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Corian, Quartz, Stainless Steel or Granite

Which worktop should I choose?

One of the biggest dilemmas facing the modern kitchen consumer is which type of surface to choose for their countertops and an increasing number of buyers are setting aside a portion of their budget to ensure they can adorn their kitchen with surfaces once considered too expensive.

The choice is wide and varied yet how many buyers know the differences between the big players and is the higher cost of these surfaces justified when compared to the more traditional laminate finishes.

Perhaps the reasons for choosing an elite surface is down to the number of irreparable scratches that were all too visible on your last high gloss laminate surface or maybe you just couldn’t bear to continue the daily kitchen chores to face that water damaged, lifting laminate behind the sink.

Certainly, careful fitting and proper maintenance could have avoided the problems but your mind is made up and you want an easier life in the kitchen

So what are the choices and how do you choose between them? 

Acrylic Surfaces

Well let’s begin with Corian which is perhaps the most recognisable name among buyers and is a member of the family of Acrylic surfaces that include Staron and Hi-Macs.

Corian offers the buyer limitless design possibilities because it can be thermoformed to any shape. Corian offers seamless joints and sinks and perhaps its most attractive quality to buyers is it can be restored to its former glory if it was ever damaged.

Of the acrylics Corian offers the buyer best protection because of a well regulated installer and fabricator network operated by the manufacturers DuPont.

All very good so far but I’ve heard there are other acrylic surfaces that are cheaper so why is Corian more expensive? 

Well let’s start with the cheaper acrylics available to the buyer. To present the facts and before offering Corian to our own visitors, it was important to undertake a little research into some of the competitors to the Acrylic crown and where better to start than in the USA where these surfaces had been available for many years before their introduction in the UK.

Cheaper alternatives are priced accordingly because the core thickness is 4 to 6 times less than that of Corian. Surfaces of minimum thickness such as 2 or 3mm are avoided in the USA and for good reason. When a similar thin core surface was introduced there in the 1990’s, it later resulted in a class action being undertaken by the purchasers of the product against the manufacturer – the reason, delamination and cracks appeared well within the warranty period. The manufacturer settled with the plaintiffs out of court and the surface was discontinued.  
That didn’t stop the sale and influx of similar surfaces here in the UK and I was to witness the same damage first hand when inspecting a similar problem taking place at a large number of a well known nationwide retailer stores. 

I recorded the evidence on camera at the time and as you can see from this image, it’s not surprising that I rebuffed subsequent approaches to offer these surfaces on our website.

Information included in this article is of course opinion based on my own findings and experiences and not all thinner core surfaces are to be avoided. Indeed, if fitted correctly and maintained with care, then provided you are aware of the limitations, then it may prove to fulfil your requirements but your decision should always be aligned with a manufacturers guarantee and value for money.

Staron have recently introduced a 6mm Solid Surface, which, unlike surfaces of a lesser thickness, can employ drainer grooves when fabricated. Staron’s 6mm pre-fabricated tops are bonded to a moisture resistant MDF substrate with a laminate balancer on the underside to form a 38mm surface available in two sizes – 3000mm x 650mm and a 2100mm x 900mm Breakfast Bar. This differentiates it from other surfaces of lesser thickness and lower specification.

So my advice is, check the guarantees and check the thickness of your chosen surface.
 
For the record, Corian is 13mm thick, carries a 10 year guarantee, was introduced into the UK in 1979, so has a long and successful history, and is available in 72 colours for use in residential applications.

It has a matt finish, (although a greater sheen is available with prolonged fabrication techniques), and can be fabricated to limitless shapes and depths. 

(See image representing Corian - Seagrass).

Corian distributors CD UK have created this infographic What is Corian to help those in the industry and those interested in Corian understand more about the original solid surface material and its versatility.

Quartz (Engineered Stone Surfaces)

Quartz surfaces are the fastest growing sector in the worktops market worldwide.

Identifiable under a number of titles such as Luxore, Silestone, Zodiac, Caesarstone, Arenastone, Apollo and Prestige Quartz, they have one important thing in common – they could all conceivably be titled under the name Bretonstones as they are all manufactured on a Breton Machine, the product of an Italian company who export the machines worldwide.

