7 Common Mistakes You Could Be Making With Your Kitchen Counters

Your new kitchen counters look beautiful, don’t they? You can keep them that way by using best practices and avoiding common blunders that cause blemishes like stains, cracks and scratches.

Below we’ve listed the most common mistakes that homeowners make with their high-end counters. If you can avoid these errors, you can keep them looking their best for years to come.

1. Using Abrasive Cleaning Materials

Abrasive cleaning products and scouring pads can scratch stone countertops. Most natural stone countertops don’t need to be cleaned with anything other than warm water mixed with dish soap. Use a sponge or soft microfiber cloth to wipe down your counters.

If your countertops are stained, don’t turn to abrasive cleaning products for help. Apply a poultice to the stone to absorb the stain without scratching the surface. You can purchase a poultice from a stone supplier, or you can make your own poultice.

To make your own poultice, flour and hydrogen peroxide together to create a thick paste, then spread the baking soda over the stain. Lay a piece of plastic wrap over the paste, then tape the plastic wrap in place with masking tape. Leave the poultice on the countertop overnight, then wipe it away. If the stain is still there, repeat the process.

2. Not Sealing Your Counters

Natural stone is a porous material that will absorb liquids like cooking oil, red wine and soy sauce, if it hasn’t been sealed. Stone sealer is designed to close pores in the stone.

Countertops need to be sealed every 6 months or one year, depending on the type of sealer being used and the type of stone being sealed. Buy your sealer from a countertop supplier, and read the instructions to determine how often your countertops need to be sealed.

Not sure whether your countertops need to be sealed or not? Place a tablespoon of water on the surface and leave it there for 15 minutes, then wipe the water away. If a wet spot remains, this is an indication your counters need to be resealed.

You can learn more about sealing your counters on our website. If your countertops are made of quartz or soapstone, they don’t need to be sealed!

3. Putting On Too Much Weight

Stone is strong, but when placed under too much stress, it will break. If you’re putting too much weight on your counters, you could cause a crack, fracture or chip. Avoid setting anything heavy on an unsupported edge.

Don’t put anything like a heavy microwave or countertop oven on a part of your counters that is unsupported. This applies to all types of counters, including quartz.

If you do break your countertops, talk to your countertop supplier for help.

4. Heating It Up

High heat can cause your counters to crack. Never place a hot pot directly on your counters. Use trivets to protect your counters from high heat. Remember to protect your counters from appliances that emit high heat as well. Place your slow cooker on a trivet to prevent your counters from cracking.

5. Using Your Counters As a Cutting Board

Just as you can scratch your counters with abrasive cleaning materials, you can also scratch your counters with sharp knives. Never use your counters as a cutting board. Use a cutting board for that! Teach your kids and other members of your family to do the same.

On a related note, if you always cut and prepare foods in the same places on your counters, that section of your counter will get worn faster than others, and may need to be sealed more often than unused parts of your counters. Use particular care when preparing foods in these vulnerable sections, and if it’s practical, make a point of rotating your work space to keep the wear even.

6. Not Wiping Up Spills Right Away

Acidic foods and beverages like vinegar, lemon juice and tomato sauce are acidic, which means they can slowly etch into your counters, wearing away the sealer and causing the counters to become stained. Get in the habit of wiping spills as soon as possible to protect your counters from acidic juices and foods that can do damage.

7. Dragging Heavy Items Across Your Counters

Stone can scratch – especially soft stones like marble. Never drag a heavy pot or countertop appliance across your counters. Pick it up! If you need to slide something heavy across your counters, put it on a hot pad first to make sliding easier and to protect your counters from sharp edges.

Remodeling Your Kitchen – Cost Considerations

Kitchen remodels represent a major investment, with most projects costing tens of thousands of dollars. Why so much? Probably because any standard remodel involves purchase of many materials, fixtures and appliances, skilled labor to install and a great deal of planning. When the work is over, your kitchen should be more beautiful, more functional, and more valuable, adding to your home’s overall value.

While most homeowners find the cost to be worthwhile, it is important to know how much you can expect to spend on your kitchen remodel. Knowing the potential cost can help you right-size the scope of your project to your budget and avoid overspending that could lead to challenges down the road.

How Much Does a Kitchen Remodel Cost?

The cost of a minor kitchen remodel in many parts of NH is approximately $26,000, according to the Cost Vs. Value Report published by Remodeling Magazine. Most minor kitchen remodels involve cosmetic changes and a few upgrades. For this cost, you can expect to get new doors on your cabinets, new flooring, fresh paint on your walls, a new sink installed and new countertops.

