For strong and stylish kitchen benchtops Gold Coast homeowners have found it difficult to beat the benefits offered by engineered stone. The sleek lines and finishes offered by this medium provide a real architectural quality that has proven very popular with designers and renovators alike and it’s estimated that 75% of kitchens now feature engineered stone countertops. Let’s take a closer look at some of the characteristics that make this clever kitchen and bathroom surface a favourite.
What is engineered stone?
Engineered stone (also called quartz surfaces or stone composite) is the term given to a surface made from a mixture of natural minerals, resin binding agents, pigments and additives. These components are combined into a slurry-like mix which is then poured into molds and cured. The process of making this material was first developed and patented in Italy by a company called Breton and the product has been progressively gaining in popularity over the past 20 years. Caesarstone is probably the best-known brand of engineered stone available in Australia today, but there are now a number of other companies that also supply top quality stone composites including Quantum Quartz, Hanstone Quartz, Essastone and Smartstone.
One of the beauties of engineered stone is that it’s available in a huge range of colours and patterns. Most companies today use quartz as the mineral filler at a concentration of between 93%-95%. By using different types, sizes and colours of quartz crystals as well as the addition of coloured glass, mirrors, mother of pearl and semi-precious stones, manufacturers are able to achieve a whole range of different looks and lustres to suit a variety of decors. The preferred thickness for benchtops of this type is 20mm and a variety of edge profiles can be created including bullnosed, bevelled and mitred.
Benefits of using engineered stone
Durability – When the priority is on having tough and durable benchtops Gold Coast renovators will find that stone composites top the charts for resilience. Quartz is one of the hardest natural substances on earth being surpassed only by sapphires, topaz and diamond on the hardness scale. Consumers will find that engineered stone surfaces can be up to 6 times stronger than granite, depending on the brand, which makes them incredibly sturdy and ideal for busy family kitchens.
Scratch and chip resistant – While this material is amazingly tough and much less prone to scratching than natural stone benchtops Gold Coast families should still be careful to avoid sudden impacts or placing excessive weight onto their engineered stone counters (e.g. standing on the surface). It is also recommended to use a chopping board for food preparation since cutting directly on the countertop may dull the sheen. Small chips can be repaired when necessary, but may not be invisible.
Stain resistant – Engineered stone benchtops are virtually non-porous and will resist stains from red wine, coffee, tea, fruit juice and even food colouring.
Heat resistant – While this surface is more heat resilient than most types of benchtops Gold Coast homeowners are cautioned to use trivets to avoid the risk of damaging the top with thermal shock caused by sudden temperature variations.
Hygienic – This medium is ideal for food preparation areas as it is effective in keeping out germs, mildew and bacteria. Most brands of engineered stone benchtops Gold Coast residents would be purchasing have had their products certified as meeting food safety requirements by the NSF.
Low-maintenance – One of the huge benefits of engineered stone is that it has a lustrous surface that does not require sealing, polishing or conditioning. There are no special cleaning products required to keep it looking good either – just plain old soap and water will do the trick nicely. While resistance to acids and oils is also a feature of engineered stone benchtops Gold Coast homeowners do need to ensure they avoid contact with certain harsh chemical cleaners and solvents such as oven and toilet cleaner.
The drawbacks of engineered stone
One of the disadvantages of this medium is that it can become brittle with age and consequently more prone to chips. It is also sensitive to UV light so is not recommended for outdoor applications or anywhere it will be exposed to direct sunlight. When used externally engineered stone can become warped and faded. This material is also flammable so cannot be used as a splashback behind gas burners unless appropriate clearance is provided.
Unlike natural stone, engineered stone usually has a very uniform appearance with only minor variations in mineral concentration occurring. However, new varieties of engineered stone, such as Smartstone’s Nature Collection and Quantum Quartz’s Natural Quartz range, are now being developed which mimic the patterns and veins found in natural stone.
Tips for Buying Stone Composite Benchtops Gold Coast
When purchasing engineered stone benchtops Gold Coast buyers should ensure that the supplier uses the Breton manufacturing equipment and processes. Some inferior brands are now coming out of China and these have offered a mixed performance. The specific brands mentioned in this article are known to be reputable and reliable.
The industry standard warranty period for engineered stone benchtops is 10 years, with some suppliers offering guarantees of up to 15 years. Make sure that the product you choose is backed by a solid warranty. The company should be able to provide you with contact details and an ABN which will allow you to action the warranty in the event of a product malfunction.
Engineered stone typically costs less than natural stone but is significantly pricier than basic benchtop surfaces such as Laminex. When buying engineered stone benchtops Gold Coast homeowners should obtain quotes for a few different brands as there can be a substantial cost variation between manufacturers although the overall look is the same.