Choosing Your Stone Counter Thickness

Homeowners today have lot of choices when it comes to natural stone countertops. The type of stone, the color and the edge treatment are all considerations that a lot of homeowners are prepared to make when it’s time to visit the stone yard and choose their new counter. What many homeowners may not realize, however, is that for some stones, there is one more choice to be made, and that’s the thickness of the counter as well.

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The vast majority of stone slabs come in two standard thicknesses – 2cm and 3cm, or roughly translated, ¾-inch and 1-1/4-inch. Some stones, such as marble, are more likely to be found only in 2cm, while some granites may only be available in 3cm.

In some places, such as in the western part of the United States, the trend is to use a thinner counter – 2cm – regardless of where it is installed. In other places the trend is to use a thicker, 3cm, counter in the kitchen, while bar areas and bathroom counters use a thinner, 2cm stone.

Generally, however, a larger slab counter like a kitchen will do better with a 3cm stone. This is because some 2cm stones may need additional support in order to avoid slight bowing or cracking over time. Many homeowners may choose to use the 2cm slab thinking that the less expensive stone fits into their budget better, but often the bracing required during installation brings the price back up again.

Occasionally, you may also find slab counters in 2 or even 3-inch thicknesses. These thick slabs are generally more expensive than the others, but other than in extreme overhangs, they don’t usually add a lot of additional structure or function to the stone.

For most large countertops, a 3cm thick stone is generally sufficient, provided that overhangs have enough support. If the stone you love only comes in 2cm, however, it can still make a beautiful, functional countertop, as long as reinforcements are used.

Stone thickness is often driven by availability, area trend, and price. Weigh these considerations together to find the best stone for your home.

Should You Hone Your Countertop?

Trends in kitchen design come and go, but natural stone has remained one of the more popular choices for countertops for the last several years. The color of the stone and the stone itself may change, but the beauty and durability of the material is lasting and not something that’s going to change soon. One of the trends that seems to be reemerging again this year is using honed stone in the kitchen. Honing refers to the finish given to the surface of the stone – a flat, matte finish as opposed to a polished one. Any stone can technically be honed, giving your kitchen a more natural and muted appearance. That said, it isn’t always the best idea to get a honed counter, however, even if that choice is available to you.

Honed Granite Island

Some stones naturally look beautiful when honed. Absolute Black granite, for example takes on a softer color and appearance when honed that works well in Country kitchens. Other stones perform better when honed. Bianco Carrara, for example, does not show etch marks and scratches quite as much on a honed counter as on a polished one.

The vast majority of stones, though, react very differently to being honed. Some stones, such as Labrador Antique, which contains a lot of mica in its surface, shows numerous pits and fissures when honed that weren’t readily apparent when the surface was polished. This is because a polished surface reflects light away from these areas, disguising them. Other stones such as Rainforest Green, which is known for its beautiful colors and veining, may appear dull and muddy when the polish is gone, because the polish is what brings those colors out and makes them pop.

In some cases, that duller color is what will make the counter work best in your kitchen, while in others that duller color will detract from the look of the stone. Therefore, whenever possible, see if your fabricator will hone a small sample of the stone for you before you commit to the whole slab. A sample may not give you all the colors and variation in a slab, but it can give you a general idea of what that stone will look like without its polish, helping you make a better choice for your kitchen.

While honing is popular right now, it might not always be. Make a decision that suits your kitchen and not the trend to get the best look for the stone and for the space.

Creating a Waterfall Island Countertop

More and more homeowners are beginning to feel that the kitchen is just not complete without an island in the middle. The kitchen island gives you additional storage, seating, and workspace that you might not have otherwise. It also gives you the opportunity to add some dimension to the kitchen design by giving you the ability to use a different color or style of cabinetry, as well as a different type or style of countertop as well. And one of the most popular island counters emerging right now is the waterfall counter.