A major, mid-scale kitchen remodel in New Hampshire costs around $76,000. For this price, homeowners often see deep, dramatic changes to their kitchen, including new appliances, new countertops, a new kitchen island, custom lighting, and new cabinets.

Upscale major kitchen remodels can cost as much as $149,000, adding features like a new backsplash, new hardwood flooring, new under cabinet illumination, a new commercial-grade cooktop with vent hood, designer faucets, water filtration system, and other such features.

Factors that Affect Cost

Every kitchen remodel is unique and there are many factors that can affect cost. Knowing what features have the potential to increase or decrease costs can help you control the scope of your project and fit your kitchen remodel to your budget.

  • Scope. Cosmetic changes are the most affordable, while changes to the function or layout of the kitchen can quickly drive up the cost.
  • Removing walls and adding space. Removing walls and adding space can drive up costs dramatically, especially if your contractor needs to remove a load-bearing wall, or if you’re planning to add space to the footprint of your house.
  • Quality. You’ll pay for quality, but remember: good quality lasts longer and functions better. Installing quality materials and appliances can save you money in the long run.
  • Skill. Some contractors cost more than others. Contractors that charge dramatically less for their work may not be as skilled, experienced, or up to the task of remodeling a kitchen. Good contractors tend to cost more money, but you’ll almost certainly be happier with the results.

Financing

The most affordable way to pay for your kitchen remodel is with cash, but many homeowners must seek financing to make their kitchen remodel goals a reality. The type of financing you choose should depend on a variety of factors, including your credit and what payment terms sound right for you.

Mortgage Refinance

With a mortgage refinance, you will borrow enough money to pay off your current mortgage – and a little bit extra to pay a contractor. If you have a lot of equity built up in your home, this could be a good option for you.

Home Equity Loan

With a home equity loan, you’ll borrow a lump sum with a fixed payment, to be repaid in a given period of time. This type of loan is a kind of second mortgage with a low-interest rate.

Home Equity Line of Credit (HELOC)

A HELOC is a loan based on your home’s equity. A HELOC functions like a credit card: you borrow only what you need, and when the remodel is finished, you pay off the loan in the same way you would a credit card.   

Personal Loan

If you don’t have a lot of equity in your home but do have good credit, consider a personal loan. These loans typically have a higher interest rate than some other types of loans, and are often paid back quickly (between 5 and 7 years). However, some homeowners prefer this type of loan because the house itself is not used as collateral. Personal loans are a common tool for homeowners who haven’t owned their house very long, don’t have a lot of equity in their home and need to make major repairs to their home.

Saving Money on Your Kitchen Remodel

You can save money on your kitchen remodel by making smart buying decisions. One thing to keep in mind: purchasing poor quality products and services may save money in the short term, but will cost more in the long run. If saving money is important to you, here’s what we recommend:

Plan Ahead

Buying materials and planning your remodel at the last minute can lead to rushed purchases and mistakes. Plan ahead and take your time as you’re moving through the remodeling process.

Know Your Must-Haves Vs. Nice-To-Haves

Make a list of goals and priorities, then support those goals with a list of must-haves versus nice-to-haves. Knowing what you absolutely must get out of your kitchen remodel can help you avoid over-spending on items that you really don’t need.

Shop Around

Shopping around for materials and a contractor can help ensure that you’ll get the best quality for your money. Take your time and look for the right materials and contractor for your home improvement project.

Avoid Last-Minute Changes

Once you’ve started your kitchen remodel, making changes can get expensive. If you’ve signed off on a design for your kitchen remodel, stick to it. Last-minute changes may require your contractor to undo work that’s already been done, and that can lead to delays and cost increases well beyond the original price.

Eco-Friendly Countertop Options

Climate change has affected the way homeowners build and decorate their homes, and as a result, sustainable countertop options are becoming increasingly popular. If installing a sustainable countertop product is important to you, we can help. We understand what features to look for when choosing a sustainable material, and we have some insider information about eco-friendly products available on today’s market. Here’s what you need to know:

What to Look for In An Eco-Friendly Countertop Material

Knowing what to look for in an eco-friendly countertop material can help you decide which products meet your needs.

  • Durability and longevity. Sustainable products should be lasting products, so they spend less time in a landfill at the end of their service life.
  • Maintenance. Does your countertop of choice need to be oiled, refinished or sealed on a regular basis? It’s important to know this before making a purchase, and to be realistic about your ability to keep up with countertop maintenance. Don’t choose a product that needs more maintenance than you can handle, or you may have to get rid of your counter sooner than necessary – and that’s not green at all.
  • Affordability. The cost of a countertop material will depend on its manufacturing process, source materials and more. Know your budget before you start exploring products, so you can look at realistic options for your needs.
  • What makes it sustainable? Some countertops are made from recycled materials – others are made from reused materials. Don’t just assume a countertop is green because the manufacturer says so – find out what makes it environmentally friendly.

