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Is a limestone countertop really a disaster in the kitchen?

I am finalzing a kitchen renovation and have selected a limestone that I LOVE -- but I have been given some negative feedback about it's durability. One salesperson is trying to convince me to go with a caesarstone (synthetic quartz) - but others say it is bland and uniform. I love to cook and am not always the neatest it the kitchen. Will the limestone really stain? Or I have heard that it absorbs the stains over time which gives it more depth and texture. I have selected white cabinets and a white carrera marble subway tile - so the countetop will be making a big statement. I'd love some help!

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  1. I think the carrera backsplash is already adding enough texture and interest to the kitchen. With that you want a quieter counter to let it shine. Most limestones are beige, which I can't see with the carrera. I would go with the Raven color of Caesarstone with that, or a black granite on the plainer side such as Andes black, or Atlantic black. The Raven color of the engineered stone though is more of a charcoal, and will be softer than the black granite.

    Limestone is very soft, and will stain, scratch and etch. If you don't mind that, and that it will look worn over time, then go with that, but in a black. Soapstone would also work, as will an antiqued or brushed black granite if you want more character.


      I discourage folks from even putting limestone in a guest bathroom as MANY soaps/skin cremes are going to stain/etch it. It

      I kitchen were you actually cook? NO WAY -- it is reactive AND absorbent -- stains don't just give it "character" they can destroy it. Wine, fruit juice, cleaners will turn limestone to dust. Remember those "stained denture" commercials -- tea, wine, cola RUIN limestone.

      I am not saying you have to go all the way to a synthetic, but I really can't fathom what kind of stone sellers try and market limestone for countertops. Traditionally limestone has been used as a decorative surface, often on the vertical. I suppose a variety with abundant fossils might look interesting but it WILL NOT hold up in a cook's kitchen!

      Personally I do not think "monochrome" looks very good in kitchens -- whether a client is considering ALL BLACK or ALL WHITE or ALL STAINLESS I think they ought to consider that in such an environment ANY tiny crumb/spill/food is going to stand out and need constant clean-up. If you really are committed to white you can find some granites in the "silk" or "cashmere" ranges that are quite pale and FAR more suited to a working kitchen.

      1. Firstly, everyone will have an opinion on ountertops, noone is right or wrong as this is probably the single most personal decision in the kitchen. So every opinion stated in this thread will be contrary to others. But choose what you love, it is a really special decision.

        jfood has been living with Jerusalem limestone for years and loves it. It has beautiful movements and the color is so natural (well it is natural) that it adds a great warmth to the space. Adding white carrera subway tiles is a nice idea and jfood thinks you are heading in the right direction. He is not into the dark horizontal countertop look (lives in the suburbs)/white vertical cabinet backsplash look. For a city townhouse or loft this look is nice, but not in the burbs. In choosing a color, jfood agrees with light. The ubatuba/verdi countertop with white backsplash just strikes jfood as a little overdone already. There are so many beautiful alternatives to these two colors that, if possible, go to the stone place warehouse and choose your EXACT slabs and have them place your name on the side.

        Durability? Yes it does pit a little but jfood would argue strenuously about the staining aspect. With all the beautiful fossils embedded in the stone seeing any stains is almost impossible. And even when jfood really looks, he sees none.

        Wrt Caesarstone and Soapstone. Jfood has seen it only once and was not impressed, very boring IHO. Plus any product that you need to sign a release on that you are aware that it will have maintenance issues is not something jfood would touch.

        1 Reply
        1. re: jfood

          Jfood is wise. Again. Limestone is fabulous. Get what you love and never look back.
          My daughter redid her kitchen last year on a budget and that was the big decision that made a major difference between another look-alike and wow! I cook with her all the time and we're messy. The first few stains panicked us but they magically disappeared, taking their place among the ages-old fossils. The limestone looks more beautiful by the month. She used only a 4" high backsplash and painted above with a very high grade flat-finish enamel that is completely waterproof and it looks great. Very cost effective. Smart cookie who used her money well.
          My neighbor has had Jerusalem limestone for years and hers is drop-dead beautiful as well. Limestone is like having a work of art for a countertop. It changes constantly but you never see the imperfections. It just gets more warm and lovely. Like a living thing.

        2. It's just personal taste, of course, but I find the "uniformly random" patterning of most engineered stone to look so fake that I prefer the look of a genuinely fake surface (if that makes any sense).

          There is no perfect kitchen countertop surface. Indeed, the least troublesome surfaces are plastic laminate (some of the newest materials are unbelievably beautiful). Good materials won't stain, but they are easily burned. Seams can be a problem.

