beautiful but really unsuitable as a kitchen countertop material. Do your homework.

                                          2. re: andreas

                                            Granite is the hardest of the stones you will look at and even within granite there are different hardnesses.

                                            Shine - Purchaser's choice of high gloss or matte finish, called honed. You can go either way and a good installer will guide you through the choices. Like any surface, you need to take care of it. 1-2 per year you seal the granite or any other stone. Pretty simple to do.

                                            I would be more afraid of scratching the stainless over scratching the granite. Likewise, if a kid comes over and cuts on the granite, no harm to the surface, the knife takes the brunt. On stainless, I am not sure you can make that same comment.

                                            With respect to the look, go to the stone place and choose your own slab. I think you can find different stones that could be either warmer or colder than stainless, your choice.

                                            I would be very careful about any generalities about granite, marble, sandstone, or any composite unil you do more research, but no matter what you buy, care is the key word going forward.

                                            1. re: jfood

                                              Oh, agree with you - it all comes down to personal preference in the end. I don't mind that stainless scratches, these scratches are not deep enough to cause a problem hygiene wise and I don't mind the looks issue. As far as I am concerned a kitchen is there to be used, not to look spotless and new year after year. I know it is important for many people that both their kitchens and their cooking utensils don't show much in the way of wear, I am not one of them. I like the signs of use, it tells a story.

                                              I suspect that many people are less well informed that you are and simply assume that granite will simply take anything you throw at it. We both know that that's a false assumption.

                                            2. re: andreas

                                              "Granite is lovely but the seal will be destroyed by hot pots and the stone will become porous again."

                                              Wait, what? I have large tan-ish colored granite in my kitchen after a remodel 6 years ago, and my island is right in front of the ovens. When I roast in my cast iron pans, I take them out when finished (oven temp around 400F) and put them right on the sealed granite to rest. I've had both 18" CI skillets come from both ovens resting at the same time many times, and never have had a problem.

                                              Though as with all things, I'm sure there are better engineered sealants than others, in terms of durometer and heat degredation.

                                              I have the "medium" glossed granite. Wasn't my first choice but I got a great deal on it. And my kitchen gets some damned serious use :)

                                              1. re: andreas

                                                Lol, stainless scratches fairly easily and most marbles are soft and porous. Be sure to "baby" both. Good luck.

                                              2. I just redid my kitchen. Corian was never an option. I looked at silestone, but I just don't like the look of it. It never looks as natural as granite to me. I saw a lot of different types, samples, etc., and never found one that looked as good as granite.

                                                We ended up with granite and I couldn't be happier. The fact that I have to seal it slightly more often because I do put hot pots on it isn't a problem. That just means 5 minutes of work every 3-4 months to be safe... probably don't even need to do it that often. That is completely worth it in my opinion.

                                                Plus, for me, the silestone and granite came out to be nearly identically priced.

                                                8 Replies
                                                1. re: adamclyde

                                                  When we were countertop shopping this was my experience, too-they were almost the same price.

                                                  1. re: adamclyde

                                                    We had Silestone countertops installed in Dec '06. We love the look of it. We were very plased with the install and remarked that the seam was barely noticeable...if we didn't know where it was we wouldn't even know there was a seam in it. However, the seam has separated and is now very noticeable. Has anyone else had this problem? The installer is going to come and look at it; if anyone has experienced this, I'd like some feedback please.

                                                    1. re: adamclyde

                                                      I agree with this. There is something fake looking about silestone to me. It lacks the depth and natural sparkle of granite. The Silestone reps at the stores were sooo obnoxious, too, trying to convince us of all these awful things about granite. I think that is where some of the misinformation about granite comes from.

                                                      1. re: Jitterbug

                                                        We have Silestone in our kitchen and love it. Certainly manufactured quartz has a different look than natural granite. Some people prefer the somewhat abstract irregular natural appearance of granite and don't care if the patterns don't necessarily match at seams, and some (like us) prefer the uniform appearance of the manufactured product, granite. Both are excellent surfaces, it's simply a matter of personal preference.

                                                        With regard to a seam separating....this has nothing to do with the product, and everything to do with the installation. Any countertop material which is improperly installed can separate.

                                                        1. re: Jitterbug

                                                          you're absolutely right about this being where the misinformation comes from.... reps at stores trying to sell you something!!! Use an NKBA certified kitchen designer ALWAYS..... always use a pro!

                                                          1. re: Jitterbug

                                                            Did they tout the dangers of natural granite being radioactive? I know granite can contain uranium, thorium, potassium, etc, the former decaying into Rn-222 which can cause lunch cancer in sufficient quantities. Though the Rn-222 is gaseous, (and the sealant probably mitigates the release somewhat) I would think that you inhale more carcinogenic particles driving to work every day. I had some 18 year old kid try to scare me into Silestone using that tactic. He obviously didn't know that there are actually people out there that know what they're talking about, and don't buy into most BS that stores spout out to sell their product.

                                                          2. re: adamclyde

                                                            AdamClyde, There is a sealer on the market now that works with only one application. It's a 15 year seal - no need to reseal every few months. Makes for a much easier sell for granite now.. vs. Quartz or other non-porus surfaces.

                                                            1. re: adamclyde

                                                              Sealing is no harder than cleaning your counter. Most Natural Stones are resin coated, look for drips on raw edge when view/selecting slabs.