Eco-Friendly Countertop Materials

Demand for eco-friendly countertop materials has increased over time, so the type of materials available has also increased. Countertop manufacturers are always inventing new ways to recycle materials and create products that consumers want.

Recycled Glass

Recycled glass countertops are made from a combination of broken/recycled glass and resins. There are several companies that make recycled glass countertops, so you can pick the countertops with the look that you like best. Some examples of companies that make these products include:

  • IceStone
  • Grenite Recycled Glass
  • Vetrazzo Recycled Glass

Recycled glass counters are easy to maintain – requiring little more than regular cleaning to look their best. These counters can be fragile, and are prone to cracking or chipping when something heavy is dropped on their surface. In addition, the manufacturing process behind recycled glass countertops is not as environmentally-friendly as some other eco-friendly countertop materials. Some of these countertops are manufactured overseas and must be shipped to the US, which adds to their carbon footprint. These counters can run between $50 and $80 per square foot for materials.

Reclaimed Wood

Reclaimed wood is a kind of re-used wood found in old buildings and structures. The wood is sanded and shaped to fit your countertops. Reclaimed wood is known for its beautiful character which may include stains, dents and scratches – all reminders of its previous service life.

Wood makes a good countertop material – and reclaimed wood is definitely environmentally friendly. However, there are some important caveats to note before making your purchase:

  • Safety. Some old wood used in structures may be treated with chemicals that aren’t healthy for use on countertops. Know where your wood came from. Only buy reclaimed wood countertops from reputable sources.
  • Cost. Reclaimed wood is becoming very popular, and it’s a limited resource. Cost for this type of countertop can vary dramatically depending on where the wood came from, its quality and other factors.
  • Maintenance. Wooden countertops need to be oiled regularly. They can easily be scratched, but those scratches can be sanded down, and hidden by oils. Be ready to perform this type of maintenance if this is the type of countertop for you.

Recycled Paper

When you think of paper and its normal characteristics (easy to tear, dissolves in water), you probably would assume that paper would make a terrible countertop material. You’d be wrong! Recycled paper countertops are made from a combination of recycled paper and petroleum-free resin. Paper countertops can divert millions of pounds of paper from the landfill, and once it goes through the manufacturing process, it’s very similar to a soft stone.

In other words, recycled paper can make an excellent countertop material, available in a matte finish that looks and feels like freshly cut stone. If you’re thinking about installing recycled paper countertops, here’s what you should know:

  • Maintenance. Recycled paper does need to be resealed annually, just like many natural stone countertop materials.
  • Occasional refinishing. Older recycled paper countertops may be able to be refinished similar to wood countertops. Find out more about your specific countertops before buffing out any scratches.
  • Fading. Counters regularly exposed to UV rays may fade over time. Think about the location of your counters, the amount of unfiltered sunlight that the counters are exposed to, and decide for yourself if these are the right counters for you.

Quartz

Quartz is probably one of the most popular types of countertop materials available on the market today. Made from crushed stone and resins, quartz looks like natural stone, but is more durable and requires less maintenance overall.

Some important benefits of quartz countertops over other types of counters:

  • Low-maintenance. Quartz requires no maintenance aside from regular cleaning. You do not need to seal or refinish it.
  • Durability. It is a non-porous countertop material that should not stain or chip with regular use.
  • Beauty. If you like the look of natural stone, quartz can be made to mimic the look of any stone you prefer.

Some brands that make quartz are more eco-friendly than others. At Seacoast Stone, we carry the following eco-friendly quartz products:

  • Q-Stone – These porcelain tiles mimic the look of stalatitti marble and quartzite. They’re made from 40% recycled material.
  • Silestone Eco Line Colour Series – Eco Line comes in five beautiful finishes and is made from 50% recycled material.
  • Cambria Non-Porous Stone – Cambria operates with a variety of certifications that show their commitment to producing environmentally friendly products. Cambria’s quartz is top of the line in terms of beauty and sustainability.
  • Wilsonart Quartz – Wilsonart quartz is made from 93 percent high quality natural quartz crystals, and exceeds the industry’s highest standards for indoor air quality, by producing very low emissions.

Alternative Countertop Materials

By far, the most popular countertop materials today are granite, marble and quartz. These materials are preferred by homeowners because they’re durable, beautiful, long-lasting and have high value. They “wow” home buyers and retain their beauty for decades – or longer.