          Marble stains readily and badly. You will need to seal your backsplash thoroughly and reseal it several times a year. (I assume the carrera is your backsplash. PLEASE don't install a marble kitchen floor, which can be quite dangerous.) Be sure to use stain resistant grout, which many tile installers ignore.

          We have one countertop of marble tile. It is stunning to look at and was extremely cheap compared to a marble slab. Its a variegated dark pattern with dark stain-resistant grout. We find we still need to seal and polish it several times a year.

          Limestone might work if you clean it scrupulously, seal it regularly, and like the worn look it will develop over time (many people do). You'd probably want a dark colour. If you drop something heavy, it will likely crack. Thinking about it, the limestone might look lovely on your wall. As a countertop, not so much.

          Dark granite is currently the most "in" countertop surface in downtown Toronto. It will break anything fragile that falls on it. A few people we know learned that their granite countertops are somewhat radioactive, though I have no idea whether this is a real problem.

          Concrete is trendy right now, but it is heavy and both very hard and extremely fragile at the same time. It will almost always crack and also needs regular sealing.

          Solid surface plastics (e.g., Corian) pose very few problems, but are costly and obviously don't have a natural look.

          There's much objective information available about the advantages and disadvantages of the many possible surfaces. Although it's all on the web, it will likely be more convenient to go to a big box bookstore, have a coffee, and scan the kitchen planning books. Decide what deficiencies you can't live with, and start your material search from that point. Then you can introduce your taste and decide what you like and how it will look with your marble tiles.

          2 Replies
          1. re: embee

            A uniformly random surface comes in very handy when you have enough pattern and variation going on in the backsplash. It's often chosen by a designer for that very reason. For a carerra backsplash with all the veining and shading variations going on plus the brick pattern, you WANT a boring quiet counter, or it all becomes too much and chaotic.

            1. re: blondelle

              Tis true, but a solid colour (for example) does that also. And genuinely random is something else entirely. As I said in the post, personal opinion only - YMMV. To me, "uniformly random" engineered countertops don't look random.

          2. We liked it as well by my SO had the good sense to get a small piece and place it on the counter. We found it stained pretty quickly from the espresso machine and lemon juice. Now some people like the way the stone changes but we didn't want to have to worry about it. We actually ended up with a greenish granite that we love after ruling out the limestone and looked at the fake granite stuff.

            1. katethecook, is your cooktop backsplash the carrera marble subway tiles also? If so, you might give some tought to cleaning it after a marathon fry-a-thon or even just day-to-day stovetop cooking. There's an awful lot of grout involved in subway tiles ...........

              1. Depends on what you mean by "disaster." Some peoiple like new goods with a "distressed" appearance. That is, they're made to look old and well used. This is what you'll quickly get with limestone. But you must beware of the looks of corrodable materials if you expect them to look exactly the same in 10 years. Depends on personal priorities -- how much money do you want to spend on maintaining counters and marble walls and the like versus time to spend skiing, cooking, weekend trips and other interests. Limestone will take up time, but if you love it, great.

                3 Replies
                1. re: mpalmer6c

                  Maintenance time is waaaay overplayed. Sealing limestone takes less time than roasting a chicken.

                  And if possible you can have the installing company do it annually for a fee, similar to you furnace, A/C and other big ticket items in the house.

                  1. re: jfood

                    Maintenance isn't a one time thing. If you are really USING your counter, sealing is something you'll need to do at least every few months unless you WANT a highly "distressed" look.

                    Sure, it's easy. But put it off too long, or forget, just once....

                    If your counter is mainly decorative, it's less of a problem. However, our marble tile countertop isn't in a food prep area, but it still requires sealing and buffing (with an electric car polisher) every few months.

                    At least nobody is advocating slate. We went for a honed slate floor in our entrance hall because we LOVED it! We chose it over 5 other contenders, all porcelain tiles. We discussed the disadvantages again and again, and we rejected about 60% of the tiles that were delivered before being satisfied. With a couple of year's experience, we can now say that "loving it" ain't good enough. To keep it beautiful, not to mention intact, requires daily sweeping, weekly washing (more often in snowy weather), and monthly sealing. Yuck.

                    1. re: embee

                      Once again jfood disagrees. Jfood USES it every day and sometimes many times a day and if he seals it every six months it is unusual and normally once a year. And if you forget it? no big deal, when you remember then just do it.

                      Maybe the issue is honed versus polished though (triggered by your cart polisher comment). Jfood's are honed (both the marble center island and the limestones). So maybe that is why people feel the need for this perpetual polishing/sealing. Honed is probably much more forgiving.

