A Guide to Kitchen Countertops: What to Know

If you’re considering changing out your countertops, you’ve probably already done some preliminary research and maybe that’s how you found us, you’ve watched HGTV possibly, you’ve looked at images on Pinterest or various sites, and have some ideas. But really what it comes down to is first of all, quite often the kitchen is to gather points in FL, it’s an open floor concept quite often, and certainly, that’s often a very visible space, it’s also a congregating space. When you have a party and friends over, it’s typically where everyone ends up in the kitchen, it is a focal point, and the idea is when you’re remodeling, you’ve got other rooms that are probably furnished already. What you’re doing is blending the new and the old. The idea of a kitchen or a bathroom renovation is that if you want something new that speaks to how you look at your surroundings currently, what the current trends are, what appeals to you, but you’ve also got some legacy designs and it all has to flow and work together.

After deciding what you want to do in your remodeling project the next step is making your material selection. In this whole process of selection, we have to factor in what is already there and it has to work with it when we get into the look and feel, probably you’re leaning more traditional to contemporary or somewhere in between what we call transitional. There are probably certain colors and textures that appeal to you more than others and in our first consultation, that’s what we’re trying to understand. We do those consultations either as we’re doing here or we schedule showroom visits where we can spend some time discussing your vision for that space. There are many different styles and we usually group them and then into three categories from traditional as we know to hear contemporary. In each case there are some design elements that sort of give one an impression of whether this is a more old world or traditional design versus something more, cutting edge or contemporary. That’s just kind of at least in broad categories, that’s kind of how we’ll look at things and once we understand then we can begin to think about the materials that work in that kind of a design.

Different Stones to Consider: Natural Stone, Quartz and so much more

Let’s talk a little bit about the different products that you might consider. First off, let’s talk about natural stone. Natural stone is, as stated natural, it comes from various places, including places like Brazil, South America, India, and certainly comes from Italy with marble. With natural stone, much of what we mind here is more for building facades and memorials. There is less of it used in a countertop application. Within natural stone, it’s broken down further into different materials that possess some different characteristics of quartzite. Kind of going from the hardest to the softest. Of course, it is going to be the hardest material that we would work with, it’s very dense, it is noted here with some striking patterns, it’s very distinctive. If you’re looking for something that has a natural vibe but also has a very distinctive appearance and is very durable and certainly, quartzite would be a consideration. Granite would be next, granite has been popular for quite some time now. When you start to go deeper what you’re starting to see are the first granite colors that were introduced, that kind of replaced solid surface and laminate countertops. Those materials are starting to look dated. And we’re seeing another round where people are either updating it to other granite choices or possibly marble or quartzite or quartz. As they upgrade their kitchens again since the granite phase started, you can see that some of the characteristics of the first granite colors were out tight, busier patterns being replaced by more flowing patterns. People are more leaning towards the lighter later colors, whites and graves have been popular for a while now and continue to be and more flowing patterns. Also, marble is another choice, it’s a little softer, as you understand that any of these materials are going to work out quite well in your kitchen.

There are always some considerations if you need to think about when you pick one over the other, but marble is really what is most appealing. Especially if you look at HGTV at the various home shows, you’ll see that if it’s not marble, there are a lot of quartz options that look like marbles. And then there are other materials out there that we see less of here, but they are used and some of them are very pretty, such as; limestone, onyx, slate, soapstone, travertine. There are all examples of other natural materials that can be incorporated and can be used as a countertop material with natural stone. A couple of other considerations are less important on the UV resistance in an indoor kitchen, but UV resistant characteristics are important for an outdoor kitchen. If you’re doing an outdoor kitchen that you want to use a natural stone countertop in, that’s a good choice because it can withstand the punishing rays so to speak and it can also withstand heat. Not so many sheets of the sun although it certainly will hold up against that. but inside if you put a hot pan on natural stone and granite or any of these materials that we’re talking about here, they’re not going to crack typically. But it’s going to hold up when exposed to higher temperatures and with natural stone, one of the things to understand is it’s not naturally saying resistance. It does not stand proof and there are very few things that are proof, but there are many options that you can consider such as; stain-resistant, meaning if you put a standing agent on them, they’ll be resistant to absorbing that for a period of time that staining material and then leaving a permanent stain. But given enough time, especially with natural stone, if you let something sit there staining agents sit on it long enough, it is going to likely leave saying what we do to slow that process down as we apply what’s called impregnating sealer. And that actually soaks into the material and creates a moisture barrier so that anything that sits on it doesn’t immediately migrate into the stone and leave behind. But if you leave it there long enough it will. You always want to wipe up standing materials, you don’t want to go to bed at night after a party and leave red wine or citrus juice or anything like that sitting there without wiping it up. When you see something, you wipe it up and you’ll be fine.