…but for some homeowners, there’s always some curiosity about the alternatives. Installing something different and unexpected is one way to express individuality and personal style. Some homeowners just want to be different, while others are looking for the perfect material to show off their beautiful kitchen or bathroom. Knowing those alternatives, including a few pros and cons about each, can help you decide whether a countertop material is right for you.

Wood

There’s nothing warmer or more natural than wood. This durable, earthy, rustic material is a natural addition to farmhouse-style kitchens, Tuscan style kitchens and kitchen islands everywhere.

Wood is a surprising countertop material in some ways. It’s sensitive to water, so you’ve got to be careful to clean up spills as soon as they occur. Wood also dries out easily with excessive use. Oiling your wooden countertops on a regular basis is a good way to keep them in good condition. Fortunately, wood is very forgiving and can be sanded or scraped with a razor blade to remove stains. Refinishing your wooden countertops can keep them looking beautiful for decades to come.

Concrete

Concrete has a distinctive appearance that some homeowners love. It’s very utilitarian, but has a unique edginess that pairs well with natural materials like leather, copper and wood. Some homeowners like to combine their concrete countertops with other industrial features like pendant lighting featuring Edison bulbs, exposed brick and open shelving.

The downsides? Concrete is porous and can stain. It requires sealing to be protected. It’s also prone to hairline cracking (which can often be repaired). Finally, it can be noisy. Pots and pans clanking against it can make normal cooking a very loud experience indeed.

Recycled Materials

Recycled countertops are the preferred material for homeowners who prioritize sustainability. Many recycled materials can be used to make countertops, including glass, paper and even metal. These materials are combined with resins to create a hard, durable surface.

Recycled material countertops are low-maintenance, typically require no sealing, and have a unique appeal for people who prioritize eco-friendly home systems. Some recycled materials come in solid colors, while others are flecked with pieces of material dotting the surface in interesting patterns and colors. You choose.

Pyrolave

Pyrolave is a natural volcanic rock that’s been glazed and fired like a ceramic. It’s incredibly durable and difficult to chip. It’s also non-porous, so you don’t have to worry about bacteria hiding in the cracks of the counter.

Pyrolave comes in solid colors that can’t be changed or refinished. If you ever tire of the color your counters, you’ll have to replace them. This countertop material typically comes in vibrant, bold shades that may not appeal to all audiences. If you’re worried about selling your house soon, Pyrolave may not be the safest choice. It can also be very expensive.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel is the countertop of choice in professional kitchens. It’s got a cool, industrial appearance that looks right at home with a professional stove and stainless steel appliances. It’s also entirely resistant to burns, melting or staining. If you’re looking for a long-lasting countertop that requires little maintenance, stainless steel is a great choice. One more benefit: it’s entirely recyclable, which means that your counters can have a new life when you decide to replace them with something else.

The downside? Stainless steel scratches easily. Even high quality stainless steel will scratch over time, but the higher quality the steel, the more durable it is. You can rub out some scratches by lightly oiling the surface of the steel with olive oil. Some fine scratches can be removed with a mild abrasive pad. Deeper scratches are there for life unless repaired by a pro.

Laminate

Laminate countertops are an affordable option for homeowners seeking a material that is beautiful, flexible in its appearance and customizable to the space where it’s being installed. Laminate has been around for decades and has made big strides in its durability in recent years. Even if you think you know what laminate is like, you may not – unless you’ve installed laminate in your home sometime in the last decade.

Laminate isn’t as durable as natural materials like stone. It can be melted, chipped or scratched, so it does need to be properly cared for and treated right. Over time, it can delaminate. When this starts to happen, it needs to be replaced.

Zinc

Zinc is a soft metal that’s easily stained by fingerprints and liquids. Over time, little, everyday stains change the countertop surface, creating a patina that’s similar in some ways to the patina that develops on soapstone. Zinc can be polished to a shine, or left with a matte surface. This unusual metal is beautiful and distinctive in its appearance. It looks just right in industrial kitchens and in more traditional kitchen settings.

Epoxy

Epoxy countertops are customizable, beautiful and long-lasting. Some homeowners install their own epoxy countertops, while others hire a contractor to do the work for them. Epoxy can be installed over older countertops, so it’s a popular material for homeowners who want to revitalize their old countertops without paying for all new. Epoxy can be made to resemble certain types of stone, or it can come in solid colors. It can stain, so spills need to be cleaned up as soon as possible.

