Engineered stone countertops are remarkable products, offering the 'best of both worlds' regarding durability and aesthetics. They're made to look and feel like stone yet they possess enhancements that nature couldn't provide - namely, the durability and cleanliness that comes with a non-porous surface.
One of the most popular and widely used forms of engineered stone is quartz countertops. Brands like Silestone and Cambria use quartz as the primary ingredient in their engineered stone countertops and other surfacing products.
Quartz isn't the only form of stone that's used however. Granite, marble and semi-precious stones can be found in various engineered stone countertops, each with their own decorative and functional appeal.
And if looks are important (and when aren't they) engineered stone products do a terrific job of mimicking real stone. Colors and patterns have evolved to the point where these kinds of man-made surfaces look very natural and beautiful. And the best part is that you don't have to worry about the maintenance that goes along with some kinds of natural stone.
The term “engineered stone” is just a technical term that describes the combination of crushed natural stone and a resin binder. The binder holds the stone aggregate together. Through this combination the stone has been "engineered" to enhance it's properties, and form it into a product more workable and usable.
Engineered stone countertops are made in relatively thin slabs. The marriage between stone and resin is completed under intense heat and pressure. Pigments are added during the process to give the product its color. The resulting slab is then polished to a high gloss or honed to a more matte finish.
If this all sounds too technical, think of it as crushed stone that’s combined with a ‘glue’ and baked in a pan. That may be an oversimplification but it may help in understanding the basic concepts of what it is and how it’s made.
The key take-away from this bit-o-science is that the end result is a non-porous material, a very nice attribute for a countertop surface.
Another thing to keep in mind is that some manufacturers, particularly those that make quartz countertops, advertise their products as "natural quartz". And natural quartz it is - but it's not purely a slab of quartz that's been quarried and cut to size. Quartz is the key ingredient (usually about 93%), but the product you're getting is still the combination of quartz and other materials.
To be honest, there's a lot of upside and not a lot of drawbacks with engineered stone countertops.
Take a look at the picture of natural granite below. It shows the porosity and natural fissures that occur even after the surface is polished. Engineered stone is completely smooth with no small pits or pock marks.
Real Stone - Those Dark Fissures Show The Natural Porosity
But on that note, you be the judge. Which sample in the picture below is the engineered stone and which is real granite? Even if you can distinguish between real and not, you have to agree that the engineered stone does a pretty good impersonation.
Answer: The Sample On The Left Is The Imposter
From a functionality and durability perspective, there’s really not many negatives associated with engineered stone. That's why it carries the name it does – it’s been “engineered” to offer the benefits of stone while eliminating the weak points.
Similar to solid surface countertops there are sufficient manufacturers of engineered stone countertops from which to choose. The benefit here is that competition among them spurs new styles, colors and other innovations that ultimately make for better choices and cost control.
What Are The Differences Between The Various Brands?
For a given classification of engineered stone, particularly the crowded class of quartz-based products, there aren’t any significant differentiation points on a basic level. In other words, they’re made up of similar materials and made in similar ways.
What does differentiate them is the quantity of color and pattern offerings. Some manufacturers offer more than others which offers you more in the way of choices to match your particular needs.
Availability in any particular geographic area is another determining factor when choosing among the various makers of engineered stone. Some brands have a wider distribution and a corresponding larger quantity of certified installers.
So What Should I Consider When Making My Decision?
First, decide upon the type of engineered stone surfacing you want, be it quartz-based or one of the other varieties. Then look for the color or pattern that suits you best. Since most other factors are roughly equal, it comes down to which manufacturer provides exactly what you’re looking for.
Tip: if more than one maker offers a particular color you’re interested in, obtain price quotes for all of them. In some cases, the same or a very similar color option has different prices between manufacturers. You may be able to get the color you want at a lower price if you shop around and investigate the offerings of each manufacturer.