Breton machines are currently available for manufacture in a number of countries including Spain, Portugal Czech Republic, Belgium, China and the USA, yet interestingly, no such machine is available for the manufacture of quartz in the UK so all the quartz surfaces that end up in your kitchen originated from slabs that were imported from a number of international sources for fabrication in the UK.

Quartz, or Engineered Stone as it is also known, is made up of 93% quartz and 7% resin binders and pigments.

The distinguishing factor between the many titles available is the colour palettes. Silestone further distinguishes its surface by the inclusion of an anti bacterial compound throughout the core of surfaces in their range.

The surface is durable and, unlike granite, non-porous. Like granite it has a sheen finish but does not require sealing. 

Engineered quartz offers a uniform pattern so what you see in a showroom will be very close to what will be installed in your kitchen.
 

Prestige Quartz range 
Colour - Spectrum Black

Silestone Quartz range
Coulour – Rojo Eros

The buyer should always ascertain the manufacturer’s warranty of any Quartz surface before purchasing as surprisingly; some have very little or indeed no warranty available. Because all quartz surfaces are similar in appearance and because a surface with anti-bacterial compound cannot be easily identified, it is important to distinguish, when purchasing Silestone, that is is indeed Silestone.

Granite Surfaces

Granite is the surface that offers the buyer a classic sheen look and as it is sourced via natural means it is the preferred option of a huge number of buyers looking for a more unique finish

It is a hard surface measuring 6 on the MOH’s hardness scale however, granite being an igneous rock, i.e. rock formed after the cooling down of molten rock.

Natural granite does not have a uniform pattern or color. The appearance can vary widely between slabs, and even within a single slab but to a number of buyers this is the attraction.

As with quartz, the seams in granite are visible.

Granite is crystalline in structure, so it always has tiny pits or spaces between the various mineral crystals. It also contains natural fissures that may appear to be cracks, but they are not structural defects and will not impair the function or durability of the material. They occur naturally and are considered by some to be part of the beauty of stone.

 


Black colours have become very popular in the last few years owing to their much lower prices, however some of these black granites can be prone to "shakes" and "vents" and many unscrupulous processors/dealers, oil or apply dye to the material to hide these defects.

This would give the granite an effect of fading and correctly polished black granite should not fade! The fading is nothing more than the dyes and oils being removed. Unfortunately the only solution is to re-polish the top and this can be costly.

Granite
Colour – Nero Assolutto

A tip taken from the information provided by Richard Leake of the Stone Network, and before purchasing a granite top, is to perform the following test to discover whether it has been doctored.

Take a clean white rag and apply some acetone or lemon juice to the surface of the granite. If any residue or black colour is observed on the top, do not accept it, it has been dyed.

Stainless Steel Surfaces

Stainless steel surfaces are the choice of the kitchen professionals and an increasing number of designers and homeowners are specifying Stainless Steel as a preferred choice of surface in the kitchen.

Stainless Steel is a timeless classic material, with excellent antibacterial properties hence its popularity with the professionals.
 
Known more for its popularity in the commercial sector, stainless steel is now becoming more of a choice for residential clients, as can be borne out by the projects we ourselves are undertaking.

For those not wishing to adorn their kitchen wholly with a Stainless Steel design, the material blends in well with wood or lacquered finishes and options such as splashbacks, doors, plinths, work surfaces and even cabinetry are available in made to measure finishes.

Stainless Steel will undoubtedly, accumulate scratches over time but the patina that it acquires over time is the attraction to fans of the surface.

For all surfaces, regardless of their heat resistance or resilience to scratches, it is vital that protective boards are used for preparation and an alternative to these in the case of hot pans, is the use of steel trivets installed as part of the surface.

All of the surfaces above can be purchased at best costs via the internet and there are a growing number of sellers.

My advice is to identify and to ask the following of your provider before purchasing.

  • Do they offer free samples given that you are contemplating spending a substantial amount with them?
  • Can you speak with a former client who has utilized the services of the company?
  • What is the lead time from order to completion?
  • How soon will they return your quotation after you’ve provided details of your design?
  • What experience do they have in the fabrication and fitting of the surfaces they offer?
  • Can you visit a showroom to see the surfaces on display or are they operating from a sales office?
  • Is there a valid UK postal address on their website?
  • How long have they been established in the kitchen industry?

If the answers to the above are satisfactory and of course, if the price meets your budget, then you can be confident that the research you undertook provided you with a good deal.

Tim Foley2008

 


 

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