When customers come in looking for materials for their new countertop, many are curious about the differences between natural and engineered stone. At Marble Granite World, we’re big fans of both types—but there are definitely some differences between the two that are important to know.
Many people think that engineered stone is, by default, a lesser choice than natural stone—and that is a myth we want to debunk right off the bat! What stone qualifies as “better” depends on your personal preference and the actual slab that you pay for. Knowing the difference between the two types of stones can help you decide which one is best for your project.
Both natural stone and engineered stone have their advantages, and we’ll get into those advantages in this article, along with key differences.
Natural stone, as the name would suggest, is sourced from the earth. Because it’s taken from quarries all over the world, each slab has a different color pattern and an organic design according to how the stone was formed inside the earth. The hand that nature has in deciding how the stone looks appeals to many people because they see their countertop as a unique art piece. But the extreme uniqueness can also come with challenges because it can be difficult to find consistent patterns to bring your room together cohesively.
Engineered stone was reportedly developed in Italy in the late 1980s, and since then it’s become one of the most popular choices for kitchen and bathroom countertops. Quartz countertops are a man-made material—its main component is quartz, but it’s made up of about 5–7 percent polymers and resins that qualify it as something that is man-made.
What many people love about engineered stone is the fact that it can mimic the look of natural stone almost perfectly. Usually, it’s only experts that can tell the difference. Some people worry that since engineered stone is man-made, it won’t have the same capacity for colors, patterns, and veining that natural stone does. But you will often find that engineered stone has the same effect—of course, it won’t be identical to natural stone because it’s an engineered product, but it will mimic the look in its own unique way.
Engineered stone is a great choice for remodelers who want to achieve a pristine, seamless look that comes with a certain amount of predictability that natural stone doesn’t have.
Maintenance is the category in which engineered stone and natural stone really differ. Natural stone is an inherently porous material, which means that it needs a coat of sealant applied to it periodically in order for it to maintain its luster and quality. This is something that many people aren’t aware of when it comes to natural stone—they think that these types of countertops are one and done when it comes to maintenance. But because of natural stone’s porosity, that’s not possible. Sealant is necessary, along with the quick pickup of spills so they don’t stain the countertop’s surface.
Natural stone is a lot like human skin in the way that we can apply certain solutions to our skin in order to protect it, but that doesn’t make it (or the countertops) impervious to damage.
Engineered stone, on the other hand, is not porous—and this is because of how it’s manufactured. Its polymers and resins make it much less porous, so it does not need to be sealed, and you don’t have to worry so much about stains.
When it comes to heat resistance, natural stones win out. Since these stones are formed within the earth, they are used to very high temperatures and are, in fact, almost imperishable. This is why they last for so long. You can even place a hot pan on granite’s surface and not worry about it causing damage; granite countertops can handle up to 1200 degrees of heat.
For engineered stone, though, this is not the case. It turns out that the same materials that keep engineered stone from being porous are the same materials that make it sensitive to heat. It can handle about four hundred degrees before it starts to blister.
What’s Your Choice?
Depending on the remodeler’s intent, budget, and design choice, either of these options would make a great asset to a kitchen or bathroom. If you have questions about which of these two materials would lend themselves better to your home, feel free to give us a call at (336) 992-5214 for a consultation.