Don’t Accidentally Ruin Your Countertops

Your countertops might be made of a durable material like stone or quartz, but there are ways they can be damaged. You can keep your counters in good condition for decades – if you know how to do it. With the right care, your stone or quartz countertops could outlast your kitchen! Here’s what we recommend.

Use the Right Cleaning Supplies

Some cleaning products are acidic and can etch the surface of your counters. Be wary of cleaning products that contain vinegar or citric acid. Both can etch stone with time. Phosphoric acid is a slightly stronger cleaning product that is sometimes found in bathroom tile, tub and sink cleaners – this too should be avoided.

Gentle cleaning products like dish-washing soap is adequate for cleaning kitchen counters. You can also add some rubbing alcohol to the dishwashing soap and water mixture for extra cleaning power. If you own natural stone countertops, stone cleaner is another good product that can safely keep your counters clean.

Use a Cutting Board

Don’t use your countertops as a cutting board – even if you own a cutting board made from the same material. If you don’t use a cutting board, you could gouge or scratch your countertops. This is especially true if your counters are made from a soft stone like marble.

Seal Stone As Needed

It’s easy to forget that many types of stone are porous and can absorb liquids, leading to stains. You can avoid this problem if you seal your counters periodically.

Sealing is relatively easy if you have the right products. A few months ago, we published an extensive article about sealing your countertops. If you’re not sure whether your stone counters need to be sealed, try this test:

  1. Pour a teaspoon of water on the surface.
  2. Leave the water to sit for 15 minutes to half an hour.
  3. Wipe away the water. If the water leaves a wet stain behind, this means your counters need to be sealed. Don’t worry – the water stain will dry.

If you own soapstone counters, you do not need to seal your counters ever. Soapstone is so dense that it cannot absorb water. You can, however, oil the soapstone to ensure the stone’s patina develops evenly.

Clean Up Spills from Acidic Foods

Just as acidic cleaning products can etch your counters, acidic foods can do the same. Clean up spills from foods like red wine, white wine and ketchup as soon as the spills occur, or as soon as you notice the problem. If your counters are properly sealed, a spill that goes unnoticed is less likely to do damage. Take care of your counters!

Don’t Use Your Countertops As a Step Ladder

Stone may not be strong enough to support your weight while you change a light bulb or hunt for a pot in the cabinet over the stove. Do not step on or stand on your counters. If you crack your counters or chip them, contact your fabricator as soon as possible to discuss a potential repair.

Use Trivets

Countertops of all kinds can be sensitive to extreme heat. Some can be discolored by heat, others may crack or warp. Use trivets, hot pads, cork pads and other types of pads to provide protection from hot pots and pans.

Are You Hard On Your Countertops? Pick the Right Material

Some materials are more easily damaged than others. For example, marble is a particularly soft stone that can be easily scratched and stained. By comparison, quartz is especially tough and requires little care.

You should pick the type of material that matches your lifestyle and cooking habits. Your installer or fabricator can help you sort through the choices and make the right decision for your home.

Outdoor Kitchens – Choosing Countertops

Outdoor kitchens are exciting because they bring some of our most beloved activities – cooking and eating – into the great outdoors. A lot goes into the planning and design of an outdoor kitchen, even when it comes to the counters. Before you build an outdoor kitchen this year, know what kind of countertop material is best for your home.

What to Look for In an Outdoor Countertop

For an outdoor kitchen, it’s important to choose a countertop material with the right qualities. Not all materials are created equal. Some wear faster than others, and some are simply not suitable for an outdoor environment.

Durability. Your outdoor kitchen is regularly exposed to summer sun, rain, snow and ice. Stay away from counters that may crack or deteriorate when exposed to temperature extremes. The best outdoor counters require little or no maintenance (other than regular cleaning).

Beauty. Outdoor kitchens are 100% luxury – so we recommend the most beautiful, stylish counters you can find. Consider the colors and patterns in the surrounding landscape or on your deck as you choose the colors and patterns for your counters. Some materials come in as many colors and patterns as you can imagine, so keep an open mind when trying to picture what could be.

Which Materials Are Best?

There are so many popular and attractive materials to choose from that making a decision can be hard. We recommend viewing each possible material in person before making a decision. Touching each sample, seeing the slabs up close and discussing your favorite materials with a professional can help make your decision easier.

Quartz

With the look of natural stone but the durability of a man-made material, quartz is a dream countertop material for most homeowners. Because it’s man-made, homeowners can pick almost any color or pattern they want, and match their counters to nearly any surface or object in the vicinity.

Quartz is almost the ideal material for an outdoor kitchen because it’s so incredibly durable, low-maintenance and long-lasting. You’ll never have to seal your quartz counters. Quartz is also stain-resistant, so there’s no need to fret about that dollop of melted butter or dressing that goes unnoticed after your afternoon barbecue.