                2. "Choose what you love" sounds great, but... you will have to live with it a very long time. So, as a former interior designer (among many other things) my best advice to you is this: Ask for a sample of the stone. Every stone company I've ever dealt with is glad to give you a free 4" X 4" sample. Then tell whoever you are dealing with you''ll get back to them in two weeks. Put the stone sample in your kitchen. First off, pour a bit of vinegar on one corner and just let it air dry, and some lemon juice on another, some olive oil on the third, and some butter on the fourth. Just at the corners and not huge puddles, but enough you know where you put it if it stains. If you want to, you can mark the bottom of the sample with what's what, but that's not really neccessary as what you''re after is information about how durable the stone will be through the years. And then for the next two weeks, every time you spill something in the kitchen, make sure you spill a bit on the sample stone. In all cases, just let it air dry. I know. In real life you would wipe up the spills. But in real life you might also miss a spill or someone else may do a sloppy job. At the end of two weeks, clean it with warm/hot soapy water (liquid detergent for hand washing dishes) and see how well it has held up. What you will be looking at is an approximation of what your stone choice can look like a few years down the line. If you like what you see, go for it! You will have made an informed choice.

                  Limestone, soapstone and marble are among the softest of the stones used in the home. Marble is very forgiving if you spill champagne on it, but spill beer and it is etched! I agree with you completely on synthetic granites. They ALL look fake because of their uniformity, and none of them feel like real granite to the touch. At least not to me. But if you are considering black countertops, then the synthetic granites will be more acceptable.

                  For the record, I have just finished having my own new countertops installed. I went with black genuine granite. I shopped carefully and got it for very close to the same price as the closest bid for synthetic granite. And they threw in a new countertop for the wet bar free! And a stainless steel double sink that I am very impressed with. Originally I planned on doing mirror back splashes in the kitchen. A bit on the high maintenance side, but they would be gorgeous! But when I put a panel of mirror on the countertop to see what it was like living with it, well, every time you set a dirty plate on the countertop, you see two from across the room! So I'm only doing mirrors in the wet bar, and went with tumbled cream marble in the kitchen. I'm such a ckicken!

                  2 Replies
                  1. re: Caroline1

                    Caroline1 made an excellent testing recommendation that should be standard operating procedure for anyone considering the puchase of natural stone. These decisions come down to personal preference to a large extent. If you want a pristine gleaming surface that looks brand new ten years after its installed, and you also want the freedom to spill wine, citrus juices and every sort of food and beverage without instantly cleaning up, then limestone is not for you. If you love a weathered, rustic surface with a patina that comes from real world use, then maybe you will love limestone. Be aware that there are thousands of different stones on the market and not every "limestone" performs the same way, just as not every stone sold as "granite" performs the same way. The most important factor is to do business with a company that is knowledgeable and ethical, ask lots of questions and think things through.

                    1. re: TopRepair

                      Limestone is simply not a workable solution for kitchen surfaces. Not every material is appropriate for every application. And regardless of how vigilant you are there's always going to be a situation where someone less vigilant will be in your kitchen, be it a kid with a can of soda or someone spilling soy sauce or barbecue sauce, etc. A kitchen is menat to be used so installing materials that don't hold up makes no sense.

                  2. Sorry to be a late joiner to this discussion, however there are some options if you want to pay the price. This type of material requires special sealing. It can be a big disaster if one is not prepared for the cost or upkeep. Using material designed for the use or alot of maintenance is a prerequisite. It needs to be sealed with a hydro-oil repellant sealer or a flamed sealant. Texture should be undulated if not with a flamed sealant.
                    DeZahra has 2 products engineered for kitchen countertops. Find the Slab section the website and you can see a more articulate discussion.

                    DeZahra Stone and Tile
                    300 D St, Washington, DC 20024

                    1. From the perspective of one who was on a death bed combatting bacterial meningitis when I was 17, the porosity of limestone from the point of view of a bacterium is a near perfect place to camp out and grow a family. There is more than aesthetics to consider for your kitchen surfaces. Keep asking questions.

                      1. There's this coffee house where my son used to work, in Austin. They have limestone tops in some areas and the coffee stain rings will never come out and he thinks they look bad. If you like lots of stains on your countertop (like this), then FINE!
                        You could seal it (there are many sealers for porous materials, including flooring), and care for it, forever, if you REALLY like the distinctive look. I can't blame you.
                        There are many, non-man-made tops that require sealing and maintainance.

