Interior finishes make up the heart and soul of your home. These are the surfaces you interact with. These are the colors, fabrics and textures you wake up to every morning and surround yourself with while you are bathing, cooking, eating, entertaining, relaxing, reading and living. These finishes are what your senses are most aware of in your home because you see, touch, feel and interact with them constantly. For the most part they are passive, inert and motionless but aesthetically, they affect you. Well-designed finishes kept in good condition can lift your spirits.
All interior surfaces will receive interior finishes of one kind or another. Some materials would include: wood, carpet, paint, wallpaper, plaster, tile, stone, fabric, vinyl, glass, metal, concrete and more.
Natural stone is likely the oldest form of material used by humans to prepare, present and consume food. Bowls and flat slabs are formed relatively quickly by grinding grains with other rocks. Some communal food preparation areas left by native Americans are still found in wilderness areas around the US. Yosemite National Park has a few places where many grinding areas are found together carved out of enormous granite boulders. Flat pieces of rock were also drafted into service to make finer flours. Because stone is abundant, long lasting and easy to clean it turns out to be a great food preparation surface.
Because of its abundance and durability, stone has been quarried, used and worked by humans for thousands of years and on every continent. Natural stone counter materials are created by quarrying large stone blocks and slicing them into 2-3cm thick slabs. For today’s homeowner, stone slab options available now include marble, quartzite, granite, slate and engineered stone like Caesarstone or Silestone. These slabs can create one-piece countertops as large as 6’x10’ and even larger by joining “book-matched” slabs with precision joinery. By precision joinery, I am referring to computer aided cutting machinery that can essentially finely cut and shape stone like butter. Hard butter that is. Once in place, a stone countertop is an installation with very long life. To reduce maintenance, sealers are recommended for most natural stone countertops in order to prevent stains from getting into the pores of the material. A glass top can also be used on very porous stone like marble to help protect it from damage.
In selecting stone for use in your home it is good to know the characteristics of each type:
Marble: Marble is gorgeous and silky in appearance and its attractiveness makes it highly sought after for luxury living. Unfortunately, marble is also softer and more porous than other stone materials making it easy to damage and will absorb staining liquids. Its composition is calcium rich and etching by acidic foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes and juices is also a problem. Marble can be sealed to help prevent stains, but the treatments are expensive and short lived, requiring frequent reapplication to be effective. Because of these characteristics, marble is recommended for bathrooms, showers and tabletops that are not subject to cutting and cooking.
Granite: Granite is a grainy appearing igneous rock formed by the slow crystallization of magma within the earth’s crust. It is hard and massive with few cracks. In the commercial world of countertops and stone features, a granite is a rock with visible grains that is harder than marble. Gabbro, basalt, pegmatite, schist, gneiss, monzonite, anorthosite and diorite are all considered “granites”. Granite is hard, scratch resistant, polishes to a high gloss and is not affected by food acids. Most granites are non-porous and yet all can benefit from a sealer to prevent stubborn stains that might occur during the cooking process. Granites come in an unending array of natural colors and patterns making every installation unique and one of a kind.
Quartzite: Quartzite is an extremely hard, metamorphic rock that was once pure quartz sediment. These sediments were subjected to extreme pressure and heat from within the earth’s crust through tectonic forces. Quartzite material has a sandy, fine grained appearance with glassy/shiny areas embedded in the structure. Many quarry’s have found attractive versions of this material with striking colors and veins that produce unique and gorgeous patterns ideal for architectural applications. Resistance to abrasion, low porosity and acid resistance make this material highly suitable for kitchen use. Quartzite surfaces also accept “honing” or “leathering” treatments that add a soft and unique feel to their surfaces. Treat these countertops with sealant as you would granite.
Engineered stone: This material is improperly named but is widely known in the industry as “Quartz”. This is because the primary ingredient is crushed quartz. Engineered stone is manufactured by combining crushed quartz pieces with a resin to strongly bind them together. The resulting material is hard, durable and can be made in large formats with extremely uniform appearance. Depending on the resin used to bind this material together, it’s resistance to heat and UV light can be variable. Check with the manufacturer for warranties on heat resistance and the effects of UV light over time. Quartz tops are durable, scratch resistant and not subject to normal kitchen stains. Quartz slabs can be made in a stunning variety of colors and patterns.
- If you have stone countertops, determine what kind of stone material it is made from.
- 1x per year: Clean, hone and seal marble countertop materials and inspect and re-caulk around joints, sinks and other dissimilar materials.
- Every 2 years: Clean and seal granite and quartzite counter top materials and inspect and re-caulk around joints, sinks and other dissimilar materials.