Constant exposure to sunlight can cause damage to this man-made material. If you’re going to use quartz in an outdoor kitchen, keep it covered and in shade throughout the day.

Pros:

  • Stain-resistant
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Low maintenance, no sealing required
  • Available in a variety of colors and patterns
  • Can be made to mimic the look of many natural stones, like marble and granite

Cons:

  • Should not be exposed to constant sunlight

Soapstone

Elegant, understated, and sophisticated – this natural stone comes in shades of gray and cream. It’s so dense that it’s non-porous, which means you never have to seal it or worry about bird droppings permeating the surface. It’s also impervious to freeze/thaw cycles. It’s not sensitive to the sun, so you can install soapstone counters in the open air or under a covering.

Soapstone develops a patina that darkens its surface over time. Oiling the soapstone will help this patina develop evenly, but you don’t have to apply oil. There’s no way to stop the soapstone from darkening, so be prepared. Some people like this patina, others do not.

Though it is dense, soapstone is also fairly soft, so it scratches easily. It must be protected from sharp knives, heavy cast iron and other materials that could mar its surface.

Pros:

  • Stain-resistant
  • Low maintenance, no sealing required
  • Develops a patina that some people like
  • Will not be damaged by regular exposure to the sun

Cons:

  • Develops a patina that some people don’t like
  • Scratches fairly easily

Granite

Granite is a very popular countertop material outdoors because of its beauty and durability. In fact, granite was considered the most desirable countertop material – indoors or outdoors – for many years. It comes in flecked patterns that can hide dirt and crumbs, so it looks great outside even when it hasn’t been cleaned or used in days.

Granite is also very scratch-resistant, so it’s a good choice if you’re very hard on your counters. And, even when exposed to regular sunlight, granite does not easily fade or stain.

The one complaint some homeowners may have about granite is that it needs regular sealing. If a seal is not regularly applied, it will absorb water, which can make it vulnerable to freeze/thaw cycles. Sealing granite is not hard, but it does need to be done periodically as the old seal wears off.

Pros:

  • Stain-resistant when properly sealed
  • Scratch-resistant
  • Available in a variety of colors and patterns

Cons: 

  • Needs regular sealing

How to Maintain Your Outdoor Countertops

Maintenance is important for outdoor furnishings and fixtures – especially if they’re used for cooking and food preparation. Above all else, outdoor countertops must be kept clean or you could subject yourself and your loved ones to food-borne illnesses.

Cleaning

If your outdoor counters are made from natural stone, we recommend cleaning them with a natural stone cleaner with anti-bacterial properties. Talk to your stone fabricator to find out which cleaning product is best.

If your counters are made from quartz, use an anti-bacterial, non-acidic, non-abrasive cleaner. You can also use warm water mixed with dishwashing liquid.

Clean your counters before every use, after every use, and in between if you’re cutting up raw meats or handling foods that could contaminate your counters with germs.

Sealing

If you own granite (or marble) countertops, apply sealant according to the instructions. Some counters need to be resealed every 6 months, others can go for a year without resealing. You’ll be able to tell when your counters need to be sealed again because they’ll start absorbing water. Pour a tablespoon of water on the surface and leave the water to sit for 15 minutes. If the water leaves a stain after it’s cleaned up, it’s time to re-seal.

Test your counters regularly to decide whether they need sealing. Check out our recent article for more in-depth instructions.

Countertop Fabrication Done Right

Custom-cut countertops made from natural stone add value and beauty to your kitchen or bathroom. The multi-step fabrication process ensures that your new counters will be personally made and perfectly fitted for your home. Throughout the process, you’ll make many decisions that will influence the course of the project. Knowing what to expect and which choices benefit you most is important.

Choose the Right Stone Fabricator

There may be many stone fabricators in your area. Choosing the right one is very important. Look for a business that sells quality materials, provides excellent customer service, sets fair prices and enjoys a good reputation.

  • Visit the showroom to view their selection in person. Pay attention to the customer service you receive during your visit. Are they attentive? Do they communicate well and answer your questions accurately? Are they willing to go the extra mile to help you make your decision?
  • Get references from previous customers. This is the best way to gauge a fabricator’s service, products and quality.
  • Read the warranty. Choose a fabricator that shows confidence in their products with a solid warranty.

Select Your Stone Type

Marble, soapstone, and granite are the most common natural stones used as kitchen counters. Each has its own patterning, color, and durability. Each stone is differently maintained. Some are more durable than others. The countertop material you choose will affect the type of maintenance you perform and the day-to-day behaviors that you adopt to protect your countertops.