                        1. I am still so conflicted about this. I love the look of unsealed, honed limestone, but will some microbiologist out there please reassure me that this surface will not be an incubator for pathogens?

                          1. I'm curious about your final decision. I am seriously considering Limestone for my countertops (Atiaja Blue) and Calacutta Gold marble subway tile or slab for my backsplash. The Calacutta Gold looks very similar to Carrara marble. I love the limestone so much that I may just throw caution to the wind but I thought I would check in to see what you ended up doing.

                            1. I had wanted to mention that I had a tile of blue gray Jurastone I was considering for my bathroom floor. I tried to stain it with hair dye, lipstick, soy sauce and the like but everything came off it. You might want to look into Jurastone limestone as it seems pretty dense. It also comes in beige.

                              1. We took a chance, and so did our stone company, just installed a black limestone in our new kitchen ( sorry, i don't know the exact origin or type of limestone) and we regret it. in one month; pot marks , scratches, many liquids (not just obvious acids) etch the finish, and a drop of lemon juice just kills the surface if not wiped up in seconds or less. It looks hazy and beat, and we are not that messy, The rest of our house has other stone that we know how to properly care for, (proper cleaners, appropriate sealing) and looks great still.

                                1. I know this is an old post and I would love to know what katethecook finally chose :). For those who run across this post, like me, you'd want to know that there is an option of limestone out there that is do-able in the kitchen. Our countertops are 3cm slab Jerusalem Grey Gold. From what I understand, there are countertop fabricators/retailers that don't want this really to be considered limestone because of limestone's bad rep for kitchen use, and this stone is very very different than standard limestone. They call it instead Jerusalem Stone, some going as far as saying "it just looks like limestone". It is as durable and as hard as granite and less porous (though still porous and needs a good couple coats of sealant before use). We tested a piece at home with coffee and lemon juice, and by scratching it with our keys (the metal on the key actually scratched off, the stone didn't scratch, we were shocked!). The coloring of Jerusalem stone is so hard to explain, but it hides stains- should you get one- extremely well. We couldn't see where the coffee had been on the unsealed sample. The lemon juice removed the slight honed sheen on top but left no white residue, and you could only see where it had been if you tipped the piece and caught the sheen difference in the light. Sealed, it's much much better. Juices bead up and you just need to wipe it up. My fabricator said only to reseal it when the beading stops which is after a few years- similar to granite. It is so easy to seal- like wiping it down with water. When I get a chance, I'll download a photo of it in my kitchen. If you Google "Jerusalem Stone" you'll see lots of great feedback on it. Hopefully this helps those who really want the soft natural look of limestone without the upkeep headache or premonition of a disaster waiting to happen.

                                  3 Replies
                                  1. re: libertyandcoffee

                                    Funny to get this email after 4 years! We did not go with limestone and really struggled to find a replacement. We finally settled on a honed Caesarstone that we LOVE!!! It is great looking, and completley indestructible even with three kids and I am a frequent and messy cook. We blended it with a carrera marble backsplash -- and still get lots of compliments. The carrera backsplash is not above cook spaces - and looks as good as new after all this time.

                                    1. re: katethecook

                                      Thanks for responding. Its nice to know that you found a counter top you love. I wonder how the cost of honed Caesarstone compares to granite? Of course there are many sorts of granite, but perhaps you have a feel for how they compare. Also, the honed is less shiny? And care for this product is not hard or onerous?

                                      Thanks in advance.

                                    2. re: libertyandcoffee

                                      My grandmother had a limestone countertop that was original to the house from 1930. It was charcoal gray and was supposedly mined in SW Missouri. I loved the look of it but couldn't find anything like it when we did our kitchen. I ended up with soapstone but miss the fossils. Maybe I will find something yet for a bathroom. She always kind of fussed about that countertop and I am not sure she liked it all that much, I think she always tried to keep water off of it because it spotted and there was kind of a calcium deposit where the soap bottle was.

                                    3. My daughter put in soapstone after extensive research. You might look into that as an alternative.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: GH1618

                                        We battled with the countertop company for a couple years, they tried every potion, sealer, protectant, mask, and coating possible, everyone wanted to put me on an expensive yearly maintenance program, but no one could prove to make it look good. it r eally looked undescribably bad by then. I mean it was terrible. I even tried my own 14,000 rpm die grinder and polishing wheels, to only slightly deminish the marks and etching .Finally I threatened to slam them on Angie's list, had the post already to go, and they finally decided to warranty it. We went with black granite, only got to enjoy it a couple months problem free, before renting the house out. I sealed it well.