Counter Encounters Part 2

By Michael Lovis Ferruzza Hello All, This is a continuation of our review of counter top materials. Last time, we touched on laminates, corian, butcher block and granite. This week we will review some of ...

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By Michael Lovis Ferruzza

Hello All,

This is a continuation of our review of counter top materials.
Last time, we touched on laminates, corian, butcher block and granite.
This week we will review some of the more exotic materials available.

As with Granite (covered last time), Marble as well as limestone, soapstone, etal, are natural stones, each is a one of a kind piece, most are drop dead gorgeous, come in a dizzying array of colors and patterns, heat resistant, and strong.
However, except for granite the rest are substantially softer and therefore more prone to scratching. All natural stones including granite will require sealing at approximately 6-12 month intervals, even more especially if they are "honed".
The veining which gives marble its beauty and character is actually a fault from when the material first formed geologically and is weaker than the others. To this problem, most fabricators add a fiberglass layer epoxied to the underside in critical areas.

Gorgeous!, no 2 the same!, heat resistance, many design options, can be used to bring the colors of the room together. Soapstone can really push the farm house look.
Order what you think you will need now; God made a limited supply of any specific color. Can stain from oils, can be etched from acids, needs to be sealed regularly & can get to be expensive, you will need to view the slab from which it will be cut; remember every piece is different. Must be templated.
With marble, as with the granites possessing patterns and flow, you want all the pieces in the room to be the same orientation, if they touch or are located close together.

Great for a country look and lots of colors and textures available but even though the tile itself is non porous, stain resistant, and sanitary, the weak point is the grout which must be sealed, is rough, porous, and easy to stain. It is also one of the few materials that can be installed yourself, BUT I DON"T RECOMMEND IT. A professional will know how to install it so no cracking occurs and do a decidedly much better job.

Lots of designs, colors and styles.
Grout is hard to maintain, and uneven surfaces create rocking in flat platters. Also a noisy top material.
If you should undertake this yourself, be sure to add "milk" the trade lingo for an acrylic additive that makes the grout more flexible, less porous, and adhere to the tiles better.
Epoxy grout is available. Costly, non-porous, flexible, & MUST be installed by a professional.

The man made granites are a good all around material. There are many brands but are all formulated from a high percentage of Quartz and a lesser amount of fillers, color agents and resins to bond and seal.
Strong, stain resistant, seamless installations, non-porous and sanitary are some of its pluses but as pricy as granite. Since it is man made and each piece is exactly the same, there is no need to view a slab; it'll be just like the sample; but because of this, this material group can sometimes be sterile, unnatural and unexciting.
It needs to be templated and installed by professionals and offers generally the same design options as the natural stones.

Low maintenance, sanitary, beautiful, lots of colors, heat and stain resistant.
Costly, sterile and unnatural looking
Can be used in a Kosher kitchen

Copper, Stainless Steel, & Zinc, etal
A high end material. Totally non-porous, sanitary, heatproof, design flexibility,
A good hardworking material, durable. A good choice when an alternate material is wanted in the same kitchen along with granites and other materials.
These tops are actually a heavy gauge sheet metal over a composition board base. Look for welded corners. Square and bull nose edges are common. Anything else will drive up the already high price higher still.
Zinc is shinier like chrome and can be left smooth (contemporary look) or be allowed to scratch and dent freely (a country look). Copper, when left on its own will scratch and patinize, THIS IS ACTUALLY A WONDERFUL EFFECT. The "Patinizing" is sometimes greenish, russet, brown or a combination. The surface must not be sealed to allow the oxidation to occur, but you can choose to seal or not to seal when it gets to looking the way you like.

Durable, sanitary, fireproof, & Patinized Copper is drop dead gorgeous.
Costly, fewer sources than the more popular materials, limited number of colors, thinner gauges can dent.
OK for a Kosher kitchen. Get heavy gauge. Let the scratches show.

CEMENT (Yes,Virginia, Cement!)
Once obscure, it is gradually seeing the light of day.
It possesses a mix of pros and cons of other countertop materials. It is considered a solid surface material but it can be customized because each it made to order. Heat resistance and strength are pros, while high cost and difficulty to do well, cons. But without doubt, one of the most amazingly beautiful surfaces and limitless in shape and design possibilities.
Actual cement is poured into a mold of the shape of your counter as determined by templating. The mix is made up of: Portland cement and coloring agents, fillers, assorted substances to reduce weight like pumice (much lighter than solid cement), fibers to increase strength like polyester, and any number of creative items like brass bars, shells, coins, metals, glass, and almost anything conceivable which, when the top is machined flat, will result in their cross sections shown on the surface. Also coloring agents can be applied topically and worked into the surface. Once stained, colored, and sealed, a beautiful texture emerges. The surface patterns are random and one of a kind.
Even special edges such as found on granite can be incorporated in the design. Since it is molded exotic shapes can be achieved for cutting board inserts, sinks, and unusual details.

Design possibilities abound. Tough, heat resistant, and beautiful
Expensive, heavy, difficult to work with, must be sealed,
It's the only other material besides corian that can have an integrated sink.

It is slick, wicked contemporary, and unique.
It's perfectly non porous, stain resistant, and capable of very unusual designs. Though very expensive, cost can be contained by using it as an accent counter area only or by keeping size, and textures to a minimum. I don't recommend this as a main counter but for upper bar counters and bathroom vanity counters.
Glass tops are tempered, of course. They come in an almost limitless array of color AND degrees of transparency.

Very cool & avantgard. Sanitary, Kosher, molded and/or formed to almost any shape. Special textures are possible.
Very costly, and though tougher than you would think, keep the hammer away from it.
Use for accent or impact.
Try using with special lighting underneath or other unusual treatments!!!

I hope these reviews help you focus on your best choices with your eyes open and give you some ideas for your home.

Michael Lovis Ferruzza

PS. I will be happy to offer a FREE consultation for your kitchen project. Email me at with a digital photo & layout (a rough drawing WITH dimensions is OK), Email address and a contact number.

PPS. I will be posting articles every few weeks from now on so look in from time to time and don't be shy about asking questions (please email me directly). Also, if you have any requests to cover a specific area of concern, please feel free to suggest them for future articles.

Michael Lovis Ferruzza is a Kitchen Designer with over 20 years experience. He keeps current with new trends and innovations. Once, a remodeling company owner, he is familiar with all facets of construction. Available for private consultation and design and rendering services; you can contact Michael at 914-646-0688.