Marble is a sophisticated but soft stone, most commonly available in white and gray. It’s highly absorbent and must be sealed periodically to prevent stains. It also scratches easily, so it must be protected from knives and heavy, hot pots with cutting boards and trivets.

Soapstone is a very dense, hard stone that does not need to be sealed. It ranges in color from soft, creamy white to deep charcoal gray. Soapstone develops a natural patina that darkens with time. Oiling soapstone periodically helps this patina develop evenly.

Granite. Granite is the most popular natural stone countertop material. It is prized for its durability and beauty, and comes in a range of colors and patterns including brown, brown, gray, black and white. Though granite is much harder and more scratch-resistant than marble, it too can absorb liquids and may be subject to staining. Periodic sealing helps granite repel water and protects granite from stains.

Inspect the Slab

Every slab of natural stone is unique. Some have beautiful features that you’ll want to stare at, run your fingers across, admire. Most slabs will have spots you might call “imperfections.” A good stone supplier will allow you to inspect each slab before selecting your countertops. Show your fabricator the areas you like best, and the areas you like least. Your fabricator will help you choose a layout to showcase what you love.

Sign a Contract

Countertop installation is no small investment. Your fabricator should present a contract to ensure everyone is on the same page. Read the contract thoroughly and ask questions about any parts that you find confusing or difficult to understand. The contract should contain information like payment terms, stone type, dimensions, the name of the installer, scope of work, and the contact information for the installer.

 

Learn more about the process of fabricating countertops by reading our article titled “Countertop Fabrication from Start to Finish: How to Install Custom Countertops at Home“.

 

Countertop Fabrication from Start to Finish: How to Install Custom Countertops at Home

Natural stone countertops are a joy to behold. They gleam and shine. They provide the backdrop for your meals and meal preparation. They are also a major investment. Well-chosen stone can last centuries if properly installed and well maintained. Installation of natural stone is a process. Before you get started, here is what you need to know.

What Is Countertop Fabrication?

Countertop fabrication is the selection, cutting and installation of natural stone countertops. Fabrication from a turn-key supplier is a full-service experience, starting with the selection process and ending with professional installation.

Fabrication, Step-By-Step

1. Measure the countertops.

Draw a layout of your kitchen, and measure your counters including their width and depth. Note any built-in appliances and features like the sink, including their measurements and placement on your counters. These measurements do not have to be totally precise, as your fabricator will eventually come to your home to take more precise measurements for installation. The measurements you take now will serve as a useful reference when you are discussing costs, material types and individual slabs with consultants from the fabricator.

Interested in a matching stone backsplash? Measure the walls, including width and height, and note their placement on the counters. Talk to the fabricator about the backsplash when you visit the showroom.

2. Make your selection.

Bring your drawings to the fabricator to discuss your upcoming installation. Consultants will show you various types of stone, discuss your budget and help you explore materials to find the right stone. As you are discussing the various types of stone available, have a conversation with the consultant about maintenance and durability. Each stone type is different. Pick the type of stone based on all its characteristics, not just appearance. Once you have selected a stone type, the fabricator will submit a bid for purchase and installation.

3. Your fabricator will prepare the space.

Installers will come to your home to take more precise measurements. When they are done, they will use those measurements to create a wooden template. This template will help fabricators cut your new countertops without error. If you wish, you will be able to use this wooden template to plan the layout. Your fabricator will lay the wood over the slabs, and you can help position the template over the slab so that your favorite colors and details are included.

4. Stone cutting and installation.

The rest of this process is in the hands of your fabricator. They will cut the stone, then install it. Countertop installation takes about a day. Installers will attach the sink, install the faucet and plumbing, remove the old countertops, and manage the disposal. On the day of the installation, you will be able to speed the process along by removing your countertop appliances and other items on the countertops. When the work is done, your counters will be permanently transformed.

Sealing Granite Countertops

Granite is a favorite countertop material found in homes across the United States. It’s beloved for its natural resistance to scratches and beautiful variations in patterns and colors. To look and perform its best, granite needs to be sealed periodically. If you own granite countertops, here’s what you need to know about sealing granite.

How to Seal Granite Countertops

Below, we’ve described the process for using most sealer types. However, if the sealer manufacturer provides instructions that contradict the steps below, always follow the manufacturer’s recommendations.

  1. Clear the area.
  2. Spray the sealer generously over the area being sealed.
  3. Spread the sealer over the stone with a clean rag. Don’t wipe the sealer off the stone, just spread it around.
  4. Wait 15 minutes.
  5. Buff the area you sealed with a clean rag.
  6. Allow the sealer to cure on the countertop for 48 hours.

