Where Did My Countertop Come From? All About Natural Stone Countertops – And Quartz Too
We’ve written articles that discuss the process of selecting and installing countertops, but the story of countertop creation starts in a quarry. Stone mining has been around for thousands of years. While hand tools were once used to collect stone, machines guided by trained experts do the work today. This amazing process is often carried out in mountainous areas, where humans cut into the earth and extract stone that has taken millions of years to form.
Before you install natural stone or engineered stone countertops in your home, here’s what to know about where your stone comes from.
What happens at a quarry?
A quarry is a place where rocks are extracted from the earth in an open-pit mine (meaning you can look into it from the top). Stone is cut from these mines using diamond tipped drills and blasting materials, then the stone is hauled away by impressively large mining trucks. Mining trucks are designed to haul hundreds of tons of material at a time, and can be taller than a typical two-story building.
Where does granite come from?
Granite quarries are located all over the world, including in Brazil, US, and India. It’s found close to the surface of the earth, and its quarries are relatively shallow. To extract granite, small holes are drilled around the desired block, then explosives are placed inside the holes. When the explosives are activated, the block separates from the bedrock onto sand that cushions its fall and prevents it from cracking.
Where does marble come from?
Marble is usually quarried in Spain, Italy, Canada, India, China and Germany. Often, marble is named for the quarry where it is first discovered. For example, Carrara marble comes from Carrara Italy, where it is mined.
The direction the marble is cut determines how it looks. While one quarry may cut along the vein, another might cut across the vein, resulting in a very different looking product.
During the mining process, diamond tipped drills cut holes into the earth, then a synthetic diamond wire is used to cut across the rock, much like a giant industrial cheese cutter. Sometimes a giant chainsaw-like mechanism is used as well.
Where does soapstone come from?
Soapstone comes from Brazil and India. There is also a soapstone quarry in Alberene, VA. Soapstone is notable for its soft texture, which comes from the rock’s talc content. This soft texture makes soapstone a favorite of sculptors. Like marble, soapstone is veined. The appearance of the soapstone depends on the direction of the cut, either with the veins or across them.
How are fresh cut slabs turned into countertops?
Once the stone is extracted from the quarry, the slabs are transported to a facility where it is cut and shaped to the proper dimensions for countertop installation. Each slab is unique, so each customer can find the slab that they think is the most beautiful and the most appropriate for their project.
Fabricators hand-pick their stone to ensure they have the best and most attractive slabs to offer their customers. Most slabs are between 7 and 9 feet long, which means that extra long countertops may have a subtle seam connecting two pieces of stone. A good fabricator will work with their customers to ensure that the connection between two stones is not a distraction from the natural beauty of the counter.
Where does quartz come from?
Quartz is a man-made product sometimes referred to as engineered stone. About 10% of the material is a polymeric cement-based binder that holds together crushed up pieces of stone like marble, quartz and granite. Quartz countertops can also contain silica, glass and ceramic.
Although quartz is man made, it’s often difficult or impossible to tell the difference between quartz countertops and natural stone countertops. The look and feel of most quartz countertops is that of any other natural stone. Its polished, smooth surface is similar to granite and marble. Often, quartz is designed to mimic the look of marble and granite.
Some types of quartz are created to look outrageously synthetic and bold. Consumers can find quartz countertops in shades of lime green, bold purple and other unusual colors. Quartz can also be made in a variety of unusual textures. If it’s important to you to have an unusual countertop that defies the look of natural stone, quartz is the right product for you.
Find the Right Fabricator
The key to purchasing a beautiful new countertop is to work with a fabricator that you can trust. The best natural stone slabs are hand-picked by fabricators that want the best for their customers. At Seacoast Stone, we’re committed to selling stone that has the look and feel our customers demand. We sell beautiful natural stone and the quartz from the best brand names in the industry.