It is clear that when it comes to remodeling your countertop, your choices are various, and our warehouse might be a place to make the right decision. When you’re going to walk through our warehouse you will be able to see every material in person and you’re typically going to know the color when you see it, it’s going to strike you quite often. Those first impressions of the material that you looked at are the ones that are lasting and the one quite often your first pick is when you come back to even after looking at many others, usually you’ll see it and it will strike you pretty quickly as to do that one really appeals to me and it would work well in my space.

As we mentioned about natural stones, there are man-made materials as well. They often use natural elements to produce a product. In the case of quartz, which we’ll talk about next, not to be confused with quartzite. Comes out of the ground and blocks and then processed into the slabs that you would see if you walked into our showroom quartz as an engineering material. It’s made from quartz, the mineral and there are other agents added, other components added to the process. When it’s all said and done, you end up with something that looks like a slab, it would look to you much like slabs of natural stone would look at the colors and patterns are not necessarily natural. Some are meant to look natural and some are meant to look unique on their own, which is something that mother nature wouldn’t produce themselves. If you’re looking at patterns that are not something that one would typically find in nature colors, typically aren’t found in nature. There may be a quartz product that might come close to what you’re envisioning. Even though quartz is stain resistant, it could be stained under certain circumstances, please note that the quartz is not heat resistant. If you take a hot pan off the stove or put your pancake brutally directly on it, anything that high heat could potentially crack it and void your warranty. You never want to put something like a pan right off the hot stove onto that countertop surface.

AGS Stone

Credit: Kabinart

Porcelain Tile: Sustainable Alternative to Stone and Natural Tile

Other options have been more popular in Europe for some time than here, but we’re starting to see it in the Tampa market and it’s something we’ve embraced here. There are few fabricators in our area that have elected to work with porcelain and you may know porcelain is made in China, what has happened over time is the technology has developed to the point where we can make what would be, let’s take a floor tile, and that porcelain, same material, but increase the size of it many folds so that we actually can get that in the slab form. That would be roughly 10 ft long by 6 ft tall or 5 ft tall and with that material in varying thicknesses, we can make counters, we can produce countertops, we can do future walls. We’ve got a number of options that we can consider when working with material like this.

What are the characteristics of porcelain? It starts out from a natural material, it’s really exposed to very high heat as part of the process and when it’s all sealed and done, you’ve got a very hard durable surface in different thicknesses. The most common to us here are 6 millimeters and 12 millimeters, which is a quarter and a half-inch. What’s nice about this is, it’s resistant to everything, it’s resistant to heat, UV sun exposure, it can be used outdoors. We’ve got outdoor kitchen vignettes going up here right now where we’re doing the outdoor kitchen out of porcelain.

What would typically match with porcelain as cabinetry?

That’s all of course. It’s a great material for indoors or out and the Italians can take credit for a lot of the technology and just the quality of the materials that are produced, a lot of it comes from Italy. But a lot of the images of natural stone, if you like the look of some exotic marbles, which are onyx, exotic marbles, materials that you probably couldn’t afford most of us couldn’t possibly get that material in porcelain. You’ve got the look of one of those exotic marbles that you like without nearly the cost and the care. It’s a great option and it looks real. When you come to our showroom to have a look at this as real as it gets, you’re not going to know the difference if you were looking at the natural material or the porcelain sitting next to it often because this material is thinner. In Europe, this 12 millimeter roughly happens quite often. You’ll see that in countertops, they’re more contemporary there and a lot of the kitchens and baths are of a more contemporary design and this half-inch thick countertop surface works in that design and they’re comfortable without victims here, people tend to want to see a thicker countertop. Normally the natural stone is what’s called three centimeters, which is just under an inch and a quarter if that’s what you’re looking for, it’s going to look very thin to you. What we do is we mightier it, and what we end up giving you is something that even looks like a thicker block of stone and you might imagine we mightier 2, 2.5 inches. When you get your countertop it’s going to look like a block of stone, it’s pretty impressive and no one knows that’s only half-inch thick material when we’re done with it. It looks like a solid block sitting on your kitchen or bathroom cabinetry. And when we mightier, if you’re going to get just a flat edge, which also is probably the most popular edge profile today, in the past we did a lot of unique or more unique profiles for today, it’s pretty much flat polish or slightly rounded edge, very simple, very clean and simple. And certainly, when we mightier that’s the kind of look you’re going to get. This material is available of course in different patterns to look like other natural stones. As we mentioned, they have some patterns that are really for lack of pattern with certain colors that are more industrial, kind of industrial look. If you’re looking for that, you can get these in both a polished and matte finish. If you’re not into the polish, you want more of a satin or matte finish and that’s available too. 

Also as we would like to explain one different material; recycled glass. If you’d like to replace recycled glass, we do offer that as well. If you’re looking at something very unique and also, earth-friendly recycled glass is a nice option. It’s not inexpensive, it’s all handmade. This would be probably a complimentary piece, it might not be your whole kitchen, you might just do a section that will show this off, It’s like a piece of art. Replacing is being produced and in some applications still popular but in most home remodels of those services are being replaced by one of those that we’ve talked about.