Here are the details on the particular types and brands of engineered stone. Click on one of the brand names to learn more about their highlights.Quartz-Based
|Highlights||Avanza engineered stone is characterized by a small number of colors, primarily in the earth-tone family. Patterns have the look of natural stone and countertops are offered in a wide variety of edge profiles.|
|Highlights||Caesarstone engineered stone countertops are made in Israel and have GREENGUARD® and NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certification. Products are offered in a moderate number of colors that includes a honed look. Their Soft Blend textures offer several nice colors that emulate a richer, softer look, that's less 'granulated' than typical engineered stone.|
|Highlights||Cambria engineered stone is the only quartz-based stone product manufactured in the U.S. and comes with a lifetime warranty. Cambria is GREENGUARD® certified with products offered in several collections that comprise a moderate quantity of colors and patterns. The Quarry collection has a rich blend of stone-like colors.|
|Highlights||Legacy quartz counters are made by the Verona Marble Company. Products are offered in over 30 colors in several collections. The Signature Collection is characterized by earth tone colors and small to medium sized grain particulates. The Designer Collection contains some bolder colors.|
|Highlights||LG Viatera is a quartz-based engineered stone made in Italy and by a subsidiary of the LG Group, makers of LG HI-MACS acrylic solid surface. Viatera is offered in over 20 colors ranging from earth tones to more vibrant and bold choices like Aqua Granite and Black Granite.|
|Highlights||Okite (pronounced "oh-KEE-tay") is a quartz-based product that was one of the first, if not the first, quartz manufacturer to produce very natural veined patterns. The colors that incorporate this look go a long way toward looking like marble and natural stone. They also offer translucent colors and surfacing that includes recycled content.|
|Highlights||Silestone has one of the largest color selections among the various makers of quartz countertops. Countertops include Microban antimicrobial protection and they're certified by GREENGUARD® and the National Sanitation Foundation. Silestone features include the Leather™ texture that resembles a honed (matte) finish. The River series has non-directional veining which offers a different approach to the traditional particulate look of engineered stone. Silestone also offers quartz sinks allowing the ability to match a quartz-based countertop with a matching sink in the same material.|
|Highlights||Technistone quartz surfaces are available in over 20 colors with variable sized quartz crystal patterns. Besides their earth-tone colors, Technistone offers some brighter colors including red and green.|
|Highlights||Zodiaq countertops made by DuPont™ are quartz-based products available in a moderate quantity of colors. Part of the Zodiaq collection includes the OKITE collection made by Seieffe Industries in Italy. OKITE surfacing is characterized by variable veining that mimics the look of marble. Zodiaq's Terra Collection contains 50% pre-consumer recycled glass.|
|Highlights||Granite Transformations uses crushed granite as one of the main constituents in its Trend Stone line of countertop products. The innovation here is that Granite Transformations countertops are made to fit over your existing countertops like a slip cover. No demo work is required. They can also be installed in new applications over a substrate. They also offer a Trend Glass product, made with glass and stone fragments. There are over 30 colors combined in both of these product lines.|
|Highlights||Marghestone is a marble-based engineered stone made by Verona Marble Company. These countertops include marble aggregate along with other materials like glass chips and mother of pearl. Marghestone is slightly less scratch resistant than a granite or quartz engineered stone and are intended for bathroom rather than kitchen countertops.|
|Highlights||Agglosimplex is another marble-based engineered stone countertop product made by Verona Marble Company. Like Marghestone, it's meant for bathroom applications rather than as a kitchen countertop. Agglosimplex is offered in a small range of colors including some darker shades not found in the Marghestone line.|
|Highlights||Concetto by Caesarstone is a truly unique product among the engineered stone offerings. Rather than crushed stone aggregate, Concetto uses "slices" and larger pieces of semi-precious stones to make up the finished slabs of material. These stone pieces are individually hand-set in the manufacturing process to achieve the unique look. Some stones are translucent and can be backlit for added impact. These products are costly however.|
This kind of countertop material isn't hard to find. The only drawback you might encounter is finding one of the particular brands in your local area, depending on where you live.
Keep in mind that most engineered stone products are also classified as "quartz" and you'll most likely see them advertised under this name. While the majority of engineered stone surfacing uses quartz don't forget that there are other types of stone/minerals that make up this category.
Big-box home improvement centers like The Home Depot and Lowe's provide installation services for several of the name-brand quartz surfacing products. Other sources include local countertop fabrication and installation businesses, building product dealers and kitchen/bath specialty firms.
If you're interested in one particular brand of engineered stone the best way to find where to get them in your local area is to simply use the dealer locator function on their website.
To make it easier than having to search yourself, you can have local countertop suppliers in your area contact you instead.
Simply fill in your zip code in the box to the left and follow the prompts from there.
It's a convenient way to have countertop suppliers come to you and as part of the process, provide you with free, no-obligation estimates.