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A waterfall countertop features a slab counter – usually stone – on top of the island. The slab then turns 90 degrees and flows down the side of the island from the top of the counter straight to the floor. While this does restrict the use of the island on this side, it makes a very striking and interesting focal point for the entire room.

Because the waterfall counter is so eye catching, it makes sense to choose a countertop material that is going to be eye catching on its own. Using a gemstone countertop, a marble or granite with wild and prominent veins, or a stone that has a very vivid counter is one way to ensure that your waterfall counter is going to become the focal point you intend.

The key to a really successful waterfall counter is making sure that the join between the two sections is as unobtrusive as possible. For this reason, you may want to work with your fabricator to ensure that any lines or veins in the stone change direction with the direction the counter is moving so that it looks natural. If the direction of the veins sudden went from horizontal to vertical, for example, this could detract from the beauty of the island. A smooth, mitered edge is also a nice attribute to include at the point where the counter turns, otherwise the change in edge may be too obvious, also detracting from the space.

If you want to bring your island to the next level of design, consider using a waterfall stone countertop to highlight your style.

Decoding Stone Names

Granite and marble are two of the most popular materials out there for use in and around the home. There are also numerous variations of each, with hundreds of choices. There are a lot of ways that you can go about narrowing down your field of options, including price and size. But if you don’t know where to begin, and you’re just searching for options either online or at stone yards, you may want to look by color. Because most stone yards don’t organize their slabs this way, however, you may want to start by searching out specific stones in the colors you’re interested in. Some of these are easy, “Coast Green” for example, is easily identifiable as a green-colored stone. Some are trickier, however, because part or all of their name may be the language of the country where the stone was quarried from. Learning to decode some of the more popular names for colors and stones can help you determine if you want to see these stones in person before you get to the stone yard.

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Giallo is the name for “gold” and usually refers to any granite or marble that is yellow or gold in tone, including Giallo Ornamentale and Giallo Antico.

Azul is the name for blue, but this one is a little more misleading. Some stones with azul in the name will be blue – Azul Macuba or Azul Celeste. Some stones, however, such as Lagos Azul, are gray in color, but may have a cool or blue undertone to them.

Bleu is another name for blue sometimes found on stones, such as Gascoigne Bleu. These stones are not always blue, and may be a shade of gray as well.

Many black-colored stones may include the words “Nero” or “Negro” in their name, such as Nero Marquina.

Some stones may also be named for their place of origin, or for their appearance in other ways. Jerusalem stones such as Jerusalem Gold and Jerusalem Bone both refer to their place of origin, and both indicate color at the same time. Vermont Danby is another stone that refers to its location, as is Bianco Carrara – Bianco meaning white and Carrara referring to the quarry the stone was found at.

It’s also important to note that some quarries and stone yards will rename stones on occasion, as well. While not every stone will have a name that is easily translated, many do, and learning the key can help you come to your perfect selection sooner.

Fixing Pits in a Granite Countertop

Granite counters are beautiful, natural, and full of variation. It’s not uncommon to find counters that not only have unusual markings, veining, or coloration, but that also have small pits or fissures as well. For the most part, these small pits and fissures are just natural parts of the stone that don’t detract from the beauty or their function. Occasionally, however, a small pit or fissure does become larger over time, particularly if the stone has sustained a sharp impact or a thermal shock. In this case, a larger pit could be cause for concern, simply because it may compromise the integrity of the stone, as well as become a catching place for dirt and debris. Thankfully, these pits can be filled.

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Very large cracks or fissures may be best filled by a professional using a color-matched epoxy, particularly if the crack goes right through the stone. Small pits and fissures, however, can be easily filled at home usually within a few minutes.

The key is to use a light-curing, clear acrylic filler. Light-curing acrylics require no mixing and usually come in pre-packaged syringes so you can easily apply them right to the crack or pit. Because the substance is clear and remains clear even as it dries, the natural color and variation of your stone will be visible through the repair. This means you don’t need to try to match the color or the veining of your stone. The acrylic also dries to a high-gloss finish, which also makes the repair less noticeable, because light simply reflects off of both your granite and the repair. This is different than the way that light may hit an epoxy repair, where the fill is not as reflective as the stone surrounding it.