Some tips:

Seal your counters one segment at a time. Remember, you’ll have to wait 48 hours after sealing before cleaning your counters. Unless you’re going away for a weekend and can leave your counters to seal while you’re away, seal only one a segment at a time. This leaves available counter space for food prep.

Choose a quality sealer that’s appropriate for your counters. Not sure which sealer to pick? Get a recommendation from your installer. Also, read the notes on the bottle to be sure you’ve selected a sealer that’s appropriate for your stone type. 

Is This Necessary? What Is the Purpose?

The process of sealing your counters is important because it improves your counter’s stain resistance and prevents your counter from absorbing spills. Sealing protects your counters in the kitchen, where cooking oils, red wine and tomato-based sauces can leave glaring stains on your counter’s surface.

How Often Should I Seal?

Seal your countertops when the old sealer wears off. Sounds simple enough, right? Sealer is clear, so you may have a hard time telling when your counters are ready.

Lighter counters are more at risk for showing stains, so they should be resealed every six months to one year. Darker countertops are less likely to show stains, so an annual resealing may be enough to protect darker stones.

The sealer of your choice may provide a recommended timeline for re-sealing your counters. However, there’s an easy test you can use to determine when that protective layer of sealant has worn off.

Pour a tablespoon of water on your counters. Examine the bead of water, especially at the edges. If your counters are properly sealed, the water will maintain a round, bubbly appearance. The edges of the water will not spread flat, but will instead curl under, almost like a partially-filled water balloon laying flat on its side.

If you wait 15 minutes to wipe away the bead of water, you may see a wet stain on the stone where the water used to be. This stain (which will fade away in a few hours) means your counters are absorbing liquids. It’s time to reseal!

What Materials Are Needed?

Here’s what you’ll need to reseal your counters:

  • Quality sealer
  • A few clean rags or paper towels
  • Time

Read the instructions on your sealer bottle before getting started, to be sure that your particular brand of sealer doesn’t need any extra materials.

Polished vs Honed vs Leathered Stone Finishes

After long deliberation, you’ve finally picked the type of stone for your countertops at home. You’re done making decisions, right?

Not quite! Before your stone supplier can install new countertops, you’ll have to choose a finish. Some finishes are high gloss and shiny, others have a matte appearance and texture. The finish impacts the appearance of your counters, how much maintenance they require, and their durability.

To make your decision, take into account factors like how gently you treat your counters, how often you cook, and how much time you can dedicate toward ongoing maintenance.

What Does Each Finish Look Like?

Finishes can be divided into three categories: polished, honed and leathered.

Polished stone is very glossy and shiny. Its mirrored surface is reflective and bright – almost cheerful in the way it reflects light around the room.

Honed stone has a matte finish that is equal parts subdued, conservative and tasteful. Some might describe its texture as satiny or buttery. A honed finish reduces the contrast between light and dark areas. Dark veins on light stone often appear lighter and less obvious compared to dark veins on a polished stone.

Leathered finish is similar to honed finish except for one thing: it has the dimpled and almost wavy texture of leather. Leathered finish is created with a diamond-tipped brush run over the honed surface. Think of a leather couch, or leather car interior. Leathered stone has a similar texture.

How Do They Wear?

Each type of countertop wears in its own way.

Polished

Polished stone is resistant to stain, but shows scratches easily. Sometimes scratches can be sanded down and the surface re-sealed, but in some cases, the only way to eliminate scratches once they’ve been made is to refinish the countertop. This requires help from a contractor.

Honed

Honed stone doesn’t show scratches as easily as polished stone, so if you’re rough on your counters, a honed finish may be the right finish for you. Honed stone needs to be sealed more frequently than polished stone, as it is highly absorbent and can stain easily.

Leathered

Leathered stone, which is often (though not always) a dark stone may be the lowest maintenance finish there is. Darker stones show fewer stains, and the uneven leathered surface masks most scratches.

Refinishing leathered stone is not easy. If you do manage to damage your counters and require a refinishing, it will be almost impossible for your stone repair contractor to refinish only a portion of the countertops. Instead, they’ll likely have to refinish the entire surface.

Which Finish Requires the Most Maintenance? Which Requires the Least?

All counters should be cleaned multiple times per day to ensure proper food sanitation. However, each type of finish responds to cleaning in its own way.

Polished stone is very easy to clean, because it is very non-absorbent. Leathered stone is also very easy to clean, because it shows less dirt and grit than either of the other two types of finishes. Honed finish counters need regular attention to clean spills and avoid stains.