Light-curing acrylic fill should only be used on horizontal surfaces such as countertops, because it is fluid and does run. Used sparingly, however, it can help extend the life and beauty of your granite counters if a pit or fissure should occur.

Granites to Consider for Modern Kitchens

More homeowners are turning toward contemporary kitchens than ever before. And with these contemporary spaces comes a need for countertops that can help complete the space. Some homeowners choose to use manmade materials such as ceramic or quartz counters to complete their contemporary design, but many more still turn toward natural stones such as granite to get the look they want. There are several different granites that work particularly well in contemporary kitchens, any of which is sure to get the modern look you’re after.

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For white contemporary kitchens, one of the most sought after stones right now is Bianco Romano. This very light-colored stone includes gray, cream, and burgundy veining and accents, but keeps the kitchen very light and bright in color and in feel.

For homeowners that want more of a contrast in their kitchens, Absolute Black granite makes an impressive choice. Absolute Black looks particularly good in contemporary kitchens when honed to give it a more made and subtle appearance. With no veining or additional colors to work in, Absolute Black granites is perfect for the very stark, clean contemporary space.

Many contemporary kitchens make great use of bold color to help them stand out. And while most people associate bolder colors with manmade products, there are a few granites that can truly stand out in a modern space as well, including Hidden Treasure, a black stone that has thick gold veins and lots of movement, Stone Wood, which is an incredible stone with a cream to tan background and lots of heavy black veins, Dynamic Blue, which is a bright blue stone with waves of lighter color moving through it, Seacoast Green, which is a bold green stone with yellow undertones and lots of movement and veining.

Also popular in modern spaces as stones that have a lot going on; these stones work best on island counters where they can become the focal point of the room. Rainforest Green and any color of Mariachi work well here.

It is possible to have a contemporary kitchen and the beauty of granite together; simply work with the room to find the right look for you.

 

Maintaining Your Stone Floors

Stone flooring makes a beautiful addition to many homes. A lot of homeowners get nervous about using it, however, knowing that stone requires more maintenance than things like porcelain or vinyl do. While natural stone does require some care, maintenance does not have to be difficult or time consuming. Done correctly, you can easily maintain your stone floors, keeping them looking as beautiful as they day there were installed with very little effort.

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Scratches are one of the biggest issues with stone floors, particularly those that are polished. Help cut down on scratches by placing rugs near entry ways to help stop the tracking of sand and other abrasive elements. Removing shoes before walking in high traffic areas can also help cut down on scratches.

Sweep or damp mop the floor regularly to help pick up sand, grit, and other dirt that could leave scratches on the floor. If you vacuum, turn off the beater bar to avoid unnecessary friction against the stone.

Stains are the other biggest issue surrounding stone floors. To help prevent stains, make sure you seal your floors with a silicone-based impregnating sealer on a regular basis. A well-sealed floor will bead water up like a waxed car; if your floor stops beading water, it’s time to reseal.

Always wash stone floors with a PH neutral cleanser to avoid etching and to help preserve the sealer. Wipe up spills as soon as you notice them to help impede stains as well.

If you’re truly nervous about using stone, consider investing in a material that is more variegated in color and texture, such as slate, which can help disguise a lot of dirt and scratch marks.

If your stone loses some of its shine or appears duller in color, apply a shine or color enhancing topical sealer once yearly to help maintain its original appearance.

Natural stone is not difficult to maintain, and does not become extremely scratched or discolored easily. Get the beautiful stone floor you’ve always wanted, and rest assured that its maintenance is not nearly as difficult as you may have believed.

Add Color with Crushed Stone

Natural stone frequently gets a lot of attention when used on floors, walls, and countertops, but these aren’t the only places where it can be used. In addition, stone can be used as a loose “fill” around landscaping, bathtubs, and window boxes. Sometimes this stone may be polished and smooth “river rocks”, while in some areas crushed bluestone is popular. A newer trend sparked from areas surrounding companies that use mosaic stone is to use leftover or crushed colorful marbles, granites, and limestones as fill.

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Mosaics are pieces of tile that measure 2-inches or smaller in size. They are frequently cut and pieced together to form pictures and patterns, and often small pieces are leftover when the work is done that can’t be reused. Those small pieces mixed together can form a unique and colorful fill for driveways, landscaping, or loose bathroom or hot tub room floors.

The popularity of these types of “crushed” stone has led more homeowners to begin using leftover stone pieces in similar ways. This may include taking leftover pieces of tile or slab, and breaking, cracking, or tumbling the stone until small chips or pieces result which can be used in this way.

It’s now becoming more common for people to use polished stone mosaics or leftover pieces to bring additional color or interest to their homes and landscaping. Because the loose stones can be pushed, moved, turned, and otherwise interacted with, it brings a new level of interest to the areas as a whole.

Using the small broken pieces of more “luxury” stone doesn’t have to be done on its own, either. It is possible to mix in pieces of polished marble or granite with more common crushed bluestone. Used this way, the more polished, colorful pieces will stand out more against the gray background, giving the fill a more subtle look that is still filled with interest.

If you’re looking for a way to add a little more depth to your crushed stone landscaping, consider adding some unique stone pieces to the mix.

Types of Soapstone

Soapstone has an ultra-smooth surface and an appealing depth of color that makes it one of the more popular choices in kitchens around the world. Made of metamorphosed talc, soapstone doesn’t stain or etch the way that other stones do, and it can be oiled to bring out a lot of additional depth and color. There are also several different variations of soapstone available, which means there’s likely a type for everyone to enjoy.

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Vermont Soapstone is a dark gray stone with minimal veins that becomes a very deep green when oiled. Despite its name, this stone originates in Brazil, and is most often what people think of when they consider soapstone for their kitchens.

New Iceflower is also from Brazil. This is another dark gray stone that has minimal white veining. What makes it unique is the fact that it frequently has white crystalline spots across its surface that make it appear as though it has freshly fallen snow on the surface.

Green Soapstone is from Finland. It’s a very rich green in color that is reminiscent of some very dark green marbles. It’s a lot denser and more substantial than soapstones found in Brazil, so it can sometimes be cut into extremely large slabs.

Barocca is another soapstone from Brazil. This is a very light gray stone that has minimal to no white veining, and a much more consistent appearance than some other stones.

Silver soapstone is another very light gray stone from Brazil. What makes it different from Barocca is the presence of lots of white veining, which in some cases can appear as though swirls of marshmallow were moving through the stone. This soapstone has a lot more movement and energy to it, while still remaining very light and neutral in color.

Emerald soapstone is an extraordinarily wild green stone from Brazil. Dark green in color, this stone has a lot of movement, color, variation, and veining. It’s a fairly rare stone, so on the pricey side, but when oiled it has the appearance of a rich, emerald green that makes it extremely appealing.

Gray soapstone is the final stone emerging from Brazil. It has a dark gray color, but lots of rich white veining and a lot of movement.

Soapstone’s popularity isn’t going away anytime soon. If you want a unique, low maintenance stone for your kitchen, consider one of these beautiful options.

The Hottest Bathroom Counters

Bathroom vanities are incredibly useful, stylish, and versatile. While it used to be that many people focused more on the sink, now people are beginning to see the appeal of using a vanity and sink top to add color, interest, and utility at once. With an upsurge in vanities also comes an upsurge in interest in the vanity countertop. With so many different choices for material, however, there is one that is getting nearly all the attention – granite. Granite bathroom vanity tops are hands down the most popular material for the space, followed by quartz and marble. Learn which granite tops are getting the most attention to help get the look in your bathroom.

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Just like in kitchens, white granite is currently in the lead for the most popular stone for the space. White stones like Alaskan White, Andromeda, White Princess, Thunder White, and Bethel White all hold up incredibly well in the bathroom. Their light color works well with white bathroom fixtures and tile, while their veining and the occasional color introduction such as burgundy helps make it easy to pull accent colors.

Also popular in the bathroom right now are cool-toned colors that help bring to mind soothing, spa experiences. Blue Celeste and Ming Green as well as more exotic stones like Alba Chiaro are desired for these very light colors and crystalline appearance.

As bathrooms start becoming larger and people begin taking more risks with their designs, more exotic and wild looking stones are also beginning to make their appearance. Things like onyx, which can backlit, as well as gemstones like agates are quickly catching on for more contemporary-style bathrooms.

Finally, for bathrooms that have a more rustic appearance, very quiet, honed stones with “unfinished” edges are also getting a lot of use. These stones are meant to complement things like rough-hewn basins and stacked wall stones to give the bathroom the look of a rustic cabin interior.

As more people begin to put their focus on the bathroom, both granite and marble continue to be the most popular materials for use everywhere in the space. Invest in a stone countertop for your vanity to help complete your look, no matter what it is.

The Hottest Thing in Marble – Danby

White marble has been one of the most popular choices amongst homeowners for countertops, floors, ledges, and walls for the last several years. And while most people have looked to Italian marbles to get the look they want, there has recently been a large upsurge in the popularity of a different type of Marble – Vermont Danby.

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Danby is not a new material or a recently discovered quarry. In fact, the famous Danby quarries have been operating for more than 100 years, and are considered to be the largest underground marble quarries in the world.

There are several different types of Danby, categorized by the color of the stone and its veining. Danby can range from a very white stone with lots of gold veining (Imperial Danby), which resembles Calacatta, to a softer, light gray stone with subtle veining (Appalachian Gray). It’s the location that the marble is mined from that helps give it its characteristic looks, and there are eight different locations and types of Danby marble available.

Eureka, Imperial, and Royal Danby are the whitest and most striking of the stones. They are also the rarest, found in long, twisting veins which means that these stones tend to be priced a little higher than those that are easier to access and more abundant.

Like all white marbles, Danby can have great variation even within one type. It is also prone to etching, stunning, and staining like other white marbles, and will develop a patina over time when used in locations like kitchen countertops.

Because Danby is quarried within the US, however, it often costs less than Italian stones which come with heavy shipping price tags attached. For those that want to support a more local market and economy, Danby is a beautiful choice that rivals several well-known Italian marbles.

If you’re looking for a beautiful stone with a history and character to match, consider any of the Danby marbles to do the job.

Adding Texture with Natural Stone

Rustic modern décor and a movement toward more natural-looking décor have both seen a sharp rise in popularity of late. More and more homeowners are beginning to incorporate more natural materials into their homes, as well as a blend of contemporary and rustic or country styles. To this end, many materials, such as natural stone, that have already been getting a lot of use and attention, are beginning to be used in new and innovative ways as well. One of these is in the addition of texture.

Texture has the ability to add depth and interest to an area that might otherwise have been seen as flat or unnoticeable. Rough wood, live edges, and unfinished metal are all beginning to get used in homes as people begin to search for a way to add more texture and interest to a design. Natural stone also fits in very well in these areas, offering not only the ability to add that texture, but all of the natural beauty and variation that stone is well known for as well.

Split-face stone is one way to add some texture to a wall. These naturally-cleft surfaces of slate, sandstone, and limestone can add a visually tactile element to backsplashes, fireplaces, and bathrooms.

V-tiles, or stone tiles cut like wedges that are installed to have areas sticking out further from the wall is another way to add texture with a cleaner, more geometric look. V-tiles can be installed in several different directions, giving you the appearance of waves moving across the wall.

Both of these types of stone are often installed tightly together without grout, giving the whole installation a more organic look, one that is more of a work of art than it is a traditional tile installation.

When you’re looking for ways to embrace these trends and add some texture to your home, be sure to consider the many different ways that natural stone could be used